Last year, the Gallup Organization and Operation HOPE, two recognized leaders in their respective fields, came together to create the Gallup-HOPE Financial Literacy Index, initially developed to track and measure the impact and effectiveness of Operation HOPE's work around youth financial literacy empowerment (and through our award winning Banking on Our Future program).
In short, after serving more than 500,000 urban youth and more than 1.5 million youth and adults, as the largest urban delivery system for financial literacy empowerment in the nation, we had to admit that all we had to hang our hat on was anecdotal information. We knew that we were changing lives because we could see the change in youth's faces, or recognize the return of "hope" in their lives and energy levels, or even see them start their first business, or open a bank account, but we could not "prove" it. The anecdotal evidence was not enough anymore, as funders, supporters, our boards and the communities we served were asking, and reasonably so, for "more."
And so, we sought out literally the best organization we could find in the research, assessment and social sciences space -- the Gallup Organization -- and Operation HOPE hired them, just like anyone else would, to tell us what "thought we knew" about our product, our customers (the youth, etc), and our impact. What I didn't tell Gallup then, but will admit now, is that I was also in essence "betting the whole farm," so to speak, on their outcomes. In other words, I and we were placing more than 19 years of our work under the Gallup microscope, and what they said next, would either mean we were indeed "on to something," or alternatively, we should go out of business.
Luckily for me, our instincts were correct, and the initial results from a sampling of 70,000 youth underscored our basic assumption at Operation HOPE; that money was indeed "emotional," and that there was a powerful link between hope, well being, engagement, and financial literacy, or what we now call "the language of money," all tying back up to youth aspiration, success in life (and we believe graduating from school), and ultimately what we now call "youth economic energy."
Our work and the initial results from the data so powerfully moved and impressed the leaders at Gallup, that it was proposed that we transition from being a mere client, to being a best-in-class partner. In short, Gallup now believed that financial literacy was part of the DNA of future American competitiveness, that the future of jobs, free enterprise, entrepreneurship and business rested with our youth, and that HOPE had in fact tripped upon the seeds of a much larger, more substantial idea. We needed to focus on our youth's "strengths," and not obsess upon their weaknesses.
For us, the Gallup Organization was as natural, inasmuch as they were a global best-in-class brand for this sort of work (research, assessment and such), but also because their social scientists had already done groundbreaking research and reports which unearthed truths we also instinctively picked up 19 years prior. One truth in particular, tied to our very name.
Gallup issued a ground breaking report on "hope," which proved that (paraphrasing) "...hope was a greater predictor of graduation rates than GPA or SAT scores." Read a little about what Shane Lopez, Ph.D of Gallup has to say about the power of hope, here.
Why the Gallup-HOPE Index?
We started our partnership with the Gallup-Operation HOPE Financial Literacy Index, but 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 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 empo werment tool for the 40 million (approximately) youth between 4th and 12th grade.
Introducing the Gallup-HOPE Index
The real power and magic behind the Gallup-HOPE Index, that will finally "define" and measure youth economic energy, is embedded in the 34 scientifically sculpted questions outlined below, which cover (A) Hope, Engagement and Wellbeing, (B) Economic Energy, and (C) Financial Literacy. And let me answer the next question now too. Aren't we afraid to release the questions themselves to the public? Answer: absolutely not. We want these questions, actually, to become iconic amongst leaders, and with this generation, and we also know that the real magic is what will happen once the social scientists within Gallup get a hold of the data points from across America, in response to youth answering these life changing questions.
Okay, here they are, introduced to the world for the first time.... Let me know your reactions, and let us know what you think!
Hope, Engagement, Wellbeing
- Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to ten at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time? On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now?
- I know I will graduate from high school.
- There is an adult in my life who cares about my future.
- I can think of many ways to get good grades.
- I energetically pursue my goals.
- I can find lots of ways around any problem.
- I know I will find a good job after I graduate.
- I have a best friend at school.
- I feel safe in this school.
- My teachers make me feel my schoolwork is important.
- At this school, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
- In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good schoolwork.
- My school is committed to building the strengths of each student.
- In the last month, I volunteered my time to help others.
- Were you treated with respect all day yesterday?
- Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?
- Did you learn or do something interesting yesterday?
- Did you have enough energy to get things done yesterday?
- Do you have health problems that keep you from doing any of the things other people your age normally can do?
- If you are in trouble, do you have family or friends you can count on to help whenever you need them?
- I plan to start my own business. (Agree/Disagree)
- I will invent something that changes the world. (Agree/Disagree)
- My mind never stops. (Agree/Disagree)
- I never give up. (Agree/Disagree)
- I am not afraid to take risks even if I might fail. (Agree/Disagree)
- I want to be my own boss. (Agree/Disagree)
- The more education, the more money I will make. (Agree/Disagree)
- My school teaches me about money and banking. (Agree/Disagree)
- My school offers classes in how to start and run a business. (Agree/Disagree)
- Do you have a bank or credit union account with money in it? (Yes/No)
- Are you currently interning with a local business? (Yes/No)
- Have either of your parents or guardians ever started a business? (Yes/No)
- Do you run your own business now? (Yes/No)
- How many hours did you work at any paying job last week? (Open End)
For additional information on the Gallup-HOPE Index contact Jason Milton at Gallup, or Jennifer Thibeaux at the Operation HOPE Office of Innovation, Research & Assessment. You can also leave a comment below.