Summer usually means something different to adults than it does to children. Last month, I spoke about the importance of summer enrichment through activities like Camp Moss Hollow, and I am happy to report that the camp is in full swing with lots of happy campers.
But enrichment is not just for kids – it’s for adults too! This past week, I began the experience of a wonderful journey – spiritual, social, and intellectual – to one of the most fascinating parts of the developing world: Lagos, Nigeria, and it caused me to think about how much we can learn from this rapidly growing, increasingly developed country.
Lagos is one of the world’s “megacities” brimming with life and hope. With over 21 million people, it is a key driver for Nigeria’s industrial and intellectual growth. It is also a city straining under the weight of poverty, growing income disparity, and a slower than expected growth in productivity.
In short, Lagos (and Nigeria) is a tale of two futures – one full of vitality and wealth and one of struggle and imbalance.
The McKinsey Global Institute takes an optimistic view of Nigeria. In a new report Nigeria’s renewal: Delivering inclusive Growth in Africa’s largest economy, they predict it could easily become one of the world’s leading economies by 2030. As an oil and gas powerhouse, economic growth over the last 20 years has not been spread evenly. Close to 40 percent of Nigerians live in extreme poverty, with another 30 percent below what MGI considers a threshold of sustainability.
What does this mean for organizations like Family Matters of Greater Washington? It means the role of the non-profit and social enterprise sector is crucial to the stable growth and development of all economies – developed and developing. We have a role here in the US to serve the people most in need, but we also have an obligation to share our knowledge and experience with organizations around the world, especially in rapidly growing places like Nigeria. This is exactly what I did during my visit.
At the same time that Nigeria’s economy grew, so did the number and impact of its non-profit organizations. In an article on NGO’s in Nigeria, Samuel Uwhejevwe-Togbolo argues that this was no coincidence. The rise of the non-profit sector organizations like the Foundation for Skills Development or Communicating for Change (both in Lagos) helped build the societal structures critical to broader national economic growth. Without the work of non-profits, and the shift from foreign to local governance of these organizations, the rapid growth of Nigeria would not have been possible.
So what can we do? As non-profits, we have a wealth of knowledge that we can share:
Non-profits strengthen social welfare through education and increased participation. A peaceful, economically balanced society is one in which all citizens can engage economically, politically, and socially. Family Matter’s Ways to Work program is a form of microcredit that ultimately leads to economic development. Programs like this have been shown to have an over-sized impact on its participants and their communities.
Economic growth is cyclical and requires a well-trained, diversified workforce. Whereas governments often focus on their largest industries at the expense of others (in Nigeria’s case, the petro-economy), non-profits can find new and creative ways to strengthen and broaden local economies. Family Matter’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) places people 55+ in volunteer positions for a stipend and is a prime example of changing what it means to “work” and contribute throughout your life. The economic value delivered by this one program is nothing short of astounding.
Opportunities for growth, here and abroad, are enormous. The public and private sectors do a lot of the work, and get much of the credit, but more attention should be paid not only to the contributions of non-profit organizations like Family Matters, but to the institutional knowledge they can share with one another. As we continue to build a strong, resilient social matrix here in the US, we are amassing a treasure chest of knowledge, skills, and abilities that can and should benefit communities next door, and around the world. I look forward to leading this charge over the next decade! Join me on this journey!