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Attention Washington: Please address the skills crisis, too

In his address to a joint session of Congress last week, President Obama said, “Tonight we meet at an urgent time for our country.  We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless, and a political crisis that’s made things worse.”Indeed, the evidence abounds.

In recent days, the Labor Department reported that the economy created virtually no net jobs in August—its poorest monthly showing in a year. Unemployment remained stuck at 9.1 percent. The president’s own budget office, in its midyear review, forecast that the jobless rate will persist at 9 percent into next year as well. And just today, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the national poverty rate had hit 15.1 percent last year while median household income declined. The 46 million Americans living below the poverty line last year represented the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.

Sparking an economic revival in America and creating new jobs has no higher national priority. Yet as a business membership organization representing companies that employ millions of Americans, Corporate Voices for Working Families grapples with a related and urgent imperative: A widespread skills gap, which leaves many employers struggling to fill job openings even as millions of Americans search for work.

WANTED a jobs & growth agenda

In his address tonight to a Joint Session of Congress, President Obama will lay out his plans for kick-starting employment and growth. America needs a plan for good-paying jobs combined with sustained and sustainable growth. Here’s our jobs and growth agenda at the COMMIT!Forum Sept 26-27 in NYC:


COMMIT to selling more, saving more, growing more

How can corporate responsibility help you sell more stuff, save more money, and grow your business? Come find out at the COMMIT!Forum on Sept 26-27 in NYC when you hear:

- How UPS uses sustainability reporting to sell more & save more. 

- How HIP Investor, TIAA-CREF, & KKR deliver shareholder returns.

- How Corporate Voices for Working Families builds a more competitive workforce.


YOU are a Corporate Responsibility Officer

Individuals at all levels can take action to improve Corporate Citizenship

“[G]lobalization and the information technology revolution have gone to a whole new level,” wrote Thomas Friedman in his Sunday New York Times Op-Ed. “Thanks to cloud computing, robotics, 3G wireless connectivity, Skype, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twtter, the iPad, and cheap Internet-enabled smartphones, the world has gone from connected to hyper-connected.”


Now, thanks to the globalization/IT revolution, YOU can be a corporate responsibility officer (CRO). “This globalization/IT revolution is… ‘super-empowering’ individuals, enabling them to challenge hierarchies and traditional authority figures – from businesses to science to government.” While these tools have caused disruptive change – from Tunisia to the Tea Party – these same tools empower individuals at every level to become change agents of a more incremental, more impactful kind.


American Tribalism?

Will “tribal” loyalties tear American society apart?

An empire at its peak brought low by mounting debt, a government beset by in-fighting, business and bureaucratic elites conspiring to line their own pockets, and emerging countries that eventually surpass and overwhelm it.

A prediction about America?  Possibly.  But this little vignette actually comes from Frances Fukuyama’s description of the fall of the Ottoman Empire.  The Janissaries, the bureaucratic class that controlled many of the levers of imperial power, organized themselves into the equivalent of political parties, fighting each other over the spoils of empire, even as it became increasingly clear that the imperial economy was collapsing under its own weight and that the rising powers on its borders had out-innovated it and would soon overtake it.  The parallels to our modern crisis leap off the page.


An economy in tatters. A government in turmoil. Trust in leaders and institutions at all time lows.

How can you navigate these waters? What can we all do to restore our collective confidence?

It starts with a return to fundamentals. The experience of the past few years has shredded our civil society, left many of our leaders so attached to being right that they can’t see their role in crushing economic growth. Overcoming these challenges will take straight-talk and a close examination of the relationships between us as individuals and the institutions that we rely on: businesses, governments, NGOs, and civil society as a whole. The COMMIT!Forum convenes on Sept 26-27 in New York City to do just that: strengthen the fabric of our society.


Show me the Money: Getting CSR Capital for your NGO

More than ever, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are echoing Cuba Gooding Jr.’s line “Show me the money!” when it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR). Having successfully fundraised CSR capital for an NGO, I’m often asked for my secret, as though I have the best-ever marinara sauce recipe. These conversations are often asymmetrical as I get excited about how CSR is revolutionizing development and exclaim: “But it’s about rethinking our whole approach to social change!” or “Think in terms of making the pie bigger, not just redistributing wealth!” or “Creativity not bureaucracy!” Although NGOs embrace the excitement about CSR, they understandably have questions about companies’ funding priorities, how the procurement process works, if they should present themselves differently and so on.

Navigating corporate funding is indeed a bit like being at sea with no compass. So I’m setting aside my excitement for a moment, putting on my practical hat and listing a few tips for chasing CSR money...


