Traditionally we think of business in terms of making money, and philanthropy in terms of giving it away. We generate profits in business, and accumulate a certain measure of wealth, and allocate some of that wealth for charitable giving. And certainly, charitable giving has been used to fund some very worthwhile causes over the years.
However, could it be that in certain respects, both business and philanthropy fall short of addressing one of the greatest needs in the world today, namely the need for more good paying jobs? And could it be that a bridge between business and philanthropy, between generating profits and charitable giving, between making money and giving it away, could be used to create even more jobs, at a time when good paying jobs are in such short supply?
Business is all about making money, and rightfully so, but it can also be about making a difference as well. Philanthropy is about charitable giving, but it can also be about other things as well. What is the common denominator between business and philanthropy? One possibility is that both are about helping people to better their lives. Business enables people to earn a livelihood, and with a little bit of luck, to accumulate wealth. Philanthropy helps mitigate suffering and helps endow institutions which better our lives as a whole, such as universities, hospitals, and the arts, etc.
But if we are out to improve the lives of those around us, whether in business, or in philanthropy, we have to ask ourselves some very basic questions: With all the global issues out there that need our attention, what are the greatest issues of our time? And the answer may well be: How do we grow our economies? How do we protect the environment? And how do we weaken the hold of extremist thinking? And when we try to answer such questions, we should ask ourselves, what tool can be used to address some of the most intractable issues of our time? And the answer may well be jobs: jobs which grow our economies, jobs which protect the environment, and jobs which help to weaken the hold of extremist thinking. In a very real sense, it’s all about jobs, about giving everyone on earth a place at the table, a stake in his or her future.
Therefore, keeping all this in mind, is it possible to use business and philanthropy in tandem, to create more good paying jobs, and to thereby rectify some of the greatest ills which plague us? If jobs are the answer, shouldn’t job creation be our first priority, both in business, and in philanthropy? For example, if a business leader is about to make a decision which could drastically increase or decrease the number of jobs that will be created, perhaps he could take into consideration, as he considers his options, the greatest good that would be realized by tilting his decision in favor or job creation. Perhaps he would ship out fewer jobs abroad, or hire more people as opposed to buying more robots, even at the cost of slightly less profits, because it could well be argued that job creation is a “profit” of sorts, in and of itself. Similarly, if the philanthropist considers how to invest in charitable giving, perhaps he could think of a way that his charity could somehow result in creating good paying jobs for the long haul, because it is a truism that: Give someone a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach someone to fish and you feed him for life. A job can feed a family for life, and can help them to reclaim a sense of hope, dignity and pride. What better gift is there?
A Green Industrial Zone in a place like Gaza is an example of how business and philanthropy could work together to create jobs, and thereby make a profound difference as well in people’s lives. A philanthropist may be inspired to leave behind a legacy of hope, but hope that is made real with jobs. He may take it upon himself to build a Green Industrial Zone in a place like Gaza, the most unlikely of places, but a place that will inspire hope, precisely because of its current plight.
Once built, the Green Industrial Zone could attract companies to set up their facilities there, as a way of generating profits, but also excellent public relations as well. Jobs would be created in a bid to stabilize the region as a whole. State-of-the-art research and technology will be used to produce green products which can change the world. Women could be promoted to managerial positions as a way of reconstituting the role of women in the Middle East. A Greentech Incubator could be used to launch new businesses by connecting young entrepreneurs with investment capital. And an artist colony could be used to help inculcate a culture of tolerance.
In short, the coming together of business and philanthropy in this sort of way, in a Green Industrial Zone of this kind, could be the model that tilts the balance in favor of job creation, and thereby tilts the destiny of man in our favor.