For 100 years our economy was strongly correlated with industrial production. Factories criss-crossed this country. Millions upon millions of people worked there. But about 1980 or so, things began to shift. We began outsourcing overseas and technology also enabled us to have far less people working. Here’s an interesting view of this. When Kodak was at its peak, it employed 140,000 people and was valued at $28 billion. Today it is out of business and Instagram has replaced it as the way people make and share pictures. When Instagram sold to Facebook, it employed 13 people and was sold for $1 billion dollars*. What happened to the other 139,987 people? Now, multiply this by the hundreds and you can see why 15-25 million remain unemployed, under-employed and/or working in jobs that don’t pay a living wage.
The way our economy runs today, you work in the market sector (for profit businesses) or the government sector in order to earn your livelihood. The non-profit sector is a subsector of either the government or the market sectors since most of their funding comes from these two sources. And then there’s the illegal work sector–things like prostitution, drugs, crimes like robbery etc. You might find it funny to include this as an actual work sector, but when there are no jobs available in the market or government sectors, people turn to crime to survive. Or, as in the case of illegal drug sales, the money produced in this industry supports the livelihood of lots of people. In fact, as much money runs through this work sector as does the market sector. So yes, the illegal sector has to be counted. Lots of people work there!
The work we need done in the future is very different than what was needed in the last 100 years. It is work that will use our brains and requires high functioning people working together to determine what our communities need to be vibrant and dynamic. When we change how we measure the economy, the necessity of this work and the capacity to fund it will result in the development of lots of new businesses and jobs. We call this the Local Community Capacity sector. This work will include the social and environmental arenas and the need for this work will be locally driven and determined. What’s needed in Mobile, Alabama will be different than Concord, New Hampshire or Missoula, Montana. It will be up to the communities to determine this and employ people in the LCC sector to produce it.
In many ways, the Local Community Capacity sector will absorb many of the non-profit businesses currently being supported by the market and government sector. Only now they will be able to stand on their own as we recognize that this work sector is vital for all our futures. By bringing this work out of the shadows and recognizing it as an equally valuable work sector with the markets and the government work sectors, we enable a thriving economy and will be able to employ millions.
*from “Who owns the future?”, by Jaron Lanier