Category Archives: Good Work

Most of the time, we’re looking at figures for Employment with the added “un-” in front of it. Again, in keeping with my aim towards a world at 100%, I’m turning this number around to reflect a positive stance towards getting to 100%. I’m using figures for unemployment again from the World Bank, and yes, I know, this is probably not the best way to get anything approaching accurate but until I figure something better out, this will have to suffice! (As always, if you have an idea on how to do this, I would love to know.) But in the future, I believe that education will become more of a necessity than ever for moving ahead; people may work fewer hours and from home, but they will be doing more creative and mentally stimulating work; and with increased connectivity, we will be innovating and problem solving with new technologies that we can’t even imagine.

Maximizing Our Human Potential

EmploymentI’m back after taking an incredibly long break to move across the country as well as work on another project dear to my heart, my first novel, An Invisible Woman in Afghanistan which I am about to publish. (More on this soon!) I’m living near the New England seacoast, a place I lived many, many years ago and am very fond of.

I’ve missed this blog. It’s great to be writing again, trying to fit the pieces together and maybe even getting a glimpse of the larger puzzle. But this particular blog entry has also proven far more challenging to write and think about than any other I’ve done, maybe because it’s so close to home for so many of us. 

There have been a lot of people falling by the wayside in the world of work lately. Many “old” jobs are disappearing here in the U.S. and in Europe, war and natural disasters are taking their economic toll globally, and despite all our fancy new gadgets, we still have huge numbers of both unemployed and underemployed people across the planet.

And yet there are jobs. And there is a ton of work to do.

We need doctors and other healthcare professionals like never before. We desperately need every possible variety of engineer. We need teachers, professors, and other educators. We even need more lawyers in some places to represent the poor and disenfranchised.

However, there is an insidious underlying assumption among all this need, and that is that we should only have so many of certain types of worker. So many doctors, engineers, etc…
American_flag

This is wrong. And with so much need, why do we cling to this outmoded belief? I’m not sure and I’m also not sure I want to look too closely at the “why’s” of this situation.

But I do know we can fix it. We just need to change our minds. That’s the tough part but we can do it. A lot of people thought we couldn’t go to the Moon and yet, there’s proof positive at the top of this page that that belief was unfounded.

If we’re going to do this, though, we need to provide more and smarter support for our work force, top to bottom. If a kid in inner-city Baltimore wants to be a doctor, then we should be giving him every bit of help that we can. And if a Nepalese girl wants to be a structural engineer, then it would be very smart of her government to support her however they can. Or a Honduran day laborer wants to be a lawyer in his country, that country would do well to support his dreams.

Wounded_Warrior_ProjectFor whatever reason, the military often seems to be on the cutting edge of trying new things.  In the U.S, we have a huge number of veterans returning home, many without much prospect of a solid job once they leave the service. Many of these people have ended up on the streets of our towns and cities over the last few decades battling terrible mental and physical illness, as well as enduring the cruel scorn, disgust, and neglect of a civilian population that should know better.  The U.S. Veterans Administration, although incredibly efficient in some ways, has in many others, fallen down.

So the vets decided to fix it themselves.

One such organization among many large and small, publicly funded and private, is the Wounded Warrior Project. Among the services they provide are extensive resources and even financial aid to help veterans who want to further their education do so.

As a country and as a world, we need to be doing far more to train and educate our population, and that means everyone, most especially the ones we might be prejudiced to believe are “irredeemable.” There is absolutely no reason why we can’t do this. We went to the moon, right?

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

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Creativity as the Future of Work

With all the turmoil in the global job markets these days, one question is becoming more and more pressing for me and I suspect to many other people as well: what will the jobs of the future look like? (And concurrently, how can I ensure my employment security?)

The bad news is that, probably in less that 20 years, there won’t be “jobs” as we know them today. Instead, most of the rote, manual labor stuff will be performed by robots although probably overseen by humans for a while.

Where does that leave us? The one arena that robots will never be able to compete with humans is in something that we don’t always value much: Art, in all its many forms – dance, music, painting, sculpture, novels, poetry, song, architecture, design, woodworking – as well as Art applied to almost anything else you can think of – science, mathematics, physics.

