Employing the World’s Most Innovative Ideas to Create a World that Works

Employing the World’s Most Innovative Ideas to Create a World that Works

John Converse Townsend's picture

We are all well aware of the economic crises around the world … and the ripple effects that stem from deep unemployment and lack of access to opportunity. In part, the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia were sparked because young people couldn’t find the means to support themselves—not because they didn’t want to, but because there were no jobs.

In this growing context of international uncertainty around job creation, Ashoka’s Changemakers® joined forces with eBay Foundation on March 30th to launch a global competition, Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World that Works. The competition will source innovative market-based solutions that create economic opportunity and generate employment for disadvantaged populations.

“Our competition with Ashoka’s Changemakers® is a natural extension for eBay and eBay Foundation,” said Lauren Moore, President of eBay Foundation. “By supporting and recognizing organizations that are implementing disruptive social innovations, we have the ability to help create economic opportunities and generate employment for people who otherwise face barriers to participating fully in the global economy.”

Just what are these barriers to economic opportunity?

The lack of access to investment and job markets, for starters. Many local producers don’t have access to the funding to tap into new national and international markets to sell their goods and services. This issue is also exacerbated by the lack of access to information and networks, including the information (and skills) gap between those in need of employees and those who need the jobs.

Other barriers to economic opportunity include inefficient, time-intensive job searches; inadequate transparency in job advertisements and opportunities; lack of public sector incentives, such as government policies and programs that fail to prepare job seekers for the market; and even restrictive cultural norms which prevent certain populations from joining the workforce and from attaining respectable, long-term positions.

While these barriers loom large in 2011, they will continue to obstruct economic opportunity – with troublesome implications – unless solutions are uncovered to address them at their foundation.

With the world population expected to hit 9.2 billion by 2030, there is a critical need for job markets to absorb this emergent labor force. But employing solutions to support the global workforces of the future won’t be enough – not while more than 200 million people currently find themselves jobless, and even more are entrenched in poor working conditions and faced with vulnerable employment.

The challenge of powering economic opportunity is daunting, however through this competition eBay and Ashoka’s Changemakers® aim to identify solutions from around the world. Through conversations with Ashoka Fellows and experts in the field, a number of emerging trends were identified to support increased social impact, sustainability and scalability of solutions.

Areas of opportunity to build the global marketplace:

  • Leveraging technology is paramount. SMS and Internet can be incredible tools to enhance access to job opportunities in the marketplace.
  • Fostering transactional connections between local producers and entrepreneurs and international markets. The field is nascent and the costs are high, but products need to find a market to generate income—and opportunity.
  • Developing innovative business models. With limited access to seed and scaling capital, particularly in developing countries, thinking outside of the building is vital to extending volume and market reach.
  • Fostering microenterprise and developing entrepreneurial skills training. Regulatory incentives are weak and oftentimes government youth employment initiatives fail to align with private sector needs, so training initiatives have the power to breathe life into the job creation movement.

What trends do you see emerging? What tools and technologies can be utilized to increase economic opportunity worldwide? What is the next big thing that will change how we approach unemployment?

Don’t miss out on this chance to build a more dynamic global marketplace. Share your solution, nominate a changemaker, or join the discussion at Changemakers.com on how innovation is tackling the issue of global unemployment and underemployment.

You could be one of five winners to receive a cash prize of US $50,000 to scale-up your idea!


Photo courtesy of kholkute (cc)


Sharon Quinn's picture

We must not fuel the sense of overwhelm when taking-in the scope of an issue this widespread.

Empowerment of miraculous outcome is truly generated by placing one foot in front of the other.

I'll never forget in my earlier idealistic years when I signed up for a hiking week in the wilderness in order to learn how to be prepared to survive with what one could carry on their back. Seemed like a great idea.

Then, when a bus dropped a handful of us at the top of a mountain in the Sierras and took off, the reality of my choice hit hard. I couldn't get home unless I made it to the mountain's bottom where the bus would be waiting for us at the end of the week! YIKES! What had I done??!

I had NO idea what I had signed up for... I was not physically prepared and almost had a heat stroke on the second day. Everyone had to be paced by my slowness in the heat. It was humbling to say the least.

The thought of getting off the mountain seemed beyond my ability and made me panic. I had to shift my focus to something I could do, and that was my feet.

What I recall, whenever I recount this "vacation", was how I found my strength to walk all the way down to the rendezvous point, was by moving ONE STEP in front of the other (over & over again)... that was my focus, "I could put one step in front of the other, " and that is how I got off that mountain. All these years later, I'm still amazed I did it.

I share this to affirm the largeness of this opportunity project will be accomplished one mission fulfilling at a time, step by step, too. All our "little" efforts create a gradual critical mass; it works to move us through enormously large situations.

Thank you for the challenge and the opportunity.
All to Love, Sharon

"EMPOWERING ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY." I must say...I love this, and with God's help, I am striving to do all I can to support this goal, with my own business and with my personal life! And Sharon, you are so right...the only way you can achieve something so grand is one step at a time!

Trelena Reed
Cool Quarters Design

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"We went to go see the fireworks. Since there was so much walking, he told me, 'My back is really hurting. Can you get me out the wheelchair?' And then [he] got down on one knee and I forgot to say yes. I think he kind of knew by my response," she said.
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