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HOPE Business-In-A-Box: My Plan for the Re-Winning of America

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This is my generational plan for everything.

Jim Clifton, the chairman and CEO of Gallup, projects in his groundbreaking book The Coming Jobs War, that global GDP will be $200 trillion by 2040. Global GDP is presently approximately $60 trillion. That means that the next 28 years is an all-out fight for who gets the remaining $140 trillion. Who gets their fair share of the remaining $140 trillion in untapped global GDP will determine everything in the world; who leads the free world; who has the biggest military budget for the purpose of protection and global democratic stability; who can afford international aid; or being charitable to nations and people in need. What nation gets to determine global priorities.

Some think that this war has already been fought, and America has lost. Underscoring this misnomer, according to Gallup, approximately 53 percent of Americans today believe that China is already the economic leader of the free world, even though China's GDP is a mere $7 trillion, if you believe their numbers, and U.S. GDP is a robust $15 trillion plus, or more than twice as big. To put our GDP into perspective, you can place two or three of the largest economies in the world into our economy, add South Africa, Mexico and several other economies for good measure -- and you still have room. America is no punk, and our story is far from over. Remember, the world counted America out 20 years ago when it was universally assumed that Japan would rule the world, and us too. That bet was wrong, and the China bet could be wrong, too.

Some others would say that this war is off in the distance and nothing to worry about. I would argue that it is actually underway right now. But it is not a military war. The time has passed when the greatest wars fought in the world will be strictly military-led. The current war is about economics and jobs, and it is happening right now. Right now. China, as an example, is at war in the world. It's an economic war, and it is a war about global GDP growth and good jobs. Who wins this war changes everything.

The greatest American weapon for the re-winning of America (it's not about anyone else losing; it is about America becoming a winner again) is the one asset almost no one is paying any attention to. It's her 30 million American youth, fourth grade through 12th grade, 8 to 18 years olds. This group represents the single best chance for the re-emergence of America, and the sustained success of the American Dream model of democracy in the world. This group represents the "farm club and the bench strength for the playoff game of the rest of our lives." Organized youth economic energy, and America's "magic sauce" of entrepreneurship and free enterprise for all, could change everything.

Introducing HOPE Business-In-A-Box.

What if we could crush the developed-world high school dropout rate crisis; impacting America, the U.K. and other nations, in a single transformational move? 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 to $100? 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 (think "Shark Tank for kids"), 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 that the Gallup-HOPE Index, a donation to America's schools from Gallup and Operation HOPE, could measure all of this on the front-end, middle, and the back-end. We think it changes everything. Introducing HOPE Business-In-a-Box.

HOPE Business In-A-Box (HBIAB) 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 growing network of influential friends.

HBIAB consist of several easy-to-start, fund and operate small business and entrepreneurial endeavors designed for and around the capabilities of youth. Baked into this approach is the recognition of youth's increasing levels of financial literacy and economic energy, discovered through active engagement with HOPE empowerment programs on-the-ground. The essential components of my vision to change everything include:

* Designed for youth fourth grade through 12th grade (8 to 18 year olds) who have completed the award-winning HOPE Banking on Our Future program, or other credible financial literacy programs across our country.

* Can be funded and initiated at the $50, $100, $250 and $500 start-up capital levels.

* From idea to inspiration within 60 days.

* Features a dedicated business mentor to serve as a role model and strategic adviser to each HBIB student participant

Operation HOPE has already made a lead commitment with our own funds by seed funding up to $25,000 in HOPE Business-In-A-Box youth entrepreneurship grants, which has already been quietly matched by a $25,000 grant from the Esther Sterns Family Foundation. This is what you call a movement, and mark my words -- soon you will witness a tipping point.

The 2011 Gallup-HOPE Index showed that 91 percent of all youth were not afraid to take risks, 77 percent of all youth wanted to be their own boss, 45 percent of all youth wanted to own their own business and 42 percent wanted to create something that changed the world, yet only 5 percent of all youth had a business internship or business role model. Given that the Gallup-HOPE Index was based on a national scientific poll (3 percent margin of error), it is assumed and presumed at HOPE that the "business internship" number in the underserved communities that HOPE principally serves across the nation is much lower, and in some communities may actually be zero. So no wonder that kids in an inner-city community aspire to only be rap stars, professional athletes, and even drug dealers. These kids are not dumb nor stupid; they are actually brilliant. Why? Because they are modeling what they see. Part of the power of this new movement is that it will give these kids, and all kids, something powerfully different to see. If we don't bridge the 77 percent of all kids who want to be their own boss, with the 5 percent of all kids who have a business internship or business role model, America's experiment with being the leader of the free world is effectively done.

I am hopeful because while the national poll showed a mere 5 percent of our national youth having a business internship or business role model, the University of Illinois study cited in Malcolm Gladwell's landmark book The Tipping Point made the case that with a mere 5 percent role models every community stabilities. This means that America still leads the free world because 5 percent of of our youth are actively engaged in organizing their economic energy to become the next generation of entrepreneurs, small businesses, job creators and entrepreneurs, or what I call the CEO of You!

The goals of HBIAB are simple and powerful:

· HBIAB will double the level of hope, wellbeing, engagement, financial literacy and entrepreneurial energy amongst fourth to 12th graders by 2020.
· HBIAB will increase the business mentorship and business internship rate among fourth through 12th graders by 4 times, from 5 percent to 20 percent by 2020.
· HBIAB will create 25,000 new youth run start up businesses by 2020.
· HBIAB will have measurable impact on projected American GDP growth by 2020.

And here comes the HOPE Business-In-A-Box movement.

This changes everything.

John Hope Bryant is a thought leader, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass) the only African-American bestselling business author in America, and is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Under-Served and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability, for President Barack Obama. Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S. He is also a co-founder of Global Dignity with HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Professor Pekka Himanen of Finland. Global Dignity is affiliated with the Forum of Young Global Leaders and the World Economic Forum.