In pockets of the developing world, whether by necessity or design,  some people seem to be leapfrogging the whole doomed, industrial-revolution thing altogether. How many of us have purchased beautiful crafts that are hand-made from a country in Latin America, Africa or Asia? We are supporting these creative women and men in their artistic endeavors in very poor societies. But, then we find ourselves needing a lamp and buying some generic product at Home Depot (yes, usually made in China, but which is also starting to see the need to move beyond sole reliance on Industrial Revolution-type economic models)!

I’ve been following a wonderful blog now for a few months focused on handmade goods from all over, and tying that focus into a sustainable living context. Besides being sustainable, environmental, socially responsible, and fashionable, komai-co.com, is also just very cool.

They have recently wrapped up a trip to several countries across two continents with fabulous results:

One thing we might have to get used to here in the “developed” world is that our lead in all sorts of creativity is going to get intensively challenged. That’s okay by me — one strict rule about creativity is that the more the better!

So what is your art? What makes your heart sing?

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

PS. In defense of us developed-world types, there are some signs of hope especially in the Maker Faires, bespoke and crafting movements which are making great progress in moving the generic, mass-produced stuff off to the side. See Etsy.com, etc..!

Green Jobs Everywhere?

Everyone wants jobs. People in the U.S. want them, people in the Arab Spring countries want them, people in the poorest countries on the planet want them too. But are there enough to go around? Or more accurately, are there enough jobs that people want and can do, to go around? (There’s definitely a never-ending demand for physicians, engineers, and other professionals that is not being met but that is not something that can immediately be addressed.)

People complain all the time that there are not enough jobs but if you really look at what’s available, that’s just not true. There are jobs but most people don’t want to either do the work because they don’t like it or aren’t willing to increase their skills to take the new jobs on.

Fortunately, with necessity being the mother of invention, attitudes are shifting and there are some interesting prospects opening.

For one thing, “green” jobs are increasing, the need for skilled and semi-skilled workers is also increasing, and those jobs all the politicians promised are actually starting to show up.

What is interesting is that they’re not just here in the U.S. Green jobs of all sorts and at all levels are showing up worldwide.

An interesting example of this is one of the countries with the worst poverty in the world, India. People in the city of Chennai are being encouraged to recycle by having their children take paper trash to school. This is then collected by “rag-pickers” the poorest of the poor, who will sell it on to dealers. The system is a win-win. Recycling is becoming a part of Chennai society, the environment benefits, poor people get some added income, and huge amounts of paper trash that would have gone into landfills costing the city money, is saved.

On the other side of the world, in California, as we shift to a more and more green economy, it turns out those jobs linked to that economy are proving to be more recession resistant than some others.

A lot of this may be simply due to the fact that people can actually save money by “going green.” Being environmentally conscious and responsible seems to go along well with being fiscally conscious and responsible. People are weighing the big tax breaks that oil and gas companies are getting against the tax breaks that alternative energy companies are getting, and the costs – both environmentally and in cash  — and finding the oil companies coming up somewhat short.

Maybe this green economy idea might work after all? Stay tuned.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

Unemployment and Entrepreneurs

Sometimes I just don’t know what to make of the numbers or, really, the lack of them. I’ve been using the World Bank’s figures for a while now for several of my indicators but was very disappointed when I checked yesterday and found that the unemployment figures have yet to be updated from 2009. So, off to Wikipedia, and their page on global unemployment, which largely seem to come from the CIA (perhaps unsurprisingly a rather good source of data). One good thing about these numbers is that there are more of them for more countries. One bad thing is that they aren’t always reliable. Also, data on unemployment for most of the countries on the African continent seems to be almost non-existent and I’m pretty sure there are people working there. (C’mon, World Bank, get your act together! Why can’t you or anyone else provide this data?!)

