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Writing a Social Impact Book? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Read time – 5 mins.

Social entrepreneurship and social impact leadership are two of the biggest growing trends. As our world faces a whole host of collective challenges, there are an army of new leaders stepping up to the plate to suggest solutions and make a difference in the world.

If you are making an impact with the work that you do, and you want to reach a wider audience with your message, writing a book would appear to be one of the most logical moves.

As more and more social impact leaders are writing books about their valuable work, in this post we share some of the best practices— as well as the common pitfalls—so that you can write a book that actually contributes to change. 

New Program for Authors Starts July 16th 2019
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Audience

One of the first considerations for writing a social impact book is your audience. Having ghostwritten over 30 non-fiction books (as well as four best-selling ones of my own, which have been published in 15 languages), and having consulted with countless clients on their book ideas, there is one issue that comes up time and time again. Many potential authors will attempt to write a book with no connection to their audience.

Before you even start writing, you need to answer these 3 questions as a non-fiction author:

  • Who are your audience?
  • What are their needs?
  • How will reading your book meet those needs?

What we are really asking here is why should someone read your book? What’s in it for them, and what is your unique perspective or message that will create an impact in their life?

If you are a social entrepreneur or social impact leader, we can assume that your audience also have a desire to make a difference in the world with the work that they do. But it’s not enough to say, “This book is for everyone who wants to make a positive change.” Just like an advertiser will spend countless hours in the boardroom figuring out who their product is for and why the consumer needs it before they start creating it, you need to do the same for the readership of your book.

So who exactly are your audience, what is that specific difference that they want to make in the world, and how does your book help them make that difference? If you don’t write your book—or shape your message—with your audience’s needs in mind, then there will be a disconnect between what you are writing and what they actually get from your work.

What You Say

When you get clear on the issues you are addressing and why they are important to your audience, your next phase is figuring out the angle you are taking with your message. This involves getting clarity around your unique point of view on the challenges you are addressing. Usually you will either have (a) a new thing to say or (b) a unique way of saying something that has already been said. Getting clear on the way in which your message is different is also an essential starting point. 

It’s equally vital as you begin to formulate your core message that you don’t make it too broad. While messages such as “I want to make the world a better place,” or “I want to banish world hunger” might be honorable in their intentions, you need to be much more specific in addressing a particular element of an issue, rather than focusing on the issue as a whole.

 

It can also be useful to move away from messaging that creates the sense of good versus evil. We have been so indoctrinated into a Hollywood plot structure of defeating an evil force that this often comes through in our social impact writing. However, messages that focus on specific solutions without spending too much time dwelling on the idea that there is a corrupt or evil force that needs to be defeated, are usually much more impactful for an audience.

How You Say It

It’s not just the content of your message that counts. It’s also the tone you use to convey it. With social impact books there can be a tendency to make the material too “fluffy” in tone, so that it tiptoes around the issues at hand and doesn’t face them head on. Some of the more successful social impact books that I’ve either read or worked on have had the courage to own their message and deliver it with clarity and strength. So if you think something doesn’t work or something needs to change, a blunt call-out is often more effective than dancing around the edges of an issue.

New Program for Authors Starts July 16th 2019
Click here to learn more and register

3 Common Pitfalls

We’ve talked about what works, but the following are some of the recurring challenges that I’ve witnessed in books of this nature.

1 – Vanity

The first pitfall is writing a vanity book. This is a book where the author congratulates themselves for all the great things they have done in the world. When you write an effective social impact book—or any non-fiction book for that matter—if you just do so to congratulate yourself on all the phenomenal work you have done, without giving the audience an idea about how to do something similar, it’s going to fall short of making a difference.

2 – Fantasy

You may have some revolutionary ideas about how to create change in the world, but unless you have tested them out in reality, they are interesting concepts or visions, rather than solid ideas grounded in truth. Even if you are writing a book that has a visionary message about a future world you are imagining, if it doesn’t relate to some of the challenges that we are facing today and give suggestions on how to solve them, it will fall short of inspiring your audience to address issues down on the ground.

3 – Information Dump  

In fiction writing there is a noticeable difference between ‘show’ and ‘tell’. When you show your reader, you take them on an unfolding journey. In fiction this means setting the scene, and a fiction writer will go to great lengths to allow the dialogue between characters to unfold in order to create mood or atmosphere. If they just describe or tell us what happened between two characters, we miss the opportunity to go on a journey with them. The same is true in non-fiction. One of the biggest mistakes that a novice non-fiction author makes is that they tell rather than show. A book of this nature is dry and lacks dynamism. It contains all the ideas of the author without any of the texture.

 

A good non-fiction book shows the reader the authors ideas through many different layers. We hear stories of triumphs and challenges, see case studies so that we can experience the book, and are given practical exercises that we can engage in. We feel, hear, and see what the author is showing us, so that we are guided through the whole depth of our human existence to take action.

