"Operation HOPE's 2015 goal is to become the leading urban delivery system for youth and adult financial literacy and economic empowerment in the United States, and the first recognized global brand for financial and economic empowerment of the poor and under-served in the world."
I can say with utter confident that Operation HOPE is more relevant today, than at anytime in our 19 plus year history. Made relevant that is, by the global economic crisis, and what comes next.
The only thing keeping our mission and mandate -- around financial literacy empowerment as the new civil rights issue -- from becoming the front and center issue it deserved to be in a truly reset world, is that "the urgent continues to crowd out the important."
In other words, in many countries, companies and households here and around the world, the economic fires of crisis continue to burn out of control. Most of us now feel that the world will somehow survive this, but we don't yet know "who," in this new world will survive, nor how this story will end. And so, countries, companies and individuals continue to respond - and lead if you want to call it that - out of fear.
This said, as soon as this crisis settles, the next question out of the mouths of parents and leaders will be, "how do we make sure such a crisis never happens again."
Enter, the central mission of Operation HOPE.
As I said at the OECD 50th Anniversary Forum in Paris, France last week, "we need robust consumer protection, and I applaud President Obama and Professor Warren's leadership with respect to the new and necessary Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but we need more than protection by big brother today. At the end of the day, as a practical matter there will be no mortgage police, or consumer lending or auto loan police coming to your home at critical moments of decision, protecting you from financial predators. You will have to do that." This is the power of financial literacy in the brave new empowered world, post global economic crisis.
We don't just need consumer protection, but we need consumer empowerment too.
This is the Operation HOPE way.
Or let's look at free enterprise and capitalism itself. My personal hero, Ambassador Andrew Young, once said that "Communism failed because it could not create a middle class, and capitalism succeeded precisely because it did create a middle class, but capitalism itself has begun to fail, because it has not made itself relevant to the poor, the under-served, or even the middle class."
This is the Operation HOPE way, as the very definition of silver rights is to "make free enterprise and capitalism relevant to the poor, and to make free enterprise and capitalism finally work for the poor."
And let's look at the available world tools to achieve this.
A couple years ago civil rights icon Ambassador Young, also our HOPE Global Spokesman, and I were visiting with World Bank President Zoelick, and Young applauded President Zoelick and the bank for "spreading the tenants of free enterprise and capitalism, helping countries to survive, thrive and grow," but he continued, "who is actually teaching anyone the 'rules' of free enterprise and capitalism?" It struck me then and there, that this was OUR mission in life. Operation HOPE's goal, by 2015, is to become the world's first recognize global brand for the economic empowerment of the poor and the under-served.
We want to teach a new generation, post global economic crisis, the universal "language of money," rooted in global dignity and personal integrity, and to empower people to help themselves; with a hand up, and not simply a hand out. We want to help individuals, communities and societies, to "do for themselves," in a reset economic world.
And so, in coming months it is our plan to completely refine, retool and "reset" Operation HOPE, for this new era of growth, and need. This means first right-sizing HOPE for the times (which will include some austerity measures organization-wide, starting with how my office works, the Office of the Chairman). We cannot call ourselves a financial literacy leader, unless we are practicing financial literacy excellence ourselves.
We will identify our weaknesses, and frankly, areas and spaces and places we are simply not "good enough" in, and we will make the necessary changes. I have always said that Operation HOPE should aspire to be "up or out" wherever you find us.
Next on the agenda will be powerful shift from simply identifying our weaknesses, to identifying our strengths -- and this is where the real gold (or shall I say silver) standard lies with HOPE, long-term. A retooled HOPE, for a re-tooled day, focused on leveraging its strengths, where it can make a difference.
And so, while the final vision of what is to come for HOPE, is still yet to come at HOPE (and we are very excited about it), I encourage every person that is able bodied to take advantage of the broad, deep and wide suite of free financial and economic empowerment services, right now. They include:
Banking on Our Future, our youth financial literacy empowerment program. Today Operation HOPE represents the premiere urban delivery platform for financial literacy empowerment in the nation, operating in more than 71 urban communities across America, plus locations across the global (South Africa in particular). Banking on Our Future covers K-College, or 8 to 18 year old and beyond.
