Over the past few months, DesignHammer has participated in two White House sponsored events designed to open dialogue about the nation’s economic woes.
Talking National Debt With the White House
On July 26th, the White House held its first Office Hours, an online initiative to engage citizens in conversation about the national debt. Twitter users participated in the discussion by posting questions with the hashtag #WHChat and members of the Administration responded to as many inquiries as they could during the allotted hour. I participated in the Q&A on July 27th with Brian Desse, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council. Topics ranged from the differences between the House and Senate debt plans to the meaning of the acronym POTUS (in case you’re wondering, it stands for President of the United States). A summary of Wednesday’s conversation is located on the White House’s blog.
My question for the White House was, “what’s the president’s plan to help small businesses support economic recovery?” Unfortunately, Mr. Desse didn’t have the opportunity to answer, but even so, the online debt discussion was informative and, at times, humorous. As someone who is easily confused by economic policy, I found the Office Hours improved my understanding of the nation’s fiscal issues.
Supporting New Entrepreneurs in the Triangle
This past April, DesignHammer also took part in an earlier White House sponsored event. As a continuation of the company’s involvement in the local business community, Stephen Pashby and David Minton participated in a discussion on ways to encourage entrepreneurship in the Triangle and similar communities across the nation. The forum was a branch of President Obama’s “Winning the Future With Young Americans” initiative, which was designed to promote civic engagement and, according to its website, “facilitate a candid and direct conversation between young Americans and the Administration.”
Roundtable on Promoting Local Entrepreneurship
The session held at the Kenan-Flagler Business School of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill focused on ways to encourage entrepreneurship in the current economic climate. Stephen and David had the opportunity to share their knowledge and experience with potential entrepreneurs and collaborate in finding ways to promote small businesses. Stephen said, “The roundtable was useful for networking and sharing best practices, and hopefully it will provide useful information about the business climate to the White House.”
Local entrepreneurs viewed limited access to information and resources as the biggest obstacle to entrepreneurship. As David observed, “A great obstacle in setting up a new business is navigating the laws and requirements that vary state to state, county to county, and even municipality to municipality, for different industries, and types of businesses. Any information on starting a business that’s out there tends to be general and won’t tell you, for example, if you need a privilege license from the City of Durham, or a business license from the state of North Carolina (or both) to start a business.”
Some participants in the roundtable decided that non-profit organizations designed to help entrepreneurs get started would be a useful solution. These organizations would provide low-cost assistance in the form of information and even access to physical resources such as office space or printers. However, supporting new entrepreneurs would not have to be as involved as a new organization. Stephen observes “tools such as resource directories and mentorships would aid in the first steps for entrepreneurs.”
Winning the Future With America’s Youth
Members of the Obama Administration participated in 105 of the 384 roundtable sessions held in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam. The roundtables covered a diverse range of local, national, and international topics that youth felt were most pressing. Among the top issues discussed were education, crime, the economy, and health. Other common points included civic engagement, foreign affairs, the environment, and immigration. Next in the initiative is a program called “How to Make Change.” This series of conferences will take place throughout the summer and will give young people the opportunity to meet with policymakers and representatives to discuss the common issues raised in the roundtables.
Read about the 100+ Roundtables and download the e-book on the White House’s blog.