On the Horizon in 2017

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It's the beginning of a new year, so I suppose it is time to make some bold predictions. A new calendar year is a helpful editorial tool to categorize and think about trends and happenings, but going from December to January doesn't have much of an impact on the trend itself. We tend to see things on a continuum, so here are few things that will continue to grow out of 2016 (and we have created a company because of these trends!).

LOCAL

Globalism seems to be a bad word these days. In global development circles, the idea of colonial volunteerism (traveling to other countries to volunteer) is going out of favor because it has become unsustainable. Solutions stick when they are locally designed, implemented and, most importantly, maintained. For better or worse, there is need everywhere and people are becoming more concerned with their own community needs. This isn't a new idea. The resurgence of the local can been seen with respect to food and retail. "Locally owned and operated" has developed into an asset for business, and it is becoming increasingly valuable for NGOs.

HUMILITY

For many years, many thought that the solutions they were individually pursuing were the most important ones. 'My way is going to solve the most good for the most people,' they said.  However, we have seen recently that there is more humility in the face of societal challenges.  As we focus on certain issue areas, the interconnectedness of the issues are showing. Let's take education as a simple example. Early thinking was that if we wanted better student performance in school, we need better teachers, methods and facilities. Better schools will mean better students. But kids don't just live at school. Have you ever tried to teach a hungry 4th grader?  Schools are now working with hunger organizations to send students home over the weekend with backpacks full of essentials so they come back with clear, nutrient-rich minds. Our individual efforts are important, but they are not sufficient. Working on a continuum of impact is becoming the new black.

PRIVATE SECTOR

Capitalism is powerful. Supply and Demand are forces that shape a great many things including behavior.  The Millennial generation — the biggest-ever workforce and consumer population — sees how they earn and spend money as lifestyle choices. It is an extension of who they are. As a result, they are demanding not only of the quality of the product or service a company produces, but also of the kind of company it is. There are many products and brands to choose from, and differentiation is key. Many companies are finding ways to give more money to charity, but that is table stakes. Companies that provide opportunities for their employees to contribute directly, and for their customers to contribute directly, will see a return for that effort. That kind of investment from the private sector will increase.