For the past decade, Sasha Allenby has been a ghostwriter for some of the greatest thought-leaders of our time. Her journey started when she co-authored a bestselling book that was published in 12 languages worldwide by industry giants, Hay House. Since then, Sasha has written over 30 books for global change agents. Following the events of the last couple of years, she turned her skill set to crafting social messages. Her latest book Catalyst: Speaking, writing and leading for social evolution supports thought-leaders to craft dynamic messages that contribute to change. 

You are a catalyst or visionary who is crafting an evolutionary message. You want to be part of a community that supports you to make a difference with your spoken and written word. Sign up to receive weekly blogs and updates that enable you to craft your unique message.


Creating More Diversity in the Publishing Industry

Creating More Diversity in the Publishing Industry

The story so far, and what’s needed to bring publishing into the 21st century

Read Time – 8 minutes.

When I got my first big publishing deal 10 years ago, it was obviously a major life event. With it came a whole host of speaking opportunities, many of which were a big step up for me. The first was in London, and as I was feeling slightly nervous, I did what any self-respecting author in my industry did at that time. I practice my presentation over and over in my head while picturing the audience in front of me. Because it was London, I pictured an audience that matched my experience of the city. In my mind I saw a sea of black, brown, white and Asian faces. I pictured women in hijabs, saris and bright African prints. Alongside men in suits, or bring colored fashions, I also saw Sikhs in turbans too. This was the London I had known and loved since childhood, and the one I expected to see in the audience at my first major speaking event.

When I walked on stage, I literally froze for a second. Not from fear, but more from shock at the picture before me, which was vastly different from the one I had painted in my mind. Before me sat a sea of white faces, with barely a person of color in sight.

I gave my presentation, and although I was happy with my performance, something wasn’t sitting right. I needed to know why an event of this nature was not appealing to people of color and why so few had been drawn to attend. I wasn’t a stranger to this kind of question. Working as a teacher for teenagers with severe behavioral problems in my previous career, I had developed a sharp eye for racial exclusion, and other sensitivities around equality and equity. And as I asked myself the question the answer was already obvious. Representation. Sure enough, as I glanced down the list of other author-speakers, this suspicion was confirmed. Every face—without exception—was also white.

For the decade that followed, calling out this blindspot became a passion of mine. I wanted to find a way, not just to highlight this gap, but to begin  closing it. Over the years, as I developed my publishing consulting and ghostwriting company, I saw more and more that those gaps were present not only because authors of color (alongside LGBTQ+ authors, and those with disabilities) were not getting as many publishing deals as white authors, but that the problem was deeper, and the issue stemmed from a lack of representation in the publishing industry itself.

Fast-forward 10 years where I recently met Sacha Chadwick—a young woman of color who is currently undertaking a masters program in publishing at Washington University. We realized that we shared a similar passion, and when I discovered that Sacha had been gathering data and doing research on the lack of diversity and representation in the publishing industry, we decided to join forces to share my experience with her knowledge, to bring you an article on the story so far, and what needs to happen for that story to evolve.

The Current Face of the Industry

“When I attended grad school I quickly realized that the publishing industry is made up largely of white, cis gender, able bodied females,” Chadwick told me. She also shared how she’d seen this represented in audiences too, where she’d go to book signings, and had a similar experience to the one I had a decade ago. Even in a multicultural city such as New York, everyone there would mostly be white.

“If we look at the 2015 Lee and Low Diversity in Publishing data we can begin to see why,” Chadwick shared. The data shows that as of 2015, 79% of the publishing industry is white/caucasian, 78% are women/cis women, 88% are straight/heterosexual, and 92% are non-disabled. From this picture we begin to understand the imbalance in representation in the industry as a whole.

Breaking It Down

In order to take a deep dive into this issue, we need to recognize that it is multi-dimensional. Some of the key issues that have been prevalent over the years are that:

    1. Because the publishing industry itself is largely comprised of white, hetrosexual, non-disabled women.
    2. This leads to people of color, LGBTQ+ and disabled authors not getting the kind of equality of opportunities that their valuable work deserves.
    3. It also leads to another highly sensitive issue that is less often discussed but also highly prevalent. When people of color do get publishing deals, their voices are often edited to sound more white.

We’re going to break down each of these issues in this article and then suggest what needs to happen in the publishing industry as a whole for these statistics to change.


1 – Changing the Face of the Industry

“Undertaking a masters in publishing, I quickly began to realize that people of color (POC) were not feeling welcomed in the publishing industry,” Chadwick shared. “When there are such a small number of POC in any industry, it can lead to familiar feelings of isolation or not feeling welcomed. So the problem continues to perpetuate.”

“The other issue,” she continued, “is that with diversity being highlighted as a buzzword, often companies will carry out a ‘token hire’. Yet we need to ensure that diversity isn’t just a trend that it is being satisfied by ticking a box to say that it is done. We need publishing companies to be addressing the intrinsic biases they have been built upon, so that diversity becomes the norm rather than the following of a trend.”

