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!
This article originally appeared on Changemakers.com and is republished here with permission.
Photo provided by Ashoka Changemakers
by John Converse Townsend