Sunday, September 21, 2008

how can fostering tech companies alleviate poverty?

At this week's nonprofit community summit sponsored by the Raymond John Wean Foundation, Bishop George Murry of the Diocese of Youngstown announced the “big hairy audacious goal” of cutting the city's poverty rate - now pegged at 32.6% - in half by 2020.

According to an article in the Business-Journal:
"Ohio ranks 19th in the nation with the percentage of its citizens living in poverty, Murry continued, and four of Ohio’s major cities – Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo and Youngstown -- are in the top 20 in the United States."

The city and the Valley cannot wait for Columbus or Washington to come to the rescue. The leadership must come from the nonprofit community. “No one religious group or sector can do this alone,” Murry said. “Today I am asking you to become part of a group that will work together in [delivering better] social and health services.”

The bishop called for metanoia in the Valley, metanoia from the Greek for “a transformative change of heart, especially a spiritual conversion.”

He urged citizens to ask candidates for public office “what they will do within 100 days of taking office [to reduce poverty]. We must be advocates for the poor.”

What they often overlook is what James Coleman called “social capital,” the bishop said. “Social capital is a neutral resource that depends on the uses to which it is put.”

Nonprofits have much to teach about building social networks and trust in a community,” Murry said. “We must help people use [nonprofits’] assets better.”
which leads to an interesting question about building a local economy based more and more on technology-based processes and building a community which finds less and less of its people in dire straits.

That is, does technology-based economic development hinder or help traditionally disadvantaged groups?

On one hand, in a zero-sum world, it's possible to argue "we have no money for homeless programs in Toledo because we are spending tax dollars on research equipment in Dayton."

On the other hand, it's possible to argue "funding a successful technology incubator in Youngstown has spin-off effects, in that it creates downstream businesses such as coffee shops and office cleaners, and provides additional taxes to the overall system to provide social services."

any thoughts on this question?

please include in your comments ideas on how the public and bloggers can help alleviate poverty in Youngstown.


Anonymous said...

Let me preface this by admitting Im no economist, but here's my perspective as a social service provider in PA. (For the record, I work in PA because Ohio does not provide the type of service I offer.)Traditionally, the enormous need for services coupled with the limited work force (limited both by funding to hire workers and the pool of folks willing to get master's degrees to work for less money than your typical KFC manager ) means crazy, unrealistic case loads. My job involves a lot of travel and a great deal of paperwork. Technology helps me work more efficiently. Over the past 8 years, Ive increased my caseload expectation to six additional clients per week. This means more consistent provision in services, greater ability to work with client strengths as opposed to crisis oriented interventions, and overall increased face time for six more people in 2000. Because of technology, I can now work anywhere wireless is available because folks invested money in technology. Again forgive me if this is over-simplified economics, but Im one person in 20 at one agency. That's 120 more people ideally getting better services per week. At least ten agencies do what we do in my county. (For mathematical simplicity we will stick with ten) If other agencies have same “specs” as we do, the same number of mental health professionals are effectively servicing 1,200 additional people in the county each week. When we first started our own “technological revolution” at work, none of us imagined the wide-scale positive implications it would have.

In terms of how this relates to downtown/regional economics, I can again only offer over-simplified economics but communication between the YBI and non-profits regarding technological options could open up possibilities neither entity may be able to conceive of alone. I know that we've been talking about getting Wi-Fi at the UUYO for a while and expect that it will expedite the way our meetings work, ultimately allowing us to more quickly bring concepts into action.

As far as bloggers and the general public working to alleviate poverty, I think the answer is in staying motivated and staying connected. Generating a sense of “we” in the community and fostering the mindset that it is not acceptable to turn a blind eye to the poverty in our midst will help us stay motivated as a public. Bloggers, specifically, can publicize events, share perspectives that offer up the humanity in poverty and provide links to pertinent information. As we continue to develop a regional blogging alliance, we will find other ways to work together on these types of common goals.

Wow, this was way longer than Id anticipated but you asked extremely thought-provoking questions!

Janko said...


thanks for the great response!

much to think about...

(and I changed the language)

logohoo said...

A link for alleviate poverty:
alleviate poverty

Chris Thompson said...

Thanks for highlighting the Bishop's goal for alleviating poverty. It is indeed a big one. But it is achievable if we integrate our approach so that we not only grow new businesses, but we prepare talent for the jobs being created and we implement initiatives that make sure isolated people (racially or economically) have access to the opportunities. As the YBI, JumpStart and others have proven we can grow tech-based companies in Northeast Ohio. Now we must collaborate to prepare workers and create access to opportunities. I think the good news is that the state is heading in the right direction on this. As is the region.