Friday, October 12, 2012

Job Creators?

"Most community organizers may not go into this work to become job creators, yet economic theory and widely accepted government formulas -- such as used to calculate the impact of highway and transit funding -- show community organizers can compete with the best job generators in America."

Gamaliel, Community Organizing As Job Creator: An Investment That Works for All, September 2012.

A bold claim. And a bolder claim for the past five years: "Through winning funds, finding revenue sources and changing policy the [Gamaliel] network directed over $1.6 billion into infrastructure development, education and transit that created and saved a total of 639, 385 jobs. The impact has been striking, both on the Gross Domestic Product -- nearly $22 billion -- and in its alleviation of poverty and delivery of human service."

No doubt Gamaliel network groups played an important role in all of this -- but enough to claim being job creators rivaling the private sector? I wonder. Would investments like these have been made anyway; has the pot for infrastructure dollars been expanded overall or moved around; and are these new or old jobs, part-time or full-time? Gamaliel doesn't tell us -- they use multipliers like everyone else making estimates about jobs impacts. An important sign of humility in the above text is that they recognize saving as well as creating jobs.

These community organizers and networks do great work and deserve credit for many accomplishments, including job creation and access. This kind of report, however, puts them fully in the camp of making promises based upon multipliers and other complex formulas, a dubious enterprise. They should be held as accountable as other businesses and government agencies to prove their case on the ground. The last thing we need is more numbers that never get experienced by the communities most in need.

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