Must reads: In the Washington Post, writer Darlena Cunha recounts her experience of being temporarily on welfare following the financial crisis and what it has to do with owning a Mercedes. Heron's Clara Miller and SASB head Jean Rogers share on how to take "impact investing (and accounting) full tilt" in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. You also may be interested in our new post on how CDFI lender and Heron investee Craft3 uses an innovative financing model to enable small businesses to create jobs in the current economy.
Check out this cartoon from Gary Varvel over at the Cagle Post:
Talk around the June jobs report has centered around what Derek Thompson in the Atlantic calls a “remarkably durable myth that Obama has presided over a ‘part-time economy,’ where full-time work has been devastated by his relentlessly anti-capitalist policies.” He responds specifically to Mortimer Zuckerman, editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report, whose Wall Street Journal op-ed points out:
The Obama administration and much of the media trumpeting the figure overlooked that the government numbers didn't distinguish between new part-time and full-time jobs. Full-time jobs last month plunged by 523,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What has increased are part-time jobs. They soared by about 800,000 to more than 28 million. Just think of all those Americans working part time, no doubt glad to have the work but also contending with lower pay, diminished benefits and little job security.
Thompson replies with statistics that things aren’t as bad as they seem, including this interactive chart (with downloadable back-end data) comparing growth in full-time versus part-time jobs since 2010:
The New York Times' Steven Greenhouse reports on the push to give part-timers more predictable hours via a new law, as businesses continue to expect on-call availability and send workers home on slow days. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) says the practice infringes upon workers’ ability to get other jobs, pay bills or make arrangements for childcare:
“It’s becoming more and more common to put employees in a very uncertain and tenuous position with respect to their schedules, and that ricochets if workers have families or other commitments,” Mr. Miller said. “The employer community always says it abhors uncertainty and unpredictability, but they are creating an employment situation that has huge uncertainty and unpredictability for millions of Americans.” ...While many of these workers are not unionized, the labor movement has often battled against part-time work and ever-changing schedules. But as unions have grown weaker, employers have felt freer to employ part-timers and use more volatile scheduling. Unions still push for workers to get more hours — and those pressures are one reason Macy’s and Walmart have adopted programs letting employees claim additional, available shifts by going onto their employers’ websites.
Megan McArdle at Bloomberg mentions that this new part-time reality partially due to data technology arguing that “the weakness in the labor market has coincided with yet another market development: scheduling software and technology that allows retailers to manage their workforce as another just-in-time input.” And an active conversation on the Gawker blog included personal anecdotes such as this from user Gazorpazorp:
This practice of part-time, always available is par for the course. Not only do you have to promise to be available (availability is what will get you hired), you get the pleasure of working juuuust 30 minutes shy of what would legally be a full time employee. [… A]nd no one is ever guaranteed a steady schedule. And how could you? Retail stores are never adequately staffed. Unless it is [B]lack [F]riday or [C]hristmas, your stores are run by a bare minimum skeleton crew who cannot physically stock shelves, help customers, and ring out at the register. So there is just no wiggle room for store coverage.
The idea of an "American dream" continues to dwindle thanks to low social mobility, writes Richard V. Reeves and Joanna Venator over at Brookings:
As we’ve documented many times on this blog, the circumstances into which Americans are born strongly impact on their chances in life. People born at the bottom of the income distribution are less likely to reach the top of the income distribution than their more advantaged peers even when we allow for differences in both for cognitive and non-cognitive skills. Being smart and hard-working helps, to be sure, but the effects of being born well-off or poor are still large. Smart, poor teenagers (those scoring in the top third on a cognitive skill scale, but living in a household in the bottom fifth of the income distribution), have a 24 percent chance of making it to the top quintile as adults. But smart, affluent teenagers already in top quintile have a 45 percent chance of remaining there as an adult. From their different ends of the class spectrum, solid liberals and hard-pressed skeptics have spotted that the American Dream is in poor shape. And without the Dream, something of America itself is lost.