She finished by highlighting, “Often POC, and other minority groups, don’t even realize that publishing is a possible career choice. They need to be given the opportunity to explore and pursue such interests, and the publishing industry itself needs to take responsibility for ensuring that this happens.”

When we have more diversity in the industry itself, it leads to more diverse opportunities for authors of color, authors with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ authors to be considered for publishing deals.

2 – Creating More Diverse Publishing Opportunities

A couple of weeks ago a good friend of mine came to me with an issue that sounded all too familiar. He works at a tech conference company, one that has prided itself on celebrating diversity in the industry and has a high volume of POC among both its staff and presenters. He was working with a colleague on picking out female speakers that were “breaking the glass ceiling” in tech. His colleague was picking the list and his job was to refine it. But when the list came through, he was shocked to find that his colleague (who was a white, blond haired American) had picked a list of women that looked exactly like her. As he is brown, he was quick to see the blindspot. “I doubt that she realizes, but she picked 7 versions of herself,” he told me. He rectified the issue and the speaker list became way more diverse. But this is precisely the problem that we have faced in the publishing industry so far. If the majority of the people who are selecting manuscripts for publishing are white, able bodied and heterosexual, there is likely to be an unconscious bias towards selecting authors who feel or sound familiar.

This leads to our next issue. How voices of color are interpreted through a white lens.

3 – Honoring Voices of Color

When Candice got her publishing deal it was a day of celebration. She’d had all the pieces in place—an extremely well written and researched book, a large platform of engaged followers, and even a possible TV show on the table. We’d worked hard to get her a deal and were both super happy when it came through. But just over six months later when her book had returned from the editors she called me, sounding defeated.

“They edited the blackness out of my voice,” she told me. “I sound like Mrs, Hargreaves, my white, third grade English teacher.” And sure enough, when she sent me the edits to review, her book and been sterilized into a white, generic voice.

So here’s the challenge—and it’s one that every author will face—regardless of their ethnicity. Because of publishing conventions, there will often be a kind of battle between the author and the publishers, especially if the author writes with a more informal tone. I’ve worked with many authors to bridge this gap and formalize their writing so that it fits with more traditional publishing conventions. But—and this is a very big BUT—this is a totally separate issue from a white editor steaming through a manuscript written by a person of color and “Anglifying” it, so it’s content is more familiar to a white eye.

 

Highlighting this issue with Chadwick, it’s easy to see the root of this problem. “If we go back to the 2015 Lee and Low Diversity in Publishing Survey, we can see that in the editorial department, 82% of editors are white, 84% percent women/cis-women, 86% straight/heterosexual, 92% non-disabled.” So basically, it’s not just in those who are choosing the publishing deals that create the issue, but when those deals are underway, they are still being edited through a white lens.

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Paving the Way Forward

Some publishing houses have been leading the way on addressing these issues. Houses such as The New Press are at the forefront of these changes. In an article in Publishers Weekly we learn that:

 

“The New Press was […] founded with a mandate to embrace diversity both in its publishing lists and in its staff. In an industry with a continuing dearth of minority representation at every level, the New Press strives to practice what it preaches.”

The New Press began with a staff of five in 1992, and by 2017 had 28 employees, 39% of which were POC.

 

“The house’s 25-year-old diversity-focused internship program is one of the industry’s longest running and most successful; it has trained and sent more than 550 former interns into jobs in book and magazine publishing, including in-house.”

What The New Press have modeled, shows the rest of the publishing industry that change is possible. In order for that to occur, we need to:
    • Make more programs that will open doors and point minorities in the right direction
    • Give opportunities to more diverse voices (creating more positions within the industry, as well as publishing opportunities)
    • Ensure that voices of color are edited with respect for cultural differences
    • Gear departments towards making publishing houses more diverse, and ensure that there are strategies in place to retain those employees
    • Implement diversity training by POC in the publishing industry, so diversity becomes a norm and not just a trend.

Books are one of our most valuable commodities for our social evolution. Ensuring that books reflect the many dimensions and faces of our society is an essential component for our social development in the 21st century. 

 

(SCROLL DOWN TO THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER RESEARCH AND STUDY.)


This Article was Written and Compiled by Sasha Allenby @Equality Hive

For the past decade, Sasha Allenby has been a ghostwriter for some of the greatest thought-leaders of our time. Her journey started when she co-authored a bestselling book that was published in 15 languages worldwide by industry giants, Hay House. Since then, Sasha has written over 30 books for global change agents. Following the events of the last couple of years, she turned her skill set to crafting social messages. Her latest book Catalyst: Speaking, writing and leading for social evolution supports thought leaders to craft dynamic messages that contribute to change. 

This Article was Researched and Contributed to by Sacha Chadwick

Sacha Chadwick is a first year graduate student studying Publishing at George Washington University. When she is not studying for school, she focuses her time educating others on the issues and challenges that WOC and minorities face in today’s society.

 

Sacha is also an avid reader, and her goal is to contribute to a society where authors from all backgrounds can have their voices be heard.

