Updated: Feb 12
When you launch a new business the most important first decision you make is a name. It defines you, as only language can do, and is the first impression you make on the world. Because of the expensive nature of web domains, many people often choose silly names that are not real words to get the coveted short url with a dot com. But if you give up purpose at a name, it's a slippery slope as you actually do the hard work of building a brand. Who are you? What do you stand for? What's the value and purpose for your existence? Let's see what a name can do for you...
I chose Working World simply because it is what I have devoted my professional life to... as EY beautifully says, making a better working world. But why? Because I know what it's like to see communities who have no meaningful work, and I know way too many young people stuck in low-wage jobs they do not enjoy and are not adding real value to their lives. Unfortunately, I've had former students who were brilliant, or at least solid young people I liked and believed in, tell me as 20 something adults high school did not prepare them for the real world and they did not have the resources, the motivation, and the network to finish college.
Of the 1,000 students I taught in the South Bronx, Pasadena and East Oakland between 1997 and 2014 I know many have graduated from college and are out in the world living professional and productive lives. LPS Oakland on the Castlemont campus has a beautiful example of multiple graduates from the Class of 2014 who are now teachers back in their home community. In the Bronx, I'm thinking of you Areliz Palafox, the wonderful young woman who graduated from Mott Haven Prep in 2006 and is now a Senior HR Manager at East Side Settlement House and attending Columbia Business School. But for every success story, I know the majority of our graduates never finished college and they had a rough journey making the transition from high school to launching their careers. Nationally, only 14% of students with low Socio-Economic-Status (SES) earn a Bachelor's Degree by the age of 25, compared to 29% and 60% respectively for Middle Economic Status (MES) and High Economic Status (HES) students according to Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 published by The Condition of Education 2015.
Seeing these lived outcomes through the stories of my students over nearly 20 years convinced me back in 2014 to leave the classroom and focus on career readiness. I loved teaching history, socratic dialogues, essay writing and being that positive role model building relationships day after day in the grind that is an American high school. But that College For All Movement, just did not deliver on the promises it was making.
Instead I wanted to see a focus on applied learning in the real world, projects that focused on authentic feedback from adults beside the teacher, real problem solving connected to the passion and interests of youth. Over my years in the non-profit world connecting students across the Bay Area to Silicon Valley companies like SAP, Salesforce, PayPal, and EY I learned a terrible lesson... my students, like million of young people sitting in today's classrooms had no idea what these companies that fueled the innovation economy did, or how to access them. Not knowing how to navigate the working world is an incredible disadvantage, and I blame the early 20th century factory model of education, together with housing discrimination and its ugly sister income inequality, for keeping so many intelligent and earnest Black and Latino students in the US from achieving their American Dream. And I recognized we need to build new systems, and new alignments of resources that increase access to equity for all. And that my friends is going to take a whole lot of trust, communication, and collaboration that is rare to find in America today.
Back to the rationale for Working World. It's really threefold:
1) Our current siloed systems are not working in the digital age... but before we can reshape the institutions that badly need reform we need to build the relationships that will make difficult change possible.
2) The real changes we face are moralistic and values centered, but we have no consensus on the spiritual plane. Instead, economic mobility and access to opportunity are concepts acceptable to both political parties and most working Americans. We don't agree on how to make this happen, but I believe we can agree that these are important goals to drive our systems change.
3) We need models for how to build a better Working World. We need examples for how to connect the South Bronx to mid-town Manhattan to White Plains; how to connect Hayward High School's new Engineering academies to Cal State East Bay/Chabot Community College and the new Biotech companies moving into the old industrial areas around the 880 corridor; how to reimagine the architecture of schools and corporate social responsibility so we can develop seamless career pathways for the majority of students who will not finish a Bachelor's degree by the age of 25.
Ultimately, I'm launching a business consultancy focused on building bridges in the social impact space in the Bay Area, because I see how disjointed our efforts are, and if we all keep rowing as fast as we can in different directions we will get exactly where we are today. And I'm calling it Working World because I want us each to have a purpose and make the most of the talents we have been blessed with. I just don't believe that what exists is good enough for any of us.
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