Passion Burns Longer Than Coal


It is a difficult thing in the rural state of West Virginia to be able to point to a single subject and say “That’s the root of the problem, that’s what’s caused all of this damage.” As a child of the Appalachian state, this is a quandary that I’ve been trying to solve myself for a very long time. For some people, the answer may be “coal” jobs, or the absence of them. For others, it’s the poor level of education. The segmented geography of the thousands of mountains that limits community and commercial development. The positioning of neighboring states that like Maryland and Virginia that use the unequal development of the West Virginian economy to be the supply chain of the nation.

Whatever the cause may be, the fact remains that West Virginia has been left to despair.

The state has the highest level of population loss due to young people leaving for better opportunities, the highest epidemic of toothlessness, and ranks in the top 10 most depressing places to live, it’s given us no presidents, it has an enormous prescription drug epidemic, and the moment you are born in the state you inherit the public perception that you are married to your cousin, sister, or dog.

So you can see where I’m coming from when I say that it is a challenge to put a name to the cause. However, all of these conditions all share a common denominator I call “Depressive Unfulfillment.” Why strive for more when you’re born to be destined for less? Why learn if you know you’re stupid?

I know that I’m only one man in a nation of many, but my goal to help solve this poly-problem issue is “Educational Empowerment.” A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is a Life Skills Training facility would be the “business” medium that I would use to reignite the people’s passion in who they are – to give them the educational and experiential skill sets to have a deeper sense of fulfillment and development. As a West Virginian who is speaking from experience, education leads to empowerment which leads to opportunities and ultimately solutions to one’s problems.

With this being an organization that is more of a non-profit mixed with a social entrepreneurship, the layout might actually lean more towards shareholder during the infancy of the organization to focus on building the company, it’s assets, and it’s shareholders. As time passes and the model proves sustained, it will be preferable to adapt to a more stakeholder oriented platform. However, in this generation’s technology age, the supply would mainly be intangible education via MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) and the Internet in general. New technologies like this can help accelerate business models like ours that may have failed in the past without it.

Overall, whatever the issue may be with West Virginia, be it coal, drugs, depression, etc, education can greatly effect, and oftentimes revitalize, the people of the mountains to where we can once again live free as our motto declares: Montani Semper Libre!

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6 thoughts on “Passion Burns Longer Than Coal

  1. I do like how you were able to create a concrete idea for how to solve some of the issues that are relating directly to your experiences. I was curious when you mentioned that you said that you would start with a shareholder-minded approach to help build your assets and the company so that it can eventually make a bigger impact on the future. I hadn’t really thought about taking that mindset in my blog post when thinking about approaches any organization might take in creating social entrepreneurship. So I’m just curious how long you think your non-profit would need to maintain a shareholder approach before it’s able to function with a stakeholder mindset?

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    1. Hey Doug, thanks for sharing your thoughts. This is how I see my future career plan unfolding under shareholder value (which is subject to change like any other plan): being almost completely reliant on Grants, funding, and minimal revenues, I don’t see an organization like this doing financially well enough to be able to implement the kind of radical changes to our supply chain that say Nike can do with its profit-oriented budget.

      As it is now, this non-profit would exist to already try to correct a negative social situation as its mission statement, so it probably couldn’t financially afford to reach that hand of hospitality too far across the spectrum. Additionally, the hopes for this organization is that the educators, facilitators, and visionaries would be the primary shareholders of the organization to where the profits generated form the company would go to benefit their position which would strengthen the resolve of the entity. How long will it need to stay a shareholder organization? My initial estimate is the first 4-5 years or until the infrastructure is more self-sustaining to where crucial resources can be more easily and practically transitioned into those avenues of the supply chain.

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  2. Everything I would say in a comment would be pretending that it’s something new to your ears. You articulated this clearly, and I approve now as I always have – I do wonder if you think this center could serve as what Kramer calls the backbone org for collective impact. There’s a heck of a lot of partnering that needs done.

    Would there be housing options? Dormitories? Soccer? Are we looking at a community or a place where people commute to for a temporary time for training?

    Also – photovoltaics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Joe, I like how we subconsciously tag teamed different aspects of this same issue. Thanks for covering the more descriptive aspect of the situation. I would ALWAYS see this as being a facilitator for growth – whether that makes it a backbone for other organizations to be part of its “rib-cage” or just a backbone in and of itself for the individuals to grow on, the mission is still the same. The level of growth and partnership is the only thing that changes – granted, the more partnerships, the better. I do, however, think that it would be freakin’ awesome to have dormitories WITHIN the mines of the mountains to where there is a push from the people attending to develop the immediate area that they would be living in – the more it grows, the better opportunities they have. Also, unless there is a version of vertical mountain soccer, we’re not going to use valuable flatlands for sports.

      Also – Aquaponics.

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  3. Great ideas @jacobisraelhannah! I think your post ties in well with @myc001 ‘s post on the problem of education inequality. While slightly different, the root of the problem is the same. What is the point in trying when you feel as though the system is structured in such a way that you are destined to fail? As you mentioned in your post, “why strive for more when you were born destined to be less?” I think this business proposal is not only applicable in relation to coal, but to the entire educational structure and the problem of poverty as a whole.

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