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Why Work Hard Pittsburgh Exists | Guest Blog #2 | Josh Lucas

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By: Josh Lucas | Work Hard Pittsburgh | September 15th, 2017 | Read Post #1


“Democratized systems, like the Work Hard Pittsburgh coop, increase the chance of meeting people where they are and surrounding them with sophistication so that they have a chance to participate. As a matter of fact, that’s a big part our mission. You can think about it in terms of apprenticeships so common in the past if that helps, because it is more than just training. We practice behaviors. We build human networks. We give ownership. We amplify voice.”

This post presents the reasons why coops like Work Hard Pittsburgh are needed in what’s becoming a wildly unpredictable social and economic landscape. I’ll offer practical evidence as justification for broad support of our work and encourage you to get involved. Don’t just be another social media activist. Leverage our community to drive the change in the region you’d like to see.

A World Full of Economic Status Quo

Wealth inequality drives a good deal of the bad things in the world.

To correct that, either the people at the top are going to have to relinquish power, or everyone else must create new systems that build a level playing field. It seems unlikely that the top will voluntarily step down, so creating new systems that foster equitable opportunities regardless of economic class, race, and gender is the only viable path forward. The old systems have proven to be intractable and too unwilling to change to meet the realities of a technology-rich and unjust world. Fixing the wealth gap is going to mean having a frank conversation about institutional inequity.

Consider the young entrepreneurs growing up in tough urban neighborhoods. The starting point for their entrance into the grand game is not the same as that for the kids growing up in wealthy suburbs. The same can be said if you lived deep in the Rust Belt or perhaps a rural county. Your access to networks, quality education, richness of life experience, capital, or an economic and social safety net are not the same as the established elite.

Now add to that built in disadvantage, the absolute myth of “pulling one’s self up by his/her bootstraps” that permeates our national conversation. Or consider the often cited analogous parable, “anyone can succeed in America if they work hard.” These intellectually dishonest starting points are not based in any measurable reality, and will be used against our hypothetical entrepreneur at every turn. The rules of the grand game are not standard, and the promise made by a meritocracy, are really the promises of inequity. Upward mobility for the next generation has always been with the permission of the upper classes.

Even when compared to other 1st world economies, the U.S. struggles. For example, “in Denmark, a poor child has twice as much chance of making it to the top quintile as in America.” You can read more in this article from the Economist.

Still not convinced? More evidence, like the ever growing wealth inequality or the immense amount of cash locked out of our economy by the country’s economic elites, is readily available for your review. Progressives and conservatives both like to pay lip service to this issue. But in reality, accumulated wealth and power, regardless their political leanings, is not likely to yield it to another.

As a coop, we address economic inequality by making the worker the owner of any wealth generated by the system. Since knowledge and access have always been real engines of upward mobility, we make knowledge sharing a requirement of membership and broaden our reach and access across varied networks. We create a system that is 100% open source and replicable so that positive change we affect has the opportunity to spread.

A World Full of Ever-growing Technical Complexity

Consider the world-changing effects of a relatively simple tool like Facebook Ads. Without it, would there be a Donald Trump Presidency? As the last election cycle unwound, did anyone predict the role democratized communication systems would play? By any measure, even today, can we genuinely say whether the ongoing events have had a net positive or negative effect? Facebook’s ad platform is a pretty simple tool. Most entry-level trolls master it quickly, and state actors seem to have taken it to the next level.  As an exercise, try to image the how the next big social toolkit is going to change the world. I bet you can’t, because the next things that we are about to build are going to be a scary complex.

Most in the know agree that artificial intelligence, automation of transportation and delivery, gene therapy, augmented reality and virtual reality will arrive fully in the next 20 years. What this new tech does to our economy and culture are wildly unpredictable. Unfortunately, what this new tech will do with regards to a just and equitable society is highly predictable. All we need do is examine the gap that exists today after only 25 years or so of fast changing tech and extrapolate. The gap will widen.

That Digital Divide is well documented and written about in many places, so I’ll spare you the review. But, its cumulative effects pose real challenges and aren’t really considered on time scales that matter. Policy makers and educators struggle with the here and now, and are barely able to form strategies for the next 10, 20 or 30 years.

What’s frustrating is our inability to note the effects of systemic disadvantage and adjust to them. We know the consequences of generational poverty, which include the digital divide. We see and document the opportunity gap created by redlining, poor urban planning, and systemic failures in our school systems. Still we’re unable to make adjustments or applying lessons learned to the coming bifurcation between groups of people that complex tech will create. There will be new “haves” and “have-nots” based on access to, and facility with, technology.

Democratized systems, like the Work Hard Pittsburgh coop, increase the chance of meeting people where they are and surrounding them with sophistication so that they have a chance to participate. As a matter of fact, that’s a big part our mission. You can think about it in terms of apprenticeships so common in the past if that helps, because it is more than just training. We practice behaviors. We build human networks. We give ownership. We amplify voice. We’re working to ensure that even through our culture’s hypers-specialization, that fundamental skills persist and are transferred more equitably. We gather the most up-to-date knowledge, because our membership is diverse, young, and purposefully in touch with cultural, technical, and economic trends.

1http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21595437-america-no-less-socially-mobile-it-was-generation-ago-mobility-measured


Post #3 |How Does A Cooperatively-Organized Business Incubator Work?

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