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The Perfect Storm

June 21, 2010

The Perfect Storm

As I said in my last musing, I feel like Rip Van Winkle waking up from a state of sleep (my January-March health concern). The lessons learned and the plans made are just coming to the surface. They seem fresh and new. The big lesson learned: I am less in control than I previously thought.

Try as I might to scheme, program and plan as my wise friend, Peter Drucker, told me in 2005, “We’re going to live in a very turbulent world for the next thirty years.” What I face in terms of both health and financial events will contain plenty that will be new, novel and largely unforeseeable.

I also have a new dream; I would like to be involved in one more Big Movement before I die. And I believe the conditions are ripe.

You may recall that my last musing (June 1) focused on “The Great Reset.” More and more, my mind is opening to a bright and optimistic side to the current financial crisis. Previously I commented on Richard Florida’s thesis that prior Great Depressions bear a striking resemblance to the economic crisis we are currently living through. The previous periods have been characterized by “creative destruction” leading to new waves of innovation in systems and social infrastructure. As Tom Friedman says, “We can’t bail our way out of this mess. We have to innovate our way out.” Ditto Jim Collins. The title of David Brooks’ most recent New York Times Op-Ed is in the same spirit: “Trim the ‘Experts,’ Trust the Locals.”

And perhaps, most surprisingly, it seems to be that this is going to be a time of great opportunity for both rich and poor, for both the rising Millennial Generation as well as the affluent aging boomers and the super rich.

Listen in on a conversation I had since my last museletter that has opened my previously blind eyes to see.

Last Monday, I was walking to dinner with Mark Rhode, who has moved from twenty years in the advertising agency business and a co-founder of Springbow, an internet solutions company. Mark’s Halftime success to significance transition now finds him as a Senior Executive with World Vision. He directs what is now called the Enterprise Engagement Group for WVI, the largest international world relief group. Mark said, “I think it’s a perfect storm for the poor,” to which I said, “Wow! Tell me more.”

Listen to Mark connecting the dots:

Media – exposes the plight of the poor to the rich of the world.

Megachurches – are releasing millions of volunteer hours to serve in Haiti, as they did not so long ago in the Katrina disaster. (It is happening locally outside the four walls of the church too – big time!)

Technology – connects our individual donors in a very personal way with the “Tsunami Girl” they sponsor. World Vision’s donor engagement program used to be a year end letter. Now it is a two-way dialogue between donor and recipient with Skype, the Internet, or phone photos often monthly.

The Tax Law – There’s a whole new movement developing around social minded LC3 corporations. Check it out with your tax lawyer.

NGO’s – now have status among global organizations.

Halftimers – There’s a wave of Second Half people like you and me lending their entrepreneurial and technical skills to enterprises serving the poor. Kevin Jenkins, the new CEO of World Vision was CEO of Canadian Airlines. He’s moving to London to be closer to Africa!

Mark is working on a brief paper connecting those and other dots. We jotted a lot of it out on the back of a menu over dinner!  That’s just one conversation in the past week that filled me with enthusiasm. There are others.

The Drucker Institute – The prior week was filled with encouragement. My reason for flying to California was for a board meeting, but I got the most buzz from quality time with our fresh and fired up young staff.

In the next five years, we expect:

  • Thousands of Drucker Society volunteers around the world will be teaching many more times that number of nonprofit leaders, business executives and even high school students how to put Peter’s teachings into practice, resulting in demonstrably stronger and healthier communities.
  • People will have more than 1 million visits to the Institute’s social-media platforms, including Drucker Apps, and we will have captured inspiring stories of how they’ve converted the concepts they found there into action.
  • Though strategic partnerships, the Institute will have begun to transform the humanitarian-relief sector, making it more effective and efficient so that organizations such as World Vision can save more lives. Not only will Drucker’s work be shared with these nonprofits; it will be extended directly into the hands of those they serve by teaching essential management practices to some of the poorest people in the world.
  • Through the Bright China Foundation, there are now 23 Drucker Academies teaching Drucker Management Principles in major universities across the face of China.

The Social Activism of the Super Rich

Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum, last Thursday’s Wall Street Journal (June 17) carried a remarkable story. The one sentence opening paragraph said this:

“Warren Buffett and Bill Gates called Thursday on their billionaire peers to give away half of their wealth.”

The story continues, “The pronouncement of Messrs. Buffett and Gates stems from a series of dinners the two men held over the past year to discuss the effects of the recession on philanthropy with some of the nation’s richest people. … The result of the dinners is an invitation called the Giving Pledge which asks the nation’s billionaires to publicly commit at least half of their wealth to philanthropic and charitable groups within their lifetime or after their deaths. … The goal is to create an expectation in society that the rich should give away their wealth and create a peer group of wealthy people who can offer advice on philanthropy. … “One of the most important things about philanthropy is that people do what they are passionate about. They won’t do it otherwise” said Melinda Gates.

… New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “I am a big believer in giving it all away and have always said that the best financial planning ends with bouncing the check to the undertaker.”

Linda and I agree!

So What about You?


  1. Think back to your high school graduation. Make a list of ten unforeseen events in the time since then: health, finances, relationships, eternal events.
  2. If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you attempt in the next ten years?
  3. What unpredictable event causes you the most apprehension now?

Feedback

As always, I welcome your thoughts. You can e-mail me personally at bob.buford@ACTIVEenergy.net,

or converse with the entire community at https://activeenergy.wordpress.com/.

Send me your feedback, I read it all – bob.buford@ACTIVEenergy.net The muse-letter is a service of Mosaic Trust
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  1. June 22, 2010 2:21 AM

    Work after Work: Our new age of life and the moral necessity for “Returnment”

    “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “Many times a day I realize how much my own inter and outer life is built on the labors of other men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give and return as much as I have received.” -Albert Einstein

    Returnment – n.