You are a catalyst or visionary who is crafting an evolutionary message. You want to be part of a community that supports you to make a difference with your spoken and written word. Sign up to receive weekly blogs and updates that enable you to craft your unique message.

What A Lion and a Wizard Taught Me About Social Impact Writing

What A Lion and a Wizard Taught Me About Social Impact Writing

Read Time – 4 minutes.

When writing for social impact, you likely have a mission in mind. You want to influence others, or create a positive wave in the world with the way you shape your words on the page.

One of the key aspects of creating an effective message is intentionality. In previous posts—and in my book, Catalyst—I’ve highlighted how it’s crucial to shape your message around your audience. You need to know who they are, how they think, and what their needs are before you can shape your words to impact them in a positive way.

For most influencers though—particularly in these current times—there is another factor to consider. Even if you craft a message with your best intentions, carefully consider your audience, and skillfully shape your message, it isn’t always going to land as you anticipated. If your message makes an impact, there is often a tidal wave of responses that you couldn’t have even predicted. This often creates a fear for many emerging social impact leaders, activists and thought-leaders. If you are like many of the clients I’ve worked with, you have probably found yourself holding back because you don’t want to rock the boat. One of my favorite quotes on this topic came from Dr. Melva Green when I interviewed her several years ago. She told me:

‘I do not believe that we have the right to hide our light. If we have been put on this planet at this point in time for humanity’s evolution, and we have something to share that can shift that consciousness, it is our responsibility. We have taken sacred contracts and sacred oaths to rock the boat.’

If you are just starting out with your message creation, and you’ve been afraid of rocking the boat, I want to share two stories from about a decade ago when I was at the beginning of my career as an author. I’m going to share how a lion and a wizard taught me that we can never really predict how something is going to affect others. Both of these events occurred around about the time that my second book had just been released—a co-authored bestseller that was released in over 15 languages globally. The book took me from being relatively unknown to suddenly having an engaged email list of tens of thousands. And two people from that list taught me a vital lesson that I continue to share with my clients and workshop participants today.

The Lion

The first time I met her, ‘Sally’ and I were both in a difficult place. We’d bonded because we’d been chronically ill for several years, and we were attending an emotional health seminar that was to change the course of my life. The seminar was hosted by Karl Dawson and at the point I did not know that he would not only be the one that helped me heal from chronic disease, but also that we would co-author a bestselling book together. Sally was there too, and I remember her as someone that seemed very stuck. You could tell that she desperately wanted to change but there were a lot of internal blockers for her to overcome before she could move forward. She had that intense look in her eyes of someone who really wants to break out of their own prison, but doesn’t know where to start.

The second time I met her was several years later, and this time, Sally had dramatically transformed. She greeted me with a huge hug and a smile, and now, her eyes were filled with light. They began to fill with tears as she told me about her transformation.

“It started with your newsletter,” she said. And it turned out that what had helped her wake up from her own prison had nothing to do with me. And everything to do with a lion!

Because I was working in the field of emotional health and trauma, at one point I’d decided to end my newsletter with a short video that inspired hope and joy. One week I’d shared the video of Christian the Lion. As the video went viral, you may already know the story. Two young men in England had adopted a lion back in the 1970s (before it was illegal). They’d tried to raise it in their apartment in London, but when it got too big, they’d taken it to a wildlife park in Africa. The video was of the incredibly touching moment where the two young men had been reunited with the lion years later at the wildlife park, and the unconditional love between them all.

In that moment, when Sally saw the love that passed between the three of them, something inside her cracked open, and she experienced unconditional love for the very first time.

(The reunion is from minute 1 onwards if you just want to skip right to the heart of it.)

The point is, I had no way of knowing the impact that video would have on Sally, or anyone else. And this is the first important lesson for us to take away as activists or social impact influencers. We cannot truly know what positive impact a message we share will have on others. We can only share everything with a positive intention and trust it will land as it needs to. We have no real control over how it lands.

 

We cannot truly know that positive impact that a message we share will have on others.

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The Wizard

The second lesson came at about the same time and was a seemingly light hearted comment that I shared with my mailing list. This time, however, that comment managed to offend.

It was around the time the Harry Potter films were popular. In that time, I was teaching and working with a technique that seemed fairly magical. It was a powerful protocol that gave exceptionally powerful relief from emotional trauma. It was the technique that had helped me heal from chronic illness, and was also the subject of my bestselling book. Somewhere in the newsletter I’d made a Harry Potter reference to “wizards and muggles” (if you don’t know Harry Potter, “muggles” are the non-magical folks). It was intended as a light-hearted nod to popular culture. But one reader had taken great offense. He’d believed my lighthearted message to mean that I somehow thought I was superior, and a slew of bitter emails followed.

The lesson that came out of this exchange was that just in the same way that you can’t tell what will influence, you also can’t predict what is going to push someone else’s buttons.

You can’t always predict what is going to offend others.

These two incidents helped me to understand some of the most important elements of writing for social impact; lessons that still stay with me today. If you really don’t know how something is going to have a positive impact or push a button in someone, then you can really only do one thing. Well, a series of things, I would say.

