2011 Economic Recovery and Social Economy: Rediscovering Grassroots Initiatives


With all the news reports painting a bleak forecast regarding the 2011 economic recovery, there is little wonder that people are very hesitant to make any major moves or long term decisions.

Many are waiting for significant changes in government policies to determine a positive outcome and a return to the “good old days” of economic reform. 

However, the 2011 economic recovery will not be aired on television or “liked” on Facebook.  It will occur in at the kitchen tables and community rooms in neighborhoods like yours and mine.  Government will not spark the 2011 economic recovery, local people will.

It is the result of renewed local initiatives that are generating businesses and creating jobs based upon the specific needs in that area.

2011 economic recovery involves the rediscovery of area projects that build on the spirit and commitment of community residents, business owners, educators and advocates collaborating on the programs that serve their respective constituencies.

Looking to our northern neighbor Canada, we can get the best view regarding this localized view in a growing, global initiative known as “social economy.”

According to a report in Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the concept of social economy is defined as “a grass roots entrepreneurial, not for profit sector, based on democratic values that seek to enhance the social, economic and environmental conditions of communities, often with a focus on their disadvantaged members.” 

While this might sound similar to existing public policy programs, the social economy initiative ties into discussions relating to the 2011 economic recovery because of the potential outcomes in the report highlight that “in a world growing ever more complex and diverse, governments are increasingly turning to community based processes and initiatives to address local problems with local solutions.” 

These localized scenarios are a direct result of collaborations designed by those directly impacted; therefore, the solutions are sure to be clearly defined and economically feasible.  It is hard to mess over your own money.

Most important, social economy enterprises provide both flexible and sustainable tools that can help communities to achieve goals such as stimulating job creation, supporting economic growth, generating community revitalization, enhancing community capacity and mobilizing disadvantaged groups.

In the United States, where chambers of commerce have traditionally held the position of promoting local businesses, the economic empowerment thrust has given rise to organizations such as the Slate Belt Economic Development Organization, which is a “community driven revitalization initiative formulated to advance the quality of life for both business and residents in all of Pennsylvania’s Slate Belt communities.” 

The emphasis for the 2011 economic recovery is on local communities establishing their own brand identity and building programs around available resources and community empowerment. 

For example, healthcare is an industry that remains largely untouched despite economic downturns. 

According to U.S. Department of Labor’s statistics report for 2010-2011, 10 out of the 20 of the country’s fastest growing professions are in the healthcare industry with the expectation of an additional 3.2 million new jobs by 2018. 

So, local communities with hospitals and other healthcare facilities can mobilize efforts to expand on this job creation model in an effort to provide ongoing preventative services to an increasingly aging population. 

Whether it is a regional initiative or an industry focus, grassroots programs are becoming the focal points for 2011 economic recovery. 

In cities including New Orleans, Miami, San Antonio, Charlotte, N.C. and Orlando, Fla., declining economies were reversed due in large part to grassroots programs such as Horizon Initiative, a public/private sector endeavor that brings together business leaders, civic leaders, educational representatives and others dedicated to a long term vision for economic development.  

With shared experiences and expertise working together for a common goal, these initiatives are able to generate immediate results because the key parties have a direct connection and social responsibility to the economic rebirth of the area.

Whether it is called a social economy program or a grassroots initiative, the power of the local constituency will be the fuel that drives the 2011 economic recovery.

Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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