Public Service: Knowledge and Opportunity


Andrea Price
Social Change Strategist and Radio Show Host at the Giving Net

There isn’t a shortage of knowledge in the world, just a lack of opportunity. I realized this during an international service project I facilitated in Belize City, Belize. While there, I conducted a leadership and confidence building camp for entrepreneurs at Youth Business Trust Belize. The entrepreneurs I worked with included a fitness instructor, used car salesman, video game shop owner, farmer, restauranteur and even a screen-printer. Their careers vary, but the unifying thread between all of them is their willingness to share information about entrepreneurship and their knowledge about business.

While there, I facilitated a World Café conversation with the campers, and so many great ideas about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in Belize City were highlighted. The knowledge is there! However, the opportunity for safety from violence in the workplace is a huge concern for some of the entrepreneurs. After the entrepreneurs shared this concern, I began to realize the lack of opportunity people throughout the world have in fully using their knowledge and skills to positively contribute to the world. Whether it’s a threat of violence, lack of resources or even instability in an economy, for example, knowledge with little or no opportunity to fully use this knowledge squanders the potential to strengthen societies.

There is a great need for professional public servants to consider not just empowering people, but addressing system level issues that prevent empowered, knowledgeable people from fully having opportunities to use their knowledge.There has to be a push to reconcile knowledge with opportunity. One way to do this is to really get to know the people we serve, not just their needs, but really who they are as people. Through conversations and relationships with the people we serve, ways to change systems and create opportunities might be discovered.

I missed an opportunity to talk to the entrepreneurs about how to address their safety concerns. I should not have stopped after the problem was identified. This happens all to often! Conversing about ways to address the problem, developing a solution strategy and then putting in work is where problem solving takes place. As I continue on my service journey I will always remember that defining a problem is not enough and knowledge without opportunity to use this knowledge won’t improve societies. 

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