These past months have been frightening, with new banks crumbling every week and the government weighing the merits of a $700 billion bailout. The economy is reeling with tremendous uncertainty. I can see the nonprofit sector, which is often hit hardest and longest by any economic downturn, holding its collective breath, unsure what all of this will mean to the critical services they provide. And, if the government does end up providing a tremendous influx of cash to the overall economy, it must mean that less will be left over for nonprofit programs.
All of this seems incredibly bleak. Indeed, the times we live in are rather bleak. But they are also incredibly historic. And what if, instead of battening down the hatches, we viewed these times as an opportunity? Perhaps times like these are exactly when system-changing ideas can take hold. Take New Orleans for instance. Despite the incredible destruction of Katrina which threatened to wipe that city off the map, New Orleans is starting to come back. And social entrepreneurship is driving that come back. New Orleans’ school system was in disarray before Katrina. It was one of the worst in the country. However, Katrina has given them a clean slate. And social entrepreneurs, with great new ideas for education, have taken the city by storm, using it as a test case for some pretty exciting and powerful models for changing the end game: improving future outcomes for at-risk kids. It’s a pretty inspirational story.
So, maybe, amid all of the bleak news of recent days there is a ray of hope. When nothing is sure, anything is possible.