The Center for American Progress' Adam Hersh argues that the economy is straining to deliver middle class wages:
Although employers added jobs in a broad range of industries, the bulk of new jobs added are found in a handful of industries known for low wages—accommodation and food services, temporary help services, retail trade, and long-term health care. These low-wage jobs together account for two-fifths of all new jobs added. Looking at where new jobs are being created is useful to see how the structure of the U.S. economy is changing overall as it expands. Significantly, employment in temporary help jobs has grown by 45 percent in the recovery and accounted for 10 percent of overall employment gains, as employers have waded tepidly back into hiring decisions. Employment in accommodation and food services—where many of our economy’s minimum-wage jobs exist—grew 13 percent and accounted for 17 percent of total new employment... The foremost obstacle to accelerating job creation remains the lack of demand in the economy—where consumers aren't consuming enough, businesses aren't investing enough, foreign trade is lopsided, and the public sector is retrenching.
And if you haven't already, check out the Time's collection of mini-articles and data visuals on "The Nation’s Economy, This Side of the Recession." Here is one a chart on private sector jobs, thanks to an energy boom in both the fossil fuel and renewable sectors:
Public Radio International’s Tamar Charney recounts his experience of seeing poverty at home for the first time after he saw it elsewhere.
Lynda Gratton of the Guardian says the siloed, passive view of corporate social responsibility is changing fast:
If corporations are to be sufficiently robust and successful over the coming decades, they need to ensure the resilience of the neighborhoods in which they reside and in the extended supply chains that serve them…corporate leaders are beginning to realize that when neighborhoods and communities flourish, corporations flourish too.
Interestingly, corporate altruism doesn't always have to be a question of simply giving – it can be a commercial exercise too. An example of this is the dairy and food producer Danone, which works with low-income areas to create community-led businesses based on a social business model. Launched by Danone CEO Franck Riboud and professor Muhummad Yunus, founder of microfinance organisation Grameen Bank, the projects are economically self-sustaining while creating wealth for customers, employees, and regions where the company operates.
John Taft reports on HuffPostBusiness about the various examples of high-net-worth individuals seeking to harness their financial success “to help make the community and the world a better place”:
People of wealth have always volunteered on boards of not-for-profit organizations, or have given their money to charity. (The New York Public Library's main branch is now named the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building following a $100 million commitment by the private equity maven to the city's library system.) But today, the percentage of philanthropists giving in traditional ways is equaled by the percentage who are "making investment choices with a clearly defined social objective." The World Wealth Report 2014 indicates that "high net worth individuals are venturing beyond traditional means of fulfilling their social impact goals." Social impact investing enables investors to align their investment strategies with their values. Those values can range from supporting healthy environments, sustaining communities or promoting diverse workforces and humane working environments.
On the REDF blog, Ben Thornley says that in order to get social enterprises to scale to change the unemployment status quo for the poor, “building on what social enterprises do know, it’s essential that we embrace the exact opposite: what they don’t.” Don Shaffer of RSF Social Finance underlines the importance for social enterprise of integrated capital, “the coordinated and collaborative use of different forms of capital, often from different funders, to support a developing enterprise that’s working to solve complex social and environmental problems.”
Forbes’ Tom Watson looks at the numbers in Giving USA's recently released annual report, which shows a robust increase in philanthropist giving over the past few decades, particularly to “education, health, and environmental and animal welfare organizations”:
As the role of foundations changes, we need to alter our default attitudes, writes James E. Canales in Chronicle of Philanthropy:
In philanthropy, we too often obsess about strategy without attending to one of the things that puts strategy most at risk: culture. This is a time of enormous opportunity for organized philanthropy... Philanthropy should continue to embrace innovation and pursue new modes of working and doing; indeed, the rise of social entrepreneurship, impact investing, and pay for success spring from this very impulse. At the same time, foundations should not become so obsessed with identifying the next new solution for the intractable problems we face today that we neglect the tried and true. Instead of focusing solely on "what’s new," we should also be investing in "what’s working." Searching for the elusive silver bullet rarely works, and there’s a healthy balance between providing risk capital for the new and investing precious capital in what we know works well.
You might also be interest in this piece from Cancer doctor and researcher Benjamin Corn, who offers his thoughts on why Michael Milken gets criticized for insufficient altruism in funding research for a disease he himself suffers from, when others in the same situation (like Michael J. Fox) suffer no such critique.