Perfection, Faith, Happiness…& Corporate Responsibility

There are some things in life that are pretty tough to measure. Perfection. Faith. Happiness. The same is true in business. Businesses struggle all the time to quantitatively understand brand value, human capital, corporate responsibility (CR) and more. Just as we have our own ways of assessing (or agonizing about) how perfect, faithful or happy we are, businesses haven’t stopped trying to quantify the seemingly unquantifiable. If you’re reading this blog post, it’s probably safe to assume that you’re either one of my friends being charitable or you’re engaged in the discussion about the need to measure the results of CR.

But can we give ourselves a break for a minute? Instead of looking for big answers to big questions, can we start small and apply the same approach we’d take with life’s immeasurables? If my pitch isn’t perfect, I might spend some more time on the mound. If I’m lacking faith, I might ponder what is making me doubt. If I am unhappy, I might try to exercise or laugh more. What if I can’t seem to identify the causal link between my CR initiative and increased profits?


Is your kid’s school good enough for Dora?

This year Dora, the famed preschool explorer, will do something cartoons rarely do:  age.  Since 2000, Dora and her backpack have helped the world’s preschoolers get ready for school and now she’s getting ready for bold new adventures as a full-blown tween-aged middle schooler.

Few people have done as much to advance the cause of sustainability as Dora and her cousin Diego.  They’ve raised the consciousness of a whole generation to the point that every parent I know has had some version of a “Dora moment” – your kid calls you out for not recycling, using plastic bags, or committing some other sin of carelessness.


To Change the World, First Have Three Kids (Part 3 of 3)

And now for the final installment of the Top 10 Tips for Having Three Kids & Leading Change in the World. 
Here are the last 3 things you need to know…



To Change the World, First Have Three Kids (Part 2 of 3)

Welcome to the second installment of the Top 10 Tips for Having Three Kids & Leading Change in the World. 

Here are the next four…

5       It's gonna get messy



To Change the World, First Have Three Kids (Part 1 of 3)


We have three young kids-- two boys (6 and 2) and a girl (4)--which in parenting circles gives us a status somewhere between sideshow freak and Tibetan monk.  People wonder, "Why on earth..." and, "how on earth do you do it?" Parents considering having more than one seek us out for advice and to see if we’ve gone completely or just partially insane.


So last week when another of my friends thinking about adding to his brood sought me out, I took it in stride. What took me by surprise, though, was how much my advice to him about kids mirrored the advice I’ve accumulated over the years on leadership.
Over the next three blog posts, I will be revealing my 10 Tips for Having Three Kids & Leading Change in the World.  Here are the first three…



Tear Down That Wall: Building Bridges Between the Public, Private, & NGO Sectors

The other night I went to a lovely dinner party in Old Town Alexandria outside Washington, DC.  This town tends to attract very passionate, dedicated people who deeply care about the work they do.

That's why I was surprised, when we went around introducing ourselves, that one of the guests talked-down her contribution to the world. Referring to one of the other guests, she said, "I wish we could all do work as meaningful as yours. I just deliver broadband." The other guest does do something meaningful, working for a non-profit that helps impoverished children in the developing world.  How do I know she does meaningful work? I looked it up...on the Internet...using my broadband connection.

Poking Holes in the Corporate Responsibility Curriculum

In preparation for our upcoming webinar on June 1st on “Building the Corporate Responsibility Profession,” (FREE WEBINAR -- register today!) I met with Nancy Beer Tobin from the Executive Education Department at Georgetown University's McDonough Business School.  She asked me to point out the holes in the Corporate Responsibility (CR) curriculum. Universities, trade associations, and training organizations have jumped into the CR education space giving us a rich panoply of information, but does it really fulfill on the potential: equipping companies to not just comply with society's mandates but actually lead?

Our June 1st webinar will explore these issues in-depth from multiple perspectives:  the CR practitioner’s (thanks to Kevin Moss of BT and Susan Seutter of Cisco), the CR educator’s (via Nancy Beer Tobin and Georgetown), the up-and-coming CR professional (through Ryan Whisnant, Director of Sustainability for SunGard & 2009 EDF Climate Corps Alumnus), and the media’s (from Vault.com’s Aman Singh).  But as a preview, here are my perspectives on Nancy’s question.  The short answer is no.  The longer answer: the potential exists, but needs refining.

I see five holes that need filling:

1.     Embedding CR into the core leadership curriculum
2.     Finance for non-finance majors
3.     Responsibility for non-responsibility majors
4.     Responsibility communications skills
5.     An organized body of knowledge and development path
Let's take these one at a time...

A Rush to Standards?

For the last two weeks I’ve spent a lot of time in the deep-end of the Corporate Responsibility ratings pool. Last week I participated in a workshop here in Washington, DC organized by SustainAbility to reflect on the findings of their Rate the Raters Report. This week I spoke on a panel (coincidentally with a lot of the same people from the workshop) at the Better Business Bureau of New York on the value of ratings systems.

Here’s the feedback…
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