We all feel the powerful and yet invisible forces transforming the way we live, work, and interact. Perhaps this is an aberration, a sudden short lived shock, and we will revert back to the way we operated pre crisis. I would propose that there are real opportunities to change society’s approach to community, ecosystem sustainability, and how we value time vs. money. There are silver linings everywhere and the lens by which we view the COVID-19 challenge will define whether we learn and grow or remain “blind to our blindness” as the nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman once said. For many of us we have traded time spent consuming to time spent creating, time spent doing to time spent thinking and meditating, time focused on ourselves to time focused on others.
Here are six areas where I see significant inflection or acceleration points. My interest is in activating micro philanthropy at scale and creating community based, sustainable, and ethnically diverse food businesses. Which of these tap into your passion?
New Realities >> New Opportunities >> What if…..
- Revaluing the elderly: in this crisis we called on retired healthcare workers to volunteer and serve. It is inspiring how many have stepped up. Perhaps as part of social security there should be a way to activate the skills of the elderly and compensate them with higher benefits for acts of service. At a minimum, continuing education for the elderly so they are ready to step in if needed seems smart. This growing population of Americans will also benefit by keeping their mind sharp and feeling they are highly valued members of society. Chip Conley’s Modern Elder model was focused on the need for lifetime education targeting middle life but perhaps we can expand this to support the elderly through a public private partnership.
- Philanthropy: Micro giving and micro doing become scalable solutions to address the largest challenges we face as corporations partner with their employees to increase their community and environmental impact. People should be rewarded for any act of service with tax incentives and expanded criteria for employer matching. Tax subsidies for philanthropy need to be democratized as argued by Stanford Professor Rob Reich so we do not have an ever increasing concentration of giving further narrowing influence to a few dozen private foundations and individuals. We need to incentivize a habit of giving amongst all people and organizations in society. The risks outlined in this 10 year outlook by Inside Philanthropy in January are even more concerning in a post corona world and those with means have to decide if they rise to be generous or shrink to the loneliness that accompanies greed. I am collaborating on new ideas in this area via Unifyre.
- Food: California is leading the legalization of home restaurants to sustain diverse local communities, reduce dependence on the industrial food system, and create new affordable pathways to food entrepreneurship. Maybe the ceiling on restaurant margins currently at 15% can climb to 30% with happier customers eating healthier food from neighborhood cooks they know and trust. For now it is takeout but someday soon we can share a meal in a home restaurant with our neighbors as this new home restaurant industry emerges. Visit cookalliance.org to learn more.
- Education: While cheap, high quality learning has existed for quite some time the shift online by most major universities and K-12 schools has highlighted the disparity in home conditions and internet access preventing so many from succeeding in a digital learning environment. The government is talking about an infrastructure bill so let’s be sure internet infrastructure and public health infrastructure are a material part of this. 38 percent of all jobs in California will require at least a bachelor’s degree in 2030. But only about 33 percent of workers will have these degrees¹. Quality education will always be anchored by in person instruction but perhaps with the right infrastructure in place online can be integrated to serve a valuable supporting role across all forms of education that set up a workforce to succeed with dignity. CalBright is an interesting platform but without a champion in the current administration and effective leadership it may not live up to the vision of former Governor Jerry Brown.
- Homeless In / Criminal Justice out: We have housed the homeless and released inmates as the pandemic has caused these invisible populations to be recognized in a new way. The release of prisoners to home confinement in many states establishes a possible beneficial, humane alternative to mass incarceration and the high costs of maintaining the vast prison industrial complex. Reentry is challenging and without support this rapid change will not prove successful. To learn more visit Prisoners with Children.
- Transportation & Housing: remote work can help minimize super commuting. As cities like San Francisco have become prohibitively expensive we have pushed commute distance to the max negative impacting the environment and elevating human stress. Shelter in place has forced many workers and employers to become more familiar with remote work and the possibility of productivity at home. Finding and hiring the smartest people anywhere and empowering them as remote workers might just be the savvy thing to do according to a study by IWG.
Conspiracy theorists would have you believe that China was developing a “novel” biological weapon that somehow escaped their military labs as COVID-19. I would propose an alternate theory: that mother nature grew frustrated that humans would not pay attention to their destruction of their own home. They ignored the accelerated frequency and severity of fire, flood, hurricane, and tornado. As a result, the Earth unleashed a simple virus that ground human activity to a standstill so she could take a big, deep breath. So birds could sing, so stars could come out of the shadows of smog, so humans could be reminded of the beauty of the natural world they belong to versus control. To show that creativity and empathy can drive a sustainable economy that does not sacrifice the root benefits of ethical capitalism that supports advancement and growth.
Private equity and venture capital have $1.5 Trillion in dry powder according to Preqin. Be bold, support entrepreneurs with big ideas that aim to scale positive impact beyond financial return. Let’s create frictionless pathways for people to engage in positive change!
Michael Siminoff is an entrepreneur with a career spanning social impact, fin tech, enterprise software, and hedge funds. He believes conscious capitalism is the best model to leave the planet and society better for his and all the world’s children.