Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Business in-a-box: a global skills solution

by John Hope Bryant 
Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Chairman, Subcommittee on the Underserved and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability, bestselling Inc. Magazine/CEO READ business author for Love Leadership: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass)

OECD has just launched their OECD Skills Strategy, which I fully support. I call it the global-common-sense-plan-for-educational-relevancy.The OECD Skills Strategy seeks to powerfully re-connect the power of education with youth aspirations globally, maybe for the first time in a generation.  Quoting my friend Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, in his breakthrough book The Coming Jobs War, "this is the playoff game for the rest of our lives."

The roots of the crisis now gripping Greece, and Europe in general, is not social it's economics and jobs. The main complaint of the Occupy Movement is is economic in nature. The youth led riots in the suburbs of both Paris and London were rooted in economics and jobs, or the powerful lack thereof. The crisis that sparked what many call the Arab Spring, with Mohammad setting himself ablaze in Tunisia, was rooted in local economics and his job. His financial dignity. Specifically, Mohammad had his cart business taken from him, which represented for him his human and financial dignity, the way he fed his children and kept a roof over his family's head.  His job, and thus his aspirations in life, was a large part of his identity.

A young HOPE Fellow at Operation HOPE told me recently that "you cannot have social justice unless you first have economic justice." I agree, and thus the movement today has to be more about silver rights empowerment than simply civil rights justice. Or quoting my friend Richard Cordray, head of the new U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "as John Hope Bryant told me, and I believe, if we had more consumer empowerment we would need less consumer protection."

What every young person in school around the world wants is essentially the same thing; they want a shot at "a good job," or an authentic opportunity to exercise their economic energy in a way to connects their aspiration with real and sustainable opportunity.

What if we could reconnect the power of aspiration with the power of education in our children's lives? What if a child in elementary school could start a business for $50-100 (U.S.?)? A middle school student could do the same with up to $200, or up to $500 for a high school student?  What if they could get a financial literacy course and a course in dignity, connected with a primer course in entrepreneurship?

They could select from 25 businesses that can be started for $500 or less, pitch their idea for this business in front of a live audience of business role models from their community, get a Business-In-a-Box Youth Entrepreneurship Grant, a business role model, and even a bank account--how would that change their lives? How would that bring the power of aspiration and imagination, and hope back to their educational experience? We think it changes everything. HOPE Business in-a-box, formally launched this Fall in schools across America, will channel and transform a youth’s natural aspiration and state of hope into practical and life changing action steps.  Action steps that they can move on themselves, with a little help from HOPE and our influential friends.

Now imagine this as a global solution, to the sustained youth jobs desert in developed countries today, as well as the jobs crisis from Africa, to Asia, to Latin America, to the 100 million jobs estimated to be needed soon in the Middle East, just for the youth population there. Imagine what could happen if you could double the level of financial literacy in a specific school house, and then double the level of economic energy in that same school house, and then triple or quadruple the level of business role models in that same school house, over a 5-year period of time (it will happen much sooner than that by the way).  You simply change everything in that school, with those youth.  You crush the high school dropout rate crisis in developed countries, because all youth want is a "good job" or economic opportunity.  You also set your nation up for sustained future success, because you are defining your future based on the only real asset you have  the future aspirations of your youth, and their very real connection with local GDP growth in your town, township, city, state and country.

For America, that means the 30 million young people, grades 4-12th, aged 8-18, are the farm club and bench strength for the playoff game of the rest of our lives.  How we field and play that game will decide everything pin 2025.  We are starting now.

Links:
For more information on:
John Hope Bryant
Operation HOPE Business-in-a-box 
The OECD Skills Strategy: http://skills.oecd.org

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