HOPE Financial Literacy Empowerment Centers. This is the baseline for adult and community economic empowerment, converting check cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners and entrepreneurs. The man who makes my suits, Ryan Taylor, owner of DROBE Clothing, is one of many HOPE Center success stories, and in this reset world, urban America is going to need countless examples like him. Individuals who can create their own job and jobs, and not simply apply for one.
We are proud to be now building our most iconic HOPE Center to date, the HOPE Financial Literacy Empowerment Center at Ebenezer, located on the hollow ground of the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The HOPE Center, Ebenezer will serve as the new "moral center" for our work, post global economic crisis. Most people do not know that Daddy King, Martin Luther King, Sr, served on the board of a bank for 40 years. Capitalism is not evil, only greed is. The HOPE Center, Ebenezer is made possible as a result of the national Framework Agreement between Operation HOPE and the Financial Services Roundtable, based in Washington, D.C.
HOPE Inner City Cyber Cafes. The HOPE Inner City Cyber Cafes (HICCC) represent the nation's only national inner-city cyber cafe network, and is focused on empowering inner-city and low-wealth communities with the Internet access and digital empowerment services they both want and deserve. HICCC's are located within our HOPE Centers, in key communities across the country.
HOPE Express. HOPE Express is our strategy for serving communities with a full suite of financial literacy and economic empowerment services, without having to make the full investment that a HOPE Financial Literacy Empowerment Center requires. Specifically, HOPE Express is designed to take up existing space within a traditional bank branch, or a credit union, which now finds itself located in a transitional community, moving away from middle class, to working class, minority and under-served. HOPE Express takes all the so-called known negatives, and turns them into inspired positives, for all involved.
HOPE Coalition America. Having recently (re)signed a national agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, establishing HOPE Coalition America (HCA) as the nation's emergency economic disaster preparedness, response and recovery program, HCA stands prepared to take its place amongst and within the national framework of emergency responders. HCA responded to 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and even man-made disasters such as the subprime mortgage crisis, and today HCA stands ready to respond to the southern tornadoes impacting several states across the south. The Mortgage HOPE Crisis Hotline, which has served more than 100,000 individuals and helped to modify more than $400 million in mortgages today, is but one of the powerful examples of the enduring and continuing legacy of HCA.
HOPE Corps. The HOPE Corps, more than 14,700 strong today, is the backbone of HOPE cross platform. The HOPE Corps represent the human capital and volunteers from a range of our proud partner institutions, mobilized into low-wealth, inner city and under-served communities, focused on becoming empowering role models, symbols of "good capitalism," and examples of positive change. When a young person encounters a HOPE Corps volunteer, we don't just want them to gain the left brain knowledge that comes with learning the basics of financial literacy, but also the right brain lessons of dignity, which is the true, inner wealth. At the end of the day, we want young people who witnessing a HOPE Corps volunteer before them says, "I want to be you." This is how we are going to change the world. This is how each and every one of our HOPE Corps volunteers change the world, every day.
5MK (5 Million Kids) and the 5MK Make Smart Cool Tour. Focused squarely on combating the high-school dropout epidemic in America, and reconnecting the mostly left brain power of education with the mostly right brain power of aspiration, 5MK seeks to recruit America and Americans, wherever we find them, to make a 5MK Pledge to "change their world, their community," by teaching financial literacy, becoming a role model, empowering youth, changing communities. 5MK is modeled after the research unearthed in the book the Tipping Point, which bold makes the case that with a mere 5% role models, any community stabilizes. Co-chaired by icons Quincy Jones and Ambassador Andrew Young, 5MK and the 5MK Tour seeks to utilize the power of popular culture to create a positive seismic shift in the lives, the families, the culture and the communities of youth at risk.
Wikia-HOPE Global Money Initiative. Wikia-HOPE Global Money is our global expansion and franchise strategy for Operation HOPE, and represents the world's first international, on-stop financial literacy curriculum, translated today into four major languages, and soon 50 around the world. Wikia-HOPE is today translated into Spanish, North African French, Arabic, and of course is available in English. Wikia-HOPE Global Money, Morocco, a country partnership with the Casablanca Stock Exchange, represents our first model country partnership in the world.
