Lessons in the art of execution in a Pro Bono Project: the one million jobs report
Turning an idea into action
Last year I wrote in The Globe about the work on the One Million Jobs Report that was available in summary1) from September 2017 which showed how to create 5 million new jobs. The next question was how do you turn an idea into action for a pro-bono/non-profit project? In my Change Management course we learn that the difficult part is not the plan, but the execution – as it was in this case.
From the start, the sponsors of the report were nervous about going directly online in the social media, and preferred a soft start. After a series of press conferences from June 2016 onwards, we moved to talk concerts.
In the dire days of the IMF crisis in 1997 the first OMJ report had been picked up by 3M, Citibank, Seoul Bank and several of the broadcasters, and also published daily in the Korean Economic Daily. Accordingly the project snowballed under its own momentum.
In 2016, a series of talk concerts were held in Seoul, Pangyo, Daejeon and Busan between September and December. In 2016, although sponsored by about 40 foreign companies and with the talk concerts appearing on Job TV, there was little response and no snowballing effect. The OMJ report looked at people starting their own businesses in the informal sector who belong to the self-employed and make 25% of the Korean work force, who would then “scale up” if the business justified it. “Wage growth” also left out the need for profit growth to provide insurance companies a source of long-term revenue to fuel pensions and annuities.
Any 20-30 year old would ask why all the activities are hidden in a website and not on view on Facebook? As noted this reflects the view of sponsors and the steering committee in their late 40s and 50s and a fear of an uncontrolled explosion of ideas some of them negative. The result was a soft start. The talk concerts ended in December 2016. Within the sponsors themselves change took place both at SAP where a job identification software to help part-time married women maintain their jobs, and others to return, and a similar move at BASF again benefitting married women who were one of the three targets for job creation in the report. A soft start failed to gain traction.
During the turmoil leading up to the election of a new President in May 2017 there was a limit on what could be done. Once the election was over there was a reboot of the entire project. Based round the Seoul Business Innovation Centre a series of meetings were held which will create a not-for-profit OMJ organization formed largely by entrepreneurs in their 40s to 60s with aspiration before the end of 2017. The task is then to create a young OMJ which can use the resources raised by the not-for-profit, to run a real promotion campaign. Secondly, planning work began at the end of 2016 for a second big project named in the report, the Asian Children’s Library at Dangjin, which rapidly snowballed into a proposed degree in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and a new industrial estate for the new industries of the Fourth News & Events Revolution such as 3D Printing, Robots, AI, Drones, VR and New Materials. At the site of Dangjin New Town, this planning process involved more than 200 businesses and organizations, but with jobs being created only in late 2018 and more in 2019.
Initiatives around the ship building industry and marine activities have similarly taken a long while to gestate with both an OMJ style proposal to Busan City driven by one Professor at Korea Maritime and Ocean University, and another more outward looking shipyard partly mentored by another Professor from KMOU. Another venture for 2018 is between Innobiz, an organization subordinate to the SME Administration with 17,000 companies as members to link up with UK Local Economic Partnerships and support outbound FDI. From overseas interest from the Philippines and India will almost certainly be encouraged to lead to OMJ imitators.
What have we learnt from execution in 2016 versus 1998-9?
Essentially in 1998-9 we were lucky in having the support of the Korean Economic Daily which published 280 articles in a series for about 100 days, a bank that picked up the idea as practical business and propagated it, and a TV personality who was soon appearing in self-help TV programmes at the height of the movement. In 2016-2017 there are much more social media and main media noise competing with any not-for-profit movement. No newspaper or new agency has a concentrated readership, Yonhap News produced only intermittent reports, and Job TV was not a highly watched cable channel. The PR Company who was the partner in 2016 was concerned about the unmanageable nature of the Korean social media rather than its limitless opportunities. Finally a thousand voices a day talked about job-creation and the vision of OMJ was unable to reach out to the audience effectively.
The reboot will hopefully be more successful. The not-for-profit will be better able to solicit donations and to create grass root events. One province has already suggested a string of OMJ groups across the province. The work we have done to date notfor-profit with the many business associations dedicated to new industries will bear fruit. The fact that few jobs were created in 2017 should not concern those involved for we estimate that up to 2.5 million jobs will disappear in Korea, due to new convergent industries and digital connectivity. New Dangjin, if constructed to plan will be the leading centre of small and medium based companies in the new industries, the base of those industry associations and the head quarter of the not-for-profit OMJ.
By Professor Tony MICHELL, KDI School