    1) The act of giving back or returning in some small way what the world has given you.

    2) Especially as an alternative to retirement.

    At the turn of the last century, the average life expectancy was only 47. Today it is rapidly approaching 80, and our fastest growing age groups demographically are those individuals over the age of 85 with someone in this country turning 50 every eight seconds. More significantly, the average health of individuals over the age of 50 has dramatically increased. This can be attributed to better nutrition, exercise, improvement in our health care technology and generally less physical labor in our formal work.

    This increased health has created a new, unprecedented age in our human life cycle. A average 60 year old person today is closer to a 40 or 50 year old health-wise compared to a 60 year old twenty or thirty years ago.

    Carl Van Horn, director of the Rutgers Center, was quoted as saying, “Retiring Boomers will have the same sweeping impact as the entrance of women into the workforce in the 70s.”

    Our old model of retirement suggested that people essentially worked until the ages of 60-65, and then a person felt fortunate if there were a few years of leisure before their physical health deteriorated and/or death ensued. Now people can retire at age 60 and expect to live twenty or more vibrant years, especially if they have taken care of themselves physically.

    The boomers have been described as a much more independent, “live for today” group. They are already showing signs that they will not approach retirement in a traditional fashion. Boomers are going to have great difficulty relating to the terms senior, elderly, old, and mature. In fact, most of them will resist, I believe, the term “retirement” in general.

    In the August 25, 2000 edition of the Portland, OR Business Journal, Serge D. Rovencourt, retired general manager of Portland Hilton Hotel said, “I have retired from the Hilton, but I am not retired. I tell you I am going to find another word that is different from the word retirement. Retirement lends itself for people to say, ‘Well, he is tired, that’s the end of it.’ There has to be another word other than retirement.”

    As every eight seconds someone turns 50 in this country, I believe there is a great spiritual need and moral necessity for redefining “retirement” with “returnment.” I define “returnment” as “the act of giving back or returning in some small way what the world has given to you.” Other words could be used such as stewardship, trusteeship or husbandry. I like this new word because it captures not only our new age of life but the psychological and spiritual needs of this time of life as well.

    The pursuit of the traditional retirement life of primarily leisure and consumption will lead to not only a tremendous loss of talent, experience and resources, but intensified inter-generational economic and resource conflicts and ultimately for most individuals, regret and despair. Hillel challenges us with these words: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I?”

    Many people will need a meaning and reason to continue to live. Medical research is also learning that those who have a reason to live generally live longer. My belief is that a large number of boomers with their new age of life and longer life spans will want to be involved in some type of “work.” More importantly, I believe they will want work that allows for more meaning and purpose than their earlier work provided. As Goethe said, “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” To live the rest of our lives uninvolved and unengaged I believe will be unrewarding and unacceptable. In fact unless you are engaged in your later years you are just dying longer not living longer.

    Where is the time, talent, and financial resources most needed? There has been a great shrinkage of nurturance and care available in our society and a growing isolation between the generations and between each other. This is due to a number of factors, including the increased number of working women with children, the total amount of hours worked by both men and women, cutbacks in public funding and the overall frenetic pace of life.

    All around us we are seeing the evidence of a shortage of available teachers, nurses and other community caregivers. . The average loan balance of college graduates continues to increase significantly juxtaposed against wages for those in non profit organizations likely remaining flat. Therefore, it is likely that fewer and fewer young people are and will be entering the care giving professions such as teaching, nursing and human services.

    We can also expect the increased cutbacks by government in supporting traditional human services to continue. President Obama has called for a new commitment to volunteerism by all age groups. We need to challenge the 80 million strong boomers to step up, get involved and set the example. This growing age group will have more time than any other age group.

    This emerging social change is a new and excellent opportunity for nonprofit organizations (NPOs) to fulfill two critical needs at the same time. By offering meaningful employment and volunteer opportunities, nonprofits can meet their own current and growing labor shortage while at the same time tapping into a significant social need of experienced individuals looking for purposeful involvement, engagement, and work. This new human capital can be transformed into new social capital that fosters greater intergenerational interdependence and equity.

    As a former NPO executive with over 35 years in the field, I know it will not be easy for NPOs to use this new resource. Too often we see costs and liabilities with this new workforce rather than as an abundant growing resource. We must also transcend the vulnerability of limiting this new energy into mundane or traditional employment or volunteer vehicles. Fortunately, many NPOs have a culture of innovation and thinking outside the box and our funding environment and labor challenges will demand even more creative adaptation. Most of this change will involve new organization development and human resource management approaches in such into areas as job and project design, orientation and training programs for the new workforce, existing employees and managers, and different compensation, recognition and benefit plans. Clearly there will be both the need for technical change as well as adaptive change within the sector.

    The good news is that surveys indicate that up to 80% of all boomers expect to work or volunteer part time in their later years and 70% said that they would work even if they had enough money to live comfortably, according to a survey by the Rutgers Community Center for Workforce Development. The care giving professions of teaching, child care, nursing and human services are in great need of replenishment and expansion.

    With the emerging need for meaning and purpose being one of the potential primary drivers of the people over age 50, community service through NPOs offers a real opportunity for a win/win engagement and/or employment. We cannot afford for boomers in their aging lives to be perceived as socially useless and only living a life of consumerism. There is a great need, opportunity and moral necessity for tapping into their wisdom, experience, and wealth, finances and time.

    Just imagine if only a portion of the 3 million people retiring or changing their work each year now were to pursue a life of “returnment.” What problems could be addressed? How many children’s lives would be different? What new kind of energy would be created? What level of hope?

    “Every man’s obligation is to put into the world at least what he takes out of it.” -Albert Einstein

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