Gallup-HOPE Index. The Gallup-HOPE Inde x started out in 2010, as the Gallup-Operation HOPE Financial Literacy Index, but we soon found that this name was not "expansive" enough, as financial literacy was the root tool, along with hope, well being and engagement, but it was in fact "leading us to something," and that something was much broader, deeper and tied to baseline success. That "thing" was aspiration and the economic energy of our young people. Put another way, behavioral economics for young people, or what predicts jobs, job creators, and future American competitiveness itself. How does America lead again, and who will do that leading? What is the makeup of these leaders, and can we identify their "strengths?" If we could accomplish this, not only would we identify how HOPE empowered schools (and the young people within them) were doing better than non-HOPE empowered schools, but more so, which kids had the special 'sauce' to succeed in life, and then applying "offsetting empowering tools" to the schools, and with the youth, that needed a boost in their economic energy to succeed. We wanted to create a nationwide "strength finders" measurement and empowerment tool for the 40 million (approximately) youth between 4th and 12th grade. The Gallup HOPE Index is rooted and based in the new Operation HOPE Office of Innovation, Research & Assessment.
Results from the Gallup-HOPE Index will be featured and released with great anticipation annually and every October, beginning October, 2011, in the Great Hall of the Gallup Organization's Washington, D.C.
HOPE Forums. The HOPE Forums gather up and utilizes the massive "convening powers" of HOPE and its expansive partners from government, community and the private sector, to express the newly learned best practices, to share success stories, to announce important new efforts, and to baseline leadership necessary to carry an issue, an opportunity, a policy, even a community forward. The HOPE Global Financial Literacy Summit, held June, 2009, in Anacostia, just outside of Washington, D.C. was a historic event attended by 800 plus delegates from more than 40 countries and six continents, and headlined by some of the leading policy, private sector and community voices of our time.
HOPE Framework Agreements. HOPE Framework Agreements are special agreements signed with leading organizations here in the United States and around the world, designed to "frame" the bold vision of silver rights empowerment, and providing a practical implementation portal to make this bold vision real in the lives of people. The legacy of HOPE Framework Agreements should be clearly seen results. Signature Framework Agreements include a 5-year national agreement with the "Davos of the financial services industry," the Financial Services Roundtable, and a 5-year global agreement with MasterCard, a global leader in the payment cards sector.
Global Dignity. Global Dignity seeks to inspire an entirely new global language in the world, and for a new generation of young leaders around the world, on every continent. Global Dignity is the first module taught in the HOPE Banking on Our Future program in the states and in South Africa, and and Global Dignity Day has been celebrated in more than 40 countries around the world in 2010 alone. In South Africa, the Course in Dignity curriculum is actually embedded into the official government endorsed studies across the country.
Global Dignity, an initiative inspired by the World Economic Forum and the Forum of Young Global Leaders, and supported early on by HOPE Global Initiatives, was co-founded by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Professor Pekka Himanen (Finland), and myself. Global Dignity will host its first Global Dignity Forum in Finland, on October 19th, 2011, attracting leaders from around the world to embrace the new and universal language of dignity for our world.
OperationHOPE.org. OperationHOPE.org is the new global address for the vision, mission, spirit, purpose, plan, action, results, assessment, and even the active re-imagination of Operation HOPE's work itself. Through the newly refined and relaunched HOPE website, Operation HOPE is establishing itself as an active, if not proactive "thought leader" for the 21st century, and the place where people come for answers, results and change in their lives.
I hope you have enjoyed this brief yet fairly comprehensive tour of the world of HOPE. My mission was not to give you an exhaustive inventory of our what we are up to, as I am no doubt sure I have indeed missed something vitally important, but to provide a broad-based framing and vision of what's on my mind, with respect to HOPE, and the pivotal role I see for the organization going forward.
Civil rights to silver rights empowerment for all, is much more than a theme that rhymes.
John Hope Bryant is founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE, bestselling author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and a member of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for President Barack Obama