I am convinced that as challenging as these economic times are, the rewards for striving to be good stewards of our resources and creatively working to do more with less are many. During a family visit weekend in college I remember my mother commenting on the resourcefulness that my fellow hallmates demonstrated in decorating and personalizing our dorms on the budgets of poor college students. She said something to the effect of, “Creativity is the mother of resourcefulness” — or something like that.
As individuals find themselves laid off, higher education institutions find their funding and endowments shrinking, and departmental budgets are cut we all have to find ways to stretch our resources to accomplish our goals. I have listened to feature after feature, comparing the current economic crunch to that of the depression — although all conditions are not the same, the factors that motivate folks and families across the nation to be creative with what they have are. In conversations with friends, also feeling the shortages in their checking and savings accounts, we muse on the fact that — yes, times are tough, however, we are also thankful for the ways in which we find ourselves truly blessed, and in the challenges we face to do more with less. For those willing to see the glass half full, and willing to step up to the challenge before us — this time can be seen as a modern day Renaissance.
As we are examining our budgets, both personal and organizational, we have the opportunity to cut away with the unnecessary, reexamine our priorities, and discover those elements that are most valuable and essential. Unfortunately, in many cases, this has also meant the loss of dearly beloved programs, the doing without cherished luxuries, and even unbid farewells to highly regarded individuals. I have spoken with so many, who in finding traditional avenues closed off, have pursued interests or loves that they never dared explore previously. In a sense the restrictions of tighter financial circumstances have brought about a new kind of forced freedom. Rather than have ideas or ventures turned down or ventures, people have remarkably found other alternatives to nourish new ideas, new businesses, and new innovations. One such example comes from a unique and very strategic partnership between Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology.
Emory University has a bike-sharing program that allows students and staff to rent bikes from designated areas on campus, use them as they need, and then return them to any designated bike-holding area elsewhere on campus. To enhance the convenience and usability, the folks at Emory were looking into ways to move away from the manual bike checkout system. Unfortunately, such options were too exorbitant for current budgets, however, skilled and capable engineering students in need of practical application opportunities were readily available at the nearby Georgia Institute of Technology. Thus began a wonderful partnership. The Georgia Institute of Technology students developed a system in which individuals could send a text message to unlock the bike, use it, then upon returning it, send another text to lock it. Ingenious. Check out this article from The Chronicle of Higher Ed Wired Campus for more details.
In these challenging times, may we all follow from the example of these two institutions, and in our personal lives and journeys find ways to innovatively use our creative resources to further stretch our financial resources.