These can be summarized into the following:
  1. Come from a place of immaculate intention:You know you want to create good in the world, or influence others towards more equality, peace, community and connection. You keep your good intention at the center of everything.
  2. Craft a message with your intention in mind: You keep in mind who your audience is, where they are in their lives, and the ways in which you want to influence them.
  3. Share your message with the world: With your intention and your audience in mind.
  4. Navigate the outcome: You don’t get too caught up in the praise, or derailed by the criticism. You don’t attach to the outcome. You just show up and do your thing.

If you can master these four elements, you are well on your way to sharing a message of influence in the world and being an effective social impact leader.


For the past decade, Sasha Allenby has been a ghostwriter for some of the greatest thought-leaders of our time. Her journey started when she co-authored a bestselling book that was published in 12 languages worldwide by industry giants, Hay House. Since then, Sasha has written over 30 books for global change agents. Following the events of the last couple of years, she turned her skill set to crafting social messages. Her latest book Catalyst: Speaking, writing and leading for social evolution supports thought leaders to craft dynamic messages that contribute to change. 

 

You are a catalyst or visionary who is crafting an evolutionary message. You want to be part of a community that supports you to make a difference with your spoken and written word. Sign up to receive weekly blogs and updates that enable you to craft your unique message.

Challenging Consensus Reality

MELANIE DEWBERRY INTERVIEW


 THIS INTERVIEW IS FOR:

Speakers

Writers

Leaders

Emerging or growing speakers, writers, and leaders in the social evolutionary field.


ABOUT THIS INTERVIEW

If you are an emerging or growing catalyst, visionary or thought-leader in the field of social evolution, there is one question you have likely asked yourself. “How do I create meaningful change within the current mindset of society?”

If you have asked yourself this (or a similar question), then this interview with Melanie DewBerry will give you some groundbreaking thinking points for your own journey. Melanie shares a unique and in depth perspective on how to disrupt consensus reality and challenge the system from within. 


 
About Melanie DewBerry

Melanie DewBerry  combines her Native American background with decades of personal practice. As a coach and mentor, she shares her down-to-earth, practical spiritual teachings, challenging her clients to dig deep and live truthfully. Her work is filled with love and authenticity and she is committed to supporting everyone her work touches to transform and evolve. She is author of The Power of Naming: A Journey toward Your Soul’s Indigenous Nature, which was released by Hay House in 2017.

Connection and Resources:

Visit Melanie’s website at melaniedewberry.com

Buy The Power of Naming on Amazon.com

 

Read our previous blog post on her interview about breaking down consensus reality. 


 
About Sasha Allenby

For the past decade, your presenter—Sasha Allenby—has been a ghostwriter for some of the greatest thought-leaders of our time. She co-authored a bestselling book that was published in 14 languages worldwide by industry giants, Hay House. Since then, she has ghostwritten over 30 books and her skills are sought after globally. Her new book, Catalyst: Speaking, Writing and Leading for Social Evolution was a global #1 Bestseller in Social Sciences in Jan 2019. 


You are a catalyst or visionary who is crafting an evolutionary message. You want to be part of a community that supports you to make a difference with your spoken and written word. Sign up to receive weekly blogs and updates that enable you to craft your unique message.


Reducing Economic Inequality Through Intersectionality – PART THREE

Reducing Economic Inequality Through Intersectionality – PART THREE

Read Time: 10 mins. 

Most of us have an awareness that socio-economic gaps need to be narrowed so that we can create a fairer system for all. In the last two articles, we looked at the relationship between some of the most pressing social issues of our time and their links to economic gaps. In the first part of this series we looked at some of the causes and challenges of economic equality. In the second part we explored intersectionality and its connection to the economic inequality. The third part of this article will share solutions from economists from around the world on how we might begin to fix things.

Joined by Economist, social activist and, tech entrepreneur, Mammad Mahmoodi, I wanted to understand how my clients—many of whom are social activists, social entrepreneurs, or social impact leaders—could better articulate the issues of economic inequality and intersectionality.

“Economic equality has three faces,” Mahmoodi shared, “and some of the biggest hurdles that we need to overcome lie in (i) the wealth of the top 1% increasing at a higher rate, (ii) the middle class stagnating, and (iii) the poverty rate of those on a lower income increasing.”

To show these three faces, Mahmoodi shared the consensus data from both 2000 and 2011. This data divided US society into five groups, starting with the ones who have the lowest net worth, all the way up to those with the highest. (Your net worth is defined as your assets, income, debts etc. combined.)

