Innovation/Global Crisis Blog

Job Creation:  Let’s Help Ourselves – and Here’s How!

By Shlomo Maital



 In my travels, I’m struck by how ordinary people have lost faith in their political leaders, and in many cases, in the political system itself.  Increasingly, elected leaders in the U.S., France, Germany, Britain and Italy know what they should do, what they must do, what the PEOPLE want them to do – but don’t do it, either because their political foes block them or because they are afraid the bitter medicine they administer will cost them the next election.   As a result, a new form of direct democracy is arising – mass protests.  Starting with Tunisia, spreading all over the Arab world, then to mass social protests in tent cities in Israel, then to Wall St., then to financial districts worldwide,  large groups of people, many of them young, gather to express how unhappy they are with what their elected leaders are doing and what they would like to do differently.  And it works.  In my country, Israel, this type of mass sentiment led our Prime Minister, Netanyahu, to release 1,023 Palestinian prisoners, in order to secure the release of one soldier, Gilad Shalit, even though in a previous book Netanyahu had fiercely criticized a similar prisoner swap (the “Jibril” swap) as recklessly endangering Israeli lives. 

   Writing in The New York Times, Joe Nocera describes a “help ourselves” initiative of Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz.  I think this is a kind of pro-active direct democracy.   OK, Starbucks coffee is indeed awful, they use Robusta instead of Arabica beans (to save money).  But on Nov. 1 Schultz and Starbucks will roll out the following idea:

    Create Jobs for USA.  Starbucks customers will make donations to this plan.  They will get a red-white-and-blue wristband in return.  The money will become equity capital for CFDI, Community Development Financial Institutions,  NGO lenders that specialize in offering credit to small businesses, under the umbrella of Opportunity Finance Network.  It is these small businesses that are dying because banks won’t lend to them, even though they are the ones that create jobs, while big business focuses on firing more and more people.  Each dollar of Starbucks-originating equity capital will be leveraged 7 to 1, i.e. each buck will support 7 dollars of lending.  And Starbucks Foundation will get the ball rolling with a $5 m. donation.  Starbucks wants other retail organizations to join. 

   I might even be willing to endure awful Starbucks coffee, just to support Schultz’s idea.    

   Nocera ends his column by saying, “with the government and banks unwilling or unable [to help create jobs], it’s time we took matters into our own hands.  At this point, who else can we count on?