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Change lives. Change organizations. Change the world.
Published: July 03, 2009
I am a true believer and supporter of an increasingly interconnected world. The gradual blurring of borders around the world, in my opinion, will bring more peace and prosperity than any other political or economic phenomenon. We must learn to live as humans, and not as citizens of individual, closed off countries.
Consequently, I want to live in a world where merit and hard work are the main prerequisites for men and women from emerging economies to develop their professional potential abroad, regardless of their citizenship or income level. It makes no sense to me, for instance, why any management consultant can work in the U.S. or Europe with ease, while a talented Mexican or Moroccan welder, whose services are in high demand all across the developed world, cannot.
The skills of the welder are just as necessary—and currently scarcer—in rich countries than those of the consultant (see this recent article in the New York Times). International labor markets should be flexible and dynamic enough to reap the benefits of these cross-border complementarities. Globalization has opened the world to the movement of goods, capital, and information; it is now time to open the door for people as well.
In fact, according to the World Bank, a mere 3 percent influx of workers to developed countries would make the world $356 billion richer. Much of this would accrue to poorer countries, but $139 billion of this wealth creation would actually remain in the developed world.
While doing my undergraduate studies in Barcelona, and writing my thesis on the links between immigration and development, I learned of Spain’s flexible, temporary immigration laws. These laws enable foreigners with particular skill sets that are in very high demand in Spain—such as welders, industrial machine operators, tractor mechanics, and nurses, among many others—to work in the country under temporary, renewable contracts. I realized this presented a great opportunity to match the vast pool of talented, yet underemployed and badly paid workers in Mexico with the corresponding hiring firms in Spain.
With the absolutely invaluable help from the Stanford GSB, Center for Social Innovation Fellowship, and Loan Forgiveness Program, I’ve recently founded and currently lead Puentes Global, a nonprofit international recruitment agency, which aims to connect low-income, semi-skilled workers from Mexico with legal and dignified work opportunities in Spain. By doing so, we hope to leverage complementarities in global labor markets and create wins all around: i.e., higher incomes for Mexican workers, cost and competitive advantages for Spanish firms, increased remittance flows for Mexico as a whole, and a better demographic structure for Spain, which is in dire need of a young, productive labor force (regardless of the current economic and employment crisis there) to support its robust public pension and welfare systems.
We plan to expand to other popular migration corridors in the next couple of years.
Don’t be afraid to stir things up by following an alternative—and even controversial—path. To borrow from the great economist Joseph Schumpeter: “creative destruction” is the source of true social advancement and long-term economic growth.
Find a productive way to shake up the system, question the status quo, turn things upside down, make some people uncomfortable, and never get tired of arguing. Only through the harnessing of conflict will the world’s biggest problems eventually dissipate.
Do what you love and are passionate about. Trite? Maybe. True? Absolutely. Now that I have punctured my way out of the Stanford GSB bubble (quite sadly, I must say) and am back in the real world, this has become ever so true. I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to pursue a cause I am proud of, that couldn’t be more aligned with my values, and that challenges me to the extreme every single day.
So, identify what truly moves you and gives your life meaning, and stop at nothing in its pursuit, whatever it may be. To quote another genius, Nietzsche this time: “he who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” And if you can figure out a way to turn that “how” into a profession, even better. (Trust me, markets are more dynamic than you imagine! Two years at Stanford convinced me of this.)
• The research of smart economists: e.g., Lant Pritchett, Paul Romer, Robert Flanagan, Dani Rodrik, Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Charles Jones, Jagdish Bhagwati, et al.
• Stanford Center for Social Innovation
• Stanford Social Innovation Review
• The Economist
• The New York Times
• El Pais
• La Vanguardia
• The Financial Times
• Social Edge
• Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship
• Ashoka / Changemakers
• United Nations
• World Bank
• International Organization for Migration
• International Labor Organization
• Inter-American Development Bank
• Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
Reach out. I’d love to learn what moves you…