In 2000, the median net worth of the bottom 20% was -$905. (Meaning their debts outweighed their assets and income). However, this figure rose to a staggering -$6,029 by 2011. This means that not only did the debt increase, but their net worth was over 550 % LESS than in 2000.1,2

More statistics from census data shows that 60% of Americans have had a DECREASE in their net worth within that eleven year period.3,4 The US is among the very few developed countries where the average wealth of the bottom 40% is in the negative!5

In the same period, the net worth of the middle band (number 3 out of 5) stagnated and stayed at a similar place.6

In contrast, the net worth of the top 2 groups INCREASED by more than 10 %. Moreover, as of 2016, the top 1% owns 42% of all the wealth of the whole of the US. This number is 10% in Japan, 11% in Italy and 16% in Canada, showing just how great the gap is in the US compared to other countries.7 In summary, as Jeffrey D. Sachs highlighted in The Price of Civilization, “The American economy increasingly serves only a narrow part of society.”8

So, my (Sasha Allenby’s) father’s most repeated mantra while I was growing up in an industrial part of Northern England, was “The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.” And even though I heard this a thousand times as a child, I had no idea of the rate in which that mantra was increasing in reality in these current times until reviewing this data.

Mahmoodi and Allenby finalizing the article series.

Mahmoodi and Allenby finalizing the article series.

 

WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS?

If these figures are unsettling it can be a comfort to know that this hasn’t always been the picture in the US, and if we have seen fairer systems in the past, we have the capacity to create them once again.

In the period after World War II, between 1945 to 1979, all societal groups  were thriving. Both income and net worth were increasing across the board for both the wealthy and the economically disadvantaged.9

Although the ideal would be to recreate this scenario, some Economists have a bleak view, believing that the holistic growth of this time cannot be recreated. In his bestselling book, Capital, Thomas Piketty says that this period was an exception in American history. He believes that with the structure of the world as it is right now, we will not see such equality, unless we radically restructure the economic and financial structure of the world and implement systems such as a universal tax system10 (having a global bowl of money that every country contributes their fair share to).

“First of all, Piketty’s universal tax system is genius,” Mahmoodi shared, “But despite that, I don’t believe the world is ready to engage in such a global system.” However, he also highlighted, “Many people misunderstood Piketty’s message in Capital,  and took it to mean that if we do not implement those discussed radical world restructures, then we are all doomed.” However, Mahmoodi—along with other economists such as Stiglitz (who is a Noble Economy prize winner and has worked on economic inequality for over 50 years)—believe that there is a lot which can be done to have a profound impact in the already existing system. “None of the solutions offered below are a magic bullet, but if each one of them is combined, it can make a significant impact on the current situation,” he shared.  


Solutions can be divided into two main headings. The first are “paradigm shifts” where we create a whole new way of thinking about and seeing the economy. The second is policies and laws, which include how wealth gets generated in the first place and how it is redistributed through tax, and so on.


( I ) PARADIGM SHIFT

“A whole paradigm shift is needed in the way we talk about and address socio-economic gaps,” Mahmoodi shared, and it seems that much of it has to do with a misperception around equality being anti-capitalist. “We have to clear the air, because many people confuse ‘addressing inequality’ with being a socialist or even a communist,” he told me. In fact, when we shared part one of this article series, some of the most common comments were accusing us of taking a socialist stance. However, addressing inequality is still pro-capitalist.

As we shared in part one of the series, in order for capitalism to work successfully, it needs to exist within the context of equality. There are many studies showing the negative impact of radical economic inequality on growth.11,12,13 So the aim is not to abolish socio-economic gaps altogether, but to significantly impact them so they are healthy and all groups are thriving.

How We Talk About Economics

Often when we talk about economics it is too simplistic. For example, when a new project or venture is discussed, we focus on parameters such as “How many jobs this new venture creates,” or “How much money is the total income generated from that project,” etc. In addition to talking about the number of new jobs and wealth it generates, we should also talk about how each new venture impacts equality. In other words, we should have a holistic view of the economic discussions. For example, municipalities were fighting to get Amazon warehouses to boost jobs, but studies14,15 show that once a giant distribution facility opens in an area, the average salaries in that area are reduced. (We are referring to Amazon warehouses and not the recent Amazon HQ2, which is a different story.)

A part of taking a holistic look at economics involves not being mislead by single statistics. For example, you may have heard that the US unemployment rate is at its lowest level in recent history.16,17 The statistics that support this do not show the whole story. In the last 30 years, there has been a strong wave of automation and technology advances which resulted in nearly 4 million manufacturing jobs being lost (which were an essential breadwinner for the middle class family).18,19 Some who were let go changed to service jobs which brought them down to the lower income groups. Others pulled out of the job market altogether.20,21 When a substantial number of people pull out of the job market, it results in a fake reduction in unemployment while if we look deeper, the US has one of the lowest percentage of working adults among developed countries, and this percentage has declined heavily over the last 20 years. As of now, the percentage of adults in the US workforce is only 63% in comparison to 79% in UK.22,23


Also, the automation wave of unemployment was totally ignored by the government. 9 million jobs are expected to be lost in the next 10 years in the manufacturing sector. The trust has been put upon the market to address these issues, but so far they have been ignored. These examples, show the urgent need for a holistic look at the economy.Progressive presidential candidate Andrew Yang is addressing this as his core message for the 2020 election.24  


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( II ) POLICIES AND LAWS

“Gaps between the rich and the poor are partly the result of economic forces, but equally, or even more, they are the result of public policy choices, such as taxation, minimum wage, and the amount invested in healthcare and education.” — Stiglitz25

Unfair Taxing

The biggest issue with the tax system is that the more wealth is accumulated, the less taxes are paid.

