Houston is the most diverse big city in America. This fact is one that excites most people in our region, and it speaks powerfully to the breadth of opportunities our city affords people from all over our country and all over our world.
Houston is one of the most economically segregated cities in America. This fact is one that we often overlook, or even ignore, due in some measure to the separate, disconnected “bubbles” in which we live, work, play, and pray in our large and growing city.
These two facts – one that seems to shimmer and shine with vibrant possibility, the other that hides in or is pushed quietly to the shadows – highlight that while abundant opportunities exist in Houston for those with the education and experience to plug into our economy or start their own business, those who lack vital education and experience have significantly fewer opportunities and may even fall prey to human traffickers, payday lenders, and unethical employers.
How do we bridge this divide? How do we make Houston a city of true opportunity for everyone? Where should we invest our time, talent, and treasure to build the bridges and spark the connections needed to make the promise of Houston one that shimmers and shines with possibility for everyone?
Houston’s growth in the 20th century was fueled by large, strategic, capital investments in our region’s infrastructure. The Port of Houston, the Texas Medical Center, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and our surrounding petrochemical and transportation facilities have been enormous economic drivers of investment, jobs, and prosperity for our region. Fortunately, they still continue to serve as such engines today.
But today, in the 21st century, such large, long-term, capital investments are essentially extinct, falling victim to a dearth of funds, vision, and leadership, and an oversupply of short-sighted bickering, delay, and polarization. The resulting absence of a long-term, strategic vision for our country and community comes at a time when we’re also experiencing greater global competition and rising inequality. As the jobs of the 21st century increasingly call for all people to have the education and experience necessary to continuously learn and improve themselves and their efforts, this lack of vision and investment threatens to stunt our future growth and prosperity.
In short, to thrive in the 21st century we must transition Houston from a community that excels at designing and building things to one that excels at nurturing and developing people.
Good Works Houston, a new business accelerator for social entrepreneurs, focuses on providing Houstonians who seek to address some of the biggest issues facing our community – upward mobility, health, wellness, and our environment – with the support, development, and mentorship they need to turn their ideas into engines of change, growth, and opportunity for our city and beyond.
As “social entrepreneurs,” all of their business ideas – whether nonprofit, for profit, or a hybrid such as a B Corporation – focus on creating businesses that will not only make a profit to sustain and grow their businesses, but also make a positive difference in the community. These businesses measure their success using a triple bottom line of profit, people, and planet rather than a sole bottom line of maximizing profit with little to no consideration for external costs.
What excites me about being a part of Good Works Houston as it launches this accelerator and effort, is that it focuses two of Houston’s greatest and seemingly contradictory virtues – a boundless, blue sky optimism, and a pragmatic, business-like approach – on tackling some of our region’s biggest problems.
Because this optimism and pragmatism are part of our incredibly diverse region’s singular DNA (remember the Port, medical center, and NASA), I believe Houston is uniquely positioned to succeed in this endeavor. And because success in this effort will have wide-ranging effects on our community in the critical areas of upward mobility, health, wellness, and our environment, Good Works Houston can help build the bridges we must have to connect our community and better grow all of our opportunities to learn, thrive, shimmer, and shine.
As I work to create and grow businesses and efforts that connect communities together and spur people to action to make a positive difference in this world, I see that Good Works Houston offers our community a way forward, together, to envision and create the future Houston that reflects the deep richness and broad diversity of our most valuable resource, our people.
How will you engage with and support Good Works Houston to make this bold and ambitious vision a reality for our community?
Author: Todd Litton