For #BuildItBackBetter, NationSwell asked some of our nation’s most celebrated purpose-driven leaders how they’d build a society that is more equitable and resilient than the one we had before COVID-19. We have compiled and lightly edited their answers.
To build it back better, we have to end childhood poverty. Before the pandemic the U.S. childhood poverty rate was 13.7%, which is 65 – 90% higher than it English-speaking, wealthy nation peers. And the U.S. is last among these peers on what it spends on children. We cannot talk about investing in the future and not invest in children and the people who care for them. 
There is not one one magical solution that will build it back better, but there are two things we can do right now: (1) end the gender pay gap; and (2) insist that your local government spend more on youth services, even if it means redistributing monies from more well-funded departments. 
Right now, we see this problem every time we open our eyes. Eleven million school-aged children don’t have enough to eat because their families cannot afford it; if they did they would do better in school and district budgets could be spent more on education.  Or that 2.5 million children are chronically house-less; and therefore are bathed in cortisol daily, which increases their likelihood of having learning differences and “co-morbidities” like heart diseases and diabetes. On top of this, we lament that children are just hanging on the corner or playing video games all day, but we cut youth services that provide summer internships and affordable enrichment opportunities. 
But the challenges to instituting this necessary change are clear: even though we say we do, we don’t value women or children enough. Moreover, this indifference and discrimination has been built into the return model and until governments, investors and other financial stakeholders are willing to give it up, we will have to rely on the moral impulse of leaders to do the just thing. 
Closing the gender pay gap would mean that women would have anywhere from $500k – $1M extra over the course of a generation to contribute to their families’ basic needs. While all women do not have nor want children, the evidence is also undeniable the ripple effect for children would be tremendous. Rather than distribute those costs to each of us through our taxes, corporations should be responsible for not building their prosperity on the backs of children, and oftentimes the women – especially BIPOC women – who care for them. And local governments can step in the infrastructure that provides the opportunities for young people to make the investments in themselves so that down the road they as a society can reap the benefits of their genius.
Aaron T. Walker is founder and CEO of Camelback Ventures. To learn more about Aaron’s work, visit their website.