Economic Multipliers (183)

Do you know what these are?

They help CREATE wealth in systems.

Good intent can be an economic multiplier or good processes are an economic multiplier (No. 2).


I have always wanted (especially young) people to be (and feel) lucky.

If any person ever took time to read the bulk of the things I’ve written over the years, they’d probably come to some conclusions:

    • I am quite opinionated. It doesn’t bother me. I figure that most other people are too. Since I’ve changed my opinions on a few things over the years, if people ever considered me to be too opinionated, I’d figure they just hadn’t presented sufficient alternative weighty arguments/thoughts. I also know that people sometimes could infer opinions from my words that I do not have. For instance: I dislike tattoos (for numerous reasons medical and aesthetic). In that statement did you ‘hear’ that I love art and have seen some stunning tattoos (which tend to look quite similar to other artistic designs that I like)?

    • My writing can be a bit dry – almost like some user’s manuals. Wouldn’t it be cool if it were possible to jump start kids into great futures with a few words on paper?

    • I believe we have problems in the world. The engineer in me says – duh! – Don’t just sit there. Get up and solve some of them and create some luck.

    • As an American citizen, the words ‘America first’ and ‘make America great again’ appeal to me. I hope that everyone in their own nation is inserting their nation’s name into those statements while wishing others in the rest of the world well.

I’m going to describe a process from my youth that missed educational components that young people need to look for and if possible, ask for.

As a grade school project in the early ‘70’s, a teacher helped our class start one of the first community paper recycling programs. Money was raised, a shed was built and the class collected papers. Local paper manufacturers could use the paper. Community recycling ultimately became ‘mainstream.’

The (truly excellent) teacher had a lot to cover in many areas and kids learn what they are tested on. The things we didn’t specifically learn (things adults knew, learned and/or did) related to this project are so important that I’m going to list them (because they are part of learning math, project planning, communication skills, how local resources are processed and their value, etc.):

    • how much economic value the paper had and how it would be specifically (not generally) used

    • how the shed was selected, sited and built along with the cost and the man-hours expended in the whole process

    • if volunteer labor was used to build the shed, the value of that labor in dollars reflecting not only wages but benefits

    • weight and volume calculations tied to keeping the paper out of a local landfill along with data on different waste streams that go into local landfills (we never explored alternative possibilities for the use of the waste paper or other kinds of waste – and as grade school kids learning fractions, that might have been the kind of thing that a sophomore class might work on and give mini presentations on)

    • where the paper went, who picked it up and when and how the recycling project originally began (by the time a project shows up in a classroom, a lot of ‘work’ and adult coordination have gone into pulling that project together)

    • what ends up in scrap yards and thrift stores in the community (to make sure young people see local resources and for some – to step back through time as they connect what has gone before to what currently exists)

Adults sometimes think we’re teaching kids into solving global problems as we tell them everything that is wrong with the world. What we may inadvertently be doing is overwhelming them (since the greater percentage of adults haven’t figured out a lot of the problem solving components either). We also may be limiting their ability to recognize and solve closer to home problems that collectively can help solve global problems – simply because we fail to include some pieces – the pieces that they more likely have some control over.

Communities already have and are continually solving problems: What if we’re not adequately sharing all the local connections and success stories and how far we’ve come (so young people can better appreciate their existing world)?

Since it’s not realistic to expect kids of any age to remember everything, it’s important to repeat the connecting concepts many times in many different ways for many different kinds of projects as they approach adulthood so they really do know how to change their worlds.

Many community projects can take years to plan. National projects can sometimes take decades.

As a test of your educational system, ask this: If a community needed a mid-sized footbridge over a small stream, would the young people graduating from high school (and/or local colleges) be able to pull the project together? If so, it’s likely that they have the requisite skills to build their future. If not, the ‘adults’ in their world have some work to do.

For a mid-sized footbridge (while keeping track of man-hours):

    • Where will it be located and are there any property issues tied to land use, access, permissions, permits or future flooding?

    • Is there an alternative to a footbridge? I and several others once crossed a river in a single person hand-powered cable car most likely installed for infrequent use in the 1920’s or 1930’s.

    • What kind of bridge and what kind of foundation (depends on the soil and rock and surface water and groundwater levels – and can even depend upon icing conditions, whether slush forms in the water in winter and the probability of and potential size of floods – including possible upstream debris). In earthquake prone areas, should any design elements be modified?

    • Who will design it and what codes need to be followed? Are the codes rigorous enough? It’s possible to adopt more stringent codes. A few judiciously spaced supporting triangles or brackets on many types of structures can significantly increase strength, stability and wind resistance. For budget limited initial construction, it’s even possible to add in additional (and planned) strength over the years.

    • How will you test the stability of the soils, rocks and foundation?

    • Is it worthwhile to recheck the design? Something practical to ask is: ‘Is it possible to make the structure significantly stronger and longer lasting with less than a 10% increase in cost?’

    • How will the money be raised?: Government, private and/or not-for-profit grants? Taxes, user fees and/or micro-fundraising projects? Loans? - which need a future revenue stream to be paid back – and if the revenue stream selected is a property tax, that tax money can’t be used for other things like supporting education. A combination?

    • Is it necessary to get any kinds of authorization for construction? Contractors typically secure many kinds of permits and request inspections along the way: Check.

    • How will contractors be vetted?: You want quality construction.

    • How will construction bids be handled, reviewed and decided upon? Will you emphasize bid confidentiality when you’re dealing with private contractors?

    • When will construction begin?

    • Who will manage the project?

    • Who will take responsibility for quality and cost control?

    • Are there odd things in the community which must be considered like people who do not let work proceed unless they receive a bribe (Corruption is one of the quickest ways to kill economic multipliers in communities. Building a project doesn’t ensure economic multipliers: It does ensure that a community can start figuring out why they might not be there and how to start creating them.)

    • How will the footbridge be maintained over the years?: Maintenance is often the most important forgotten cost.

If the youth of any community (in any nation) can figure out how to collectively build a mid-sized footbridge (or some other similarly small yet moderately complex project – see P.S.), they would be very surprised by all the other things they’d be able to figure out how to do. And, if young men and young women can figure out how to do it together (working together in respectful ways), there’s likely a 30+% advantage in that (in other areas of their lives). If they can figure out how to build in some middle age support (while making absolutely sure that the middle agers (parent types) know the ground rules tied to working together in respectful ways), there’s likely another 30+% advantage in that. And if they can figure out how to build in some much older age support (once again, while focusing on the ground rules), there’s likely a 100+% advantage in that (for some rather unusual reasons).

The ‘advantage’ numbers can add up quite quickly when people figure out ways to work together in respectful ways. And, ‘funding’ seems to more readily show up and be available in communities where a critical mass of young adults are able to almost spontaneously figure out how to build some durable, economically beneficial project(s) that some other young adults might be able to use 100 years from now.


P.S. Communities have all sorts of project needs. I chose a footbridge because the project description contains the greater percentage of elements that most ‘durable’ projects need. In my youth, there were many things (and people in the background) that I did not see when I looked at things (which were significant pieces of how things came into being and how they work today). They are easier to see if you know what you’re looking for.

Many people over the years of all ages and in all walks of life have shared windows into their worlds. For that alone, I have been very fortunate. I hadn’t thought about the cable car for decades even though I’m always trying to figure out how to bridge divides.

When I write that I have always wanted (especially young) people to be (and feel) lucky, I’m also saying that I want young people to know that they have the ability to collectively come together and create luck in the world.