Speculators (such as stock marketers and landlords) are taxed at a lower rate than those who work for a living, which means the system encourages them. For example, ever wondered why those with the ability gravitate towards finance? Well, it turns out that a plumber who earns $100,000 will pay more in taxes than an investment banker who earns the same amount.26

Billionaires pay less taxes as well. The top 400 income earners pay an average 20%, millionaires pay an average 25%, and those earning $200-$500k pay just over 25%. To show the extreme, 116 of the 400 richest billionaires in the United States pay less than 15% on their income as tax.27

According to economists Piketty and Saez, the share of income to the top 1 percent doubled between 1980 and 2012 while it tripled for top 0.1%, but they pay the lowest percentage of taxes.28 While unfair taxing is a major issue, as we discussed in part one of this series, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. All the examples we have highlighted are focused on income tax. However, as we discussed in Part 1 of this series, wealth increase and the accompanying unfair taxing systems are the main reasons for economic inequality.

Tax Loopholes and Corporate Tax Evasion

Tax loopholes and unfair tax breaks are another issue, costing $123 BILLION in the US.29 On top of that, a further $90  billion is lost in offshore taxing (where individuals or companies hold their money in different countries with more relaxed tax laws to avoid being taxed in the US).30 Other tax loopholes which make this system unfair include special features for vacation homes, race tracks, breweries, oil refineries and hedge funds (which means investing with borrowed money) who have unfair tax breaks.

There is also a massive issue of tax avoidance by corporations, an issue that is best described by this tweet below:

Redistribution is not the Only Solution

When we look to what the solutions are, the first thing you will hear many respectable social impact leaders and political advocates share is that the main solution is redistribution.

Redistribution involves making the taxing system fairer, so that the top 1% make a fair part of their contribution to society through the taxes that they pay.

“Don’t misunderstand me,” Mahmoodi told me, “Redistribution is crucial and the most important solution. You’ll find the top 0.1% arguing against it, and I’m not supporting their argument.” He highlighted how, if the top earners do not pay their fair share of tax, the burden on the rest is definitely increased. “However, there are other solutions, too. We can also work on how wealth is generated, so we reduce inequality in wealth generation and not just wealth redistribution. We need to look at the system as a whole, and the unfair tax system—although a significant part of it—is not the complete picture.” If we want to impact the whole picture, we need to look at other laws such as:

            • Bankruptcy Laws
            • Intellectual Property Laws
            • Campaign Financing Laws
            • Justice System
            • Inheritance Laws

Bankruptcy Laws

Being able to bounce back from personal bankruptcy is a deciding factor of the mobility of a society. For individuals, this has become harder to do in the US.31,32,33

In contrast, when a city or local government agency goes bankrupt the ‘unwritten law’ is to ensure that the welfare of citizens should take priority over financial institutions. However, in these cases, banks have been pushing to be prioritized over the welfare of citizens. They’ve insisted on getting their money back first over citizen welfare.34,35 When Detroit went bankrupt in 2013, it saw a very slow recovery for this reason and its citizens suffered.36,37

“Filing for bankruptcy has become harder”

Intellectual Property (IP) Laws

Intellectual property law is like a double edged sword. If implemented properly, it can support innovation and growth. If it is mishandled, it becomes a barrier to society. The best example is the super high price for pharmaceuticals in the US. Prices which, on average, are 2.5 times more expensive than France and Australia, and around 2 times more expensive than Canada.38,39,40 One of the parameters of these expenses is the patents involved in the pharmaceutical industry. One of the most extreme examples of this occurred in 2013, when a cancer research company wanted to patent a human gene so that they could be the only one to carry out tests in breast cancer cases where that gene was involved, to the costs of $4000 for a basic test.41 This is just one example of how IP laws impact the economy of a society.

Campaign Financing Laws

As we highlighted in part two of this article, the US political system is driven by a money loop. Choosing candidates without PAC funding is the only way to break the cycle!

Justice System

In part two of this series, we discussed the negative impact of the unfair justice system on those with lower incomes. There are two positive pieces of news for the justice system. One is that some states have started the procedure of cancelling cash bail outs42,43 (which keep people in prison before trial). Also, one of the largest justice reform bills in recent history is in its final stages of being passed.44 So while there are still major challenges for the justice system moving forward, steps are being made to move it in a positive direction.

Inheritance Laws

The best way to show the impact of inheritance laws is with an example from our previous landlord. Living in Manhattan, property value has skyrocketed. Our previous landlord bought the apartment building we lived in for $78K 30 years ago (which in today’s money is $155K).

As of last year, he was collecting $450K per year in rent, but due to legal tax loopholes (loss claimed from unrented store-fronts) he was paying less than $50K a year in combined taxes.

