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Steven Strauss: CGI

June 25, 2012

Question: When I watch these so-called “civil servants” in Washington talk about the economy and creating jobs and whose fault it is and so on, I am reminded of that old joke – everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. So what I am wondering is, is there really anything that can be done in this negative political climate?

(Part 1 of 2)

Answer: It is a valid question and one I think a lot of people are asking these days. When politicians put their own re-election, or the defeat of the other party, above the good of the country, it is downright unpatriotic. But a scolding from me, or you, won’t make a whit of difference. Politicians follow the money, and these days, the money is in the far wings of both parties.

But I am happy to report that there is good news. This country is made up of a lot of dynamic, creative, intelligent, committed people who are taking it upon themselves to fix some of our most pressing problems.  They are not waiting for anyone else to do it, nor are they waiting for permission to act. These folks are taking it upon themselves to act on their own initiative. Now that is what I call being a true American.

So in this column and the next one, I would like to highlight two groups doing that.

This week, I was privileged to get to attend the Clinton Global Initiative America in Chicago. As you likely know, the CGI is the focus of president Clinton’s post-presidential career. It is an amazing organization that brings together “global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.”

CGI America is a little different than its parent organization in that it is specifically designed to bring together business, government and other leaders to “implement commitments to create jobs, stimulate economic growth, foster innovation, and support workforce development in the United States.”

The key words in that phrase is, “implement commitments.” That is what is unique, special, and different about CGI. I attend a lot of these sorts of conferences and many follow a similar pattern: Participants identify a problem, brainstorm solutions, share those solutions, and then go home. Nothing changes.

Not so at CGI. What I learned is that it is called the Clinton Global Initiative for a reason. It is all about taking initiative. At CGI, participants are encouraged to make a commitment for how they will make a difference in the world after the event is over.

These commitments are serious business.

The CGI commitment form is about seven pages long. In it, you state what your commitment is, how you will go about implementing it, what your timelines and benchmarks will be, and so forth. It is then submitted to CGI, they post it online, and then follow up with you over the course of the next year to see how you are implementing your commitment.

Like I said, it’s about action, not talk.

Here are a few of the commitments for improving our economy and jobs outlook that came out of CGI America this week:

  • Jalia Ventures and the United Negro College Fund committed to launching a venture competition that would promote the development of minority-owned businesses. The partnership committed to raising $3.5 million over two years to expose historically black college and university students to social entrepreneurship and impact investing, and to provide select entrepreneurs with seed financing and technical assistance.
  • The Criterion Institute committed to assembling 1,000 churches by 2018 to use micro-lending to invest in micro-businesses. According to the Institute, this will produce $100 million of new investment capital for American micro-businesses in a five year period.
  • Youth Radio committed to connecting at least 60 low-income young adults to jobs in the technology and digital media industry.
  • LearnUp, a job skills training organization, committed to working with at least eight major employers so as to enable them to share, online and for free, job training content with job-seekers, including over 100,000 students at community colleges throughout California.
  • BUILD, which teaches entrepreneurship and life skills to at-risk low-income high school students, committed to engaging companies to support BUILD through providing skills-based volunteering to its students in entrepreneurial education, business plans, mentorship, and job shadowing.

So while the Democrats and Republicans in Congress continue to whine about the other side, it is heartening to know that there are actually some folks out here making a difference, doing what they were not elected to do.

Today’s Tip: To date CGI members have made more than 2,100 commitments. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $69.2 billion.

Steven D. Strauss is a lawyer, writer, and speaker, and is one of the country’s leading experts on small business as well as an international business speaker. The best-selling author of 17 books, his latest is the all-new 3rd ed. of The Small Business Bible. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success Powered by Greatland, here, visit his new website for the self-employed, TheSelfEmployed, here, Follow him on Twitter, here, and Like TheSelfEmployed on Facebook, here. You can e-mail Steve at: © Steven D. Strauss

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