Anyway, putting aside my on-going (and sorry, probably boring) frustration with available, accurate data, I was surprised to see how slightly the numbers actually moved. Despite the media’s consistent declaration of an impending economic apocalypse, this doesn’t seem to be happening. Yes, many countries are down, and many people are out of work, but there are lots of people still working and increasingly, at least in the U.S., if you can’t find a job working for someone else, you can always create your own. (I am noticing this not just in the broader economy but also with my friends, who are starting up micro-crafts businesses on Etsy, delving into network marketing, and just generally hustling and bustling!)

One of the least appreciated (as well as most difficult) ways to really make a difference in the world is to help create jobs and foster the entrepreneurial spirit, not just in the U.S. but all across the world. One of my favorite “charity” websites is Kiva which is firmly rooted in this philosophy of helping people help themselves.  (There are more and more of these kinds of organizations, termed “social businesses” by the founder of micro-finance, Muhammad Yunus.)  Kiva allows people all over the world to lend very small amounts of money to entrepreneurs all over the world, helping get small businesses started. The money is then paid back and can be re-circulated to the next entrepreneur.

With the media’s usual focus on huge corporations, I am increasingly impressed by the numbers of smaller businesses that manage to not only spring up, but keep going, and even thrive. Maybe the lack of unemployment data just shows that the powers that be haven’t figured out how to show that lots of people are working, but in new and unconventional ways.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

Employment

Most of the time, we’re looking at figures for the title of this blog post with the added “un-” in front of it. Again, in keeping with my aim towards a world at 100%, I’m turning this number around to reflect a more positive stance towards getting to that 100%. (I’m using figures for unemployment again from the World Bank, and yes, I know, this is probably not the best way to get anything approaching accurate but until I figure something better out, this will have to suffice! As always, if you have an idea on how to do this, I would love to know.)

One commonality of the current worldwide economic turmoil of protests from the U.S. Occupy Wall Street to the streets of London, Cairo, even near Beijing, is dissatisfaction with working conditions, wages and/or availability of jobs. We seem to have a “Workers Revolution” on our hands despite the fact that Communism and Marxism pretty much went out of fashion in 1990.

A lot of this is actually not a protest about either jobs or unemployment, but really a massive popular outcry against corruption, both on a government and corporate level.

I do believe that we are making some headway against corruption worldwide, but I am also concerned that, with all the focus on whatever the quick fix of the moment for our economic and political problems is, we are missing something rather important.

That’s the simple fact that the world is changing in ways we can scarcely comprehend, and that the same old-same old economic modeling we have been cruising along with, will just not work.

The biggest problem we face is not that we don’t have jobs, it’s that we don’t have careers. Jobs can be performed by robots and more and more frequently, are. When people complain about how all the manufacturing jobs are going overseas, I am always baffled that they think we can “get them back” somehow. Those outsourced jobs are eventually — and I’m talking 10 – 20 years — going to be gone forever. You do not need to pay for health insurance for robots.

What we need to do as a world is re-tool for the next-gen evolution of work. Some countries are doing extraordinarily well at this, others not so much. In the end-up, though, I do believe that humans are remarkably adaptable and we will adjust to this new way of being. This is truly an exciting time — education will become more of a necessity than ever for moving ahead; people may work fewer hours and from home, but they will be doing more creative and mentally stimulating work; and with increased connectivity, we will be innovating and problem solving with new technologies that we can’t even imagine.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

PS. I haven’t updated my numbers recently but this story showed up today on Afghanistan and a wonderful improvement in their maternal and infant mortality numbers. They’ve been on the bottom of the Wikipedia page on infant mortality so this just made my heart sing. (I also have a special place in my heart for this country but I won’t go into that now.) So updating the numbers with that special addition, we’re at: 58.6083241657513 (Up .010020000006 from my last update.)

PPS. Transparency International just updated their corruption index numbers for the year so I’m looking forward to updating those numbers soon too and keeping my fingers crossed that they’ve gotten better! (The TI numbers are the ones I use for my “Good Governance” indicator.) India apparently has not, though, according to this article. Although that’s not exactly a good thing, it does make me wonder if, with the recent drive on corruption, more people are aware of the problem, so the TI numbers may not mean actual corruption has increased just that people are more fed up with it. And that would be a great step in the right direction.