If a relative inherited this building from him today, and sold it right away, they would receive $10,000,000 because when they inherit, they don’t have to pay capital gain of the deceased. So we can start to see from laws such as this how economic inequality is increased when inheritance is not properly taxed.

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CONCLUSION

We discussed the paradigm shift that is needed in the way that we address inequality, as well as some of the policies and laws that need to be addressed if we want to create more economic equality. If you are questioning whether this is feasible, models from other countries would suggest that it is.

When we take advantage of a capitalist system, we also have to take responsibility for its shortcomings. When the system does not support the vulnerable members of our society, we have to choose to take it upon ourselves to step up and help. – Mammad Mahmoodi

As I highlighted in great detail in my recent book Catalyst, you can tell a lot about a society from how they take care of their sick, poor and elderly.45 Other developed countries with the highest growth rates such as Japan, Germany, and Scandinavian countries, have the lowest rates of inequality.46  One thing that these countries have in common is universal free healthcare and effective retirement plans.47 From these countries we can learn that vast socio-economic inequality does not have to be inevitable.


Finishing with a quote from economist Stiglitz,48 who shared:

“We do have a divided society but it is not divided between those who are freeloaders and the rest, even if some of those who are paying taxes are not paying their fair share and are free riding on those who do.

Rather it is divided between those who see America as a community and who recognize that the only way to have sustained prosperity is to have shared prosperity, and those who don’t.”

We all have a social responsibility to change the narrative around socio-economic disparity, and to keep challenging the laws that increase economic inequality so that we can contribute to making the US a fairer community for all.


 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

 

Mammad Mahmoodi is an economist, community builder and tech entrepreneur. He has a passion for the social impact of technology, and how inequality impacts innovation and economic growth. He was co-founder of Ondamove (one of pioneering geo-tagging companies). Following that, he was a starter—and Executive Director—of Open Data Science Inc. (one of largest Artificial Intelligence communities in the world). He has taught entrepreneurship in a number of universities around the globe. Currently his main focus is supporting enterprises to create economic equality. 

For the past decade, Sasha Allenby has been a ghostwriter for some of the greatest thought-leaders of our time. Her journey started when she co-authored a bestselling book that was published in 12 languages worldwide by industry giants, Hay House. Since then, Sasha has written over 30 books for global change agents. Following the events of the last couple of years, she turned her skill set to crafting social messages. Her latest book Catalyst: Speaking, writing and leading for social evolution was a global number one bestseller in social sciences on its release in Jan 2019. It supports thought leaders to craft dynamic messages that contribute to change. 

 

Receive PART THREE of this series, plus regular blogs and updates. Be part of a community that is advocating for social change and learn to craft your messaging more effectively.


3. As Above

4. https://www.thebalance.com/american-net-worth-by-state-metropolitan-4135839

8. Sachs, Jeffrey D., The Price Of Civilization, Random House Publishing Group., New York, 2011, page 4.

9. https://eml.berkeley.edu/~saez/pikettyqje.pdf

10. Piketty, Thomas, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, First Harvard University Press, 2013, page 597.

11. Cingano, F. (2014), “Trends in Income Inequality and its Impact on Economic Growth”, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 163, OECD Publishing, Paris

14. https://www.economist.com/united-states/2018/01/20/what-amazon-does-to-wages

16. https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/unemployment-rate

17. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

18. https://piie.com/sites/default/files/publications/pb/pb13-27.pdf

21. Yang, Andrew, The War on Normal People, Hachette Books, New York, 2018, p. 41-46.

23. https://tradingeconomics.com/country-list/labor-force-participation-rate

24. Yang, Andrew, The War on Normal People, Hachette Books, New York, 2018, page 165-185.

25. Stiglitz, Joseph E., Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them, W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., New York, 2013, P.288.

26. Stiglitz, Joseph E., Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them, W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., New York, 2013, P.189&191.

27. Stiglitz, Joseph E., Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them, W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., New York, 2013, P.196&197.

28. https://eml.berkeley.edu/~saez/PSZ2018QJE.pdf

30. https://www.ctj.org/pdf/offshoreextendersreport.pdf

32. https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/198845

33. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4654923

35. Stiglitz, Joseph E., Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them, W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., New York, 2013, P.196&197&214.

37. “It’s safe to come, we’ve got lattes”: Development disparities in Detroit. Laura A. Reese, Jeanette Eckert, Gary Sands, Igor Vojnovic. 24 June 2016, Elsevier.

39. https://www.cnn.com/2015/09/28/health/us-pays-more-for-drugs/index.html

41. Stiglitz, Joseph E., Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them, W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., New York, 2013, P. 274.

45. Allenby, Sasha, Catalyst, Equality Hive Publishing, New York, 2018, P. 99

46. http://datatopics.worldbank.org/gmr/palma-index.html

47. https://inequality.org/facts/inequality-and-health/

48. Stiglitz, Joseph E., Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them, W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., New York, 2013, page 209.