I was recently part of an interesting discussion about the proper role of government in job creation; one view holds that government should actually fund and create jobs, while the other argues that government should instead create an environment encouraging job creation in other sectors. That may sound like a narrow distinction in language, but it spans the Senate floor. The two options aren’t mutually exclusive, of course, but determining the right balance of direct and indirect job creation is one of the government’s most important and controversial responsibilities.
My own response – unsurprisingly – was to observe that intersector collaboration, in the process of resolving specific problems like environmental conservation and infrastructure, also indirectly addresses the broader problems of unemployment.
It shouldn’t be surprising that successful collaborations across public, business and nonprofit sectors has the indirect, though significant benefit of job creation. In addition to the work of the collaboration, which may entail hiring permanent staff to coordinate internal partnership activities, intersector projects frequently give rise to long-term, large-scale initiatives, which result in all sorts of job opportunities.
The Intersector Project’s cases clearly support that proposition: in New York City school P-TECH, for example, job creation was three-fold. The collaboration itself created jobs for those involved in planning and coordinating involvement between IBM, the NYC Department of Education, and CUNY and City Tech (the two colleges involved in steering the curriculum); leading, staffing and maintaining the resulting P-TECH campus employs countless more; and the P-TECH program is expressly designed to train and place students in the workforce. In that case, a little intersector collaboration unlocked the huge job potential for all involved.
Another great example of job creation through intersector collaboration is the case of Jamestown, New York, where Mayor Stan Lundine worked across sectors to repair the city’s labor relations. The city’s unemployment rate was over twice the national average when Mayor Lundine took office, and showed few signs of recovery; major industry had pulled out of Jamestown, and relationships with local unions were strained. Recognizing how important employment was, both financially and for the city’s reputation and morale, Mayor Lundine brokered relationships between businesses, unions, and his own office to both improve existing relations and attract new industry. The resulting jobs and drop in unemployment benefited all of the collaborations stakeholders, not least the newly employed people of Jamestown.
To return to the discussion that got me thinking about the role of the intersector in job creation: it is clear to me that government should be creating jobs and an environment supportive of job creation. Both initiatives naturally and sensibly benefit from the space of the intersector. And while many jobs may be the unintentional byproducts of collaborations targeted at other problems, recognizing and encouraging this aspect of the intersector only improves the promising future of working together across sectors.
Author Frank Weil is chairman of The Intersector Project, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing cross-sector collaboration.