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Online Opponents, Real Life Allies: Innovation and Entrepreneurship are Levers for Social Change

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Our nation was built on a firm belief in the entrepreneurial spirit and the power of economic opportunity. People can overcome tremendous odds to attain financial security if given a little support and a little faith in their ability to succeed.

This has not changed, even as we face a crisis of confidence. Confidence in our economy, our jobs, our role models and our institutions has been badly shaken. As people have been faced with fewer jobs and fewer dollars, they've also been less likely to give. Just this month, The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that charitable giving declined 9% in 2009. The bright spot in the Chronicle's report was the finding that, while overall donations continue to drop, online giving continues to grow, although at a slower pace than in previous years.

More than 7,000 students drop out of high school each day, yet 81 percent say they might have stayed in school if they felt that what they were learning was more connected to real life. We are also facing the highest long-term unemployment rate since the end of WWII; small businesses and micro-entrepreneurs across our country want to expand, but many simply do not have the resources to do so.

A shaken economy and shaken workforce are signs that now more than ever, we need to give to the very organizations who train tomorrow's business leaders and help young entrepreneurs inject millions back into thecountry's financial system. We must not waver in our confidence that education and innovation lead to economic opportunity, job creation, and investments in new ideas, products, services and community enterprises. Economic opportunity results in financial security from one generation to the next.

Our nation's youth must believe that they have a chance at a bright future that includes a college education, good job, a home and healthy savings account. Our nation's entrepreneurs must believe that their dreams of running their own business can be realized; that they can be their own boss, improve their standard of living, and make a positive contribution to their community and our economy.

As eight nonprofit organizations working to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit in young people and support small business owners as they launch, sustain and grow their ventures, we have seen firsthand what confident, motivated and supported students and entrepreneurs are capable of, and it's nothing short of incredible. We have been brought together by the belief that we need small businesses to help revive our flagging economy, and we need educated, innovative and motivated young people to make sure we don't end up here again.

We're competing against each other in the Giving Made Simple campaign, but we're working together to educate thousands of students, provide millions in loans, and train thousands of small business owners. We are confident that current and future innovators and entrepreneurs are our ticket to sustainable economic growth, so let's fill their heads with knowledge and their pockets with capital and see where we land.

Our bet is it'll be a better place.

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Gina Harman, CEO of ACCION USA

Jack Kosakowski, President of Junior Achievement USA

Frank Altman, President and CEO of Community Reinvestment Fund, USA

Premal Shah, President of Kiva.org

Andrea Levere, President of the Corporation for Enterprise Development

Amy Rosen, President and CEO of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship

Joyce M. Roché, President and CEO of Girls Incorporated

Neil Nicoll, President and CEO of the YMCA of the USA