One of the most experienced leaders in the non-profit and social enterprise world, Robert Egger is an outspoken voice in leading the transformation of these fields. In this interview, he advances some provocative thoughts on how the non-profit and social enterprise worlds should marshal their resources and treat their unique scale and influence like for-profit businesses do–and hold the 2020 field of candidates accountable to meeting their needs.
“As the field of candidates who aspire to lead America grows, the one thing that all candidates share is their lack of an articulated vision for America’s 1.5 million nonprofit businesses and social enterprises. According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, the nonprofit sector (now the third largest employer in America), is equal to manufacturing, and it employs “twice as many workers as the nation’s transportation, wholesale, finance and insurance industries, and 80% more workers that the nation’s construction industry.” With over 12 million employees (and one of the nation’s highest rates of voter turnout), you’d think that the sector would elicit fierce completion between candidates, yet none mention the sector specifically in any of their campaign materials. They have all forwarded policy statements detailing their ideas about healthcare, the environment, workforce development, education, and community vitality, yet none speak specifically to, or about very groups that have been doing the research, and the work, or who have longtime investment in these areas; America’s nonprofits,” says Egger. Here are three ideas that Egger proposes they might consider building upon the unique, innovative nonprofit heritage, while also decreasing the need for traditional charity.
The first is creating a Cabinet-level Green Job/Social Innovation Czar: “When President Obama arrived in Washington, he saw the potential of America attaining global leadership in developing and manufacturing green technology. But he also saw the potential of social enterprise or businesses that put profit and purpose on equal footing. Sadly, these efforts were never realized due to anemic funding from the Republican Congress for the Office of Social Innovation, and the early attacks and subsequent departure of Green Jobs Czar, Van Jones. A 2020 candidate could merge these efforts and propose a social enterprise/nonprofit/union driven economic explosion focused on urban and rural strategies to create thousands of large and small businesses that provide good jobs that protect our shared environment. Local nonprofits, trade schools and unions have been at the very forefront of job training and employment for those who haven’t gone to college, while nonprofit universities and land grant colleges have been training businesses leaders and innovators for decades. Nonprofit environmental organizations have been equally dedicated since the early days of the last century when President Teddy Roosevelt first developed an environmental vision for America. Now is the time to acknowledge the historic and essential role of nonprofits and tear down silos to create a powerful alliance to open new businesses, create jobs, decrease global warming and reinvest profits into communities,” declared Egger.