Kudos to the team at the American Banker. And a heartfelt thank you. Earlier this month the American Banker named me and Operation HOPE as their 2016 'Innovator of the Year,' for our HOPE Inside model -- which shows for the first time a convergence between community good, government compliance, and the business case. More so, this was the first time in almost 200 years of banking history that the American Banker has awarded an African-American at this level of industrywide achievement. To say that I am proud, would be an understatement. But I am also focused on my responsibility -- to others and to society -- more now than ever before. Founded by me in 1992, Operation HOPE had 11 adult empowerment locations, called HOPE Centers, from 1992 through 2013. Starting with the announcement of our HOPE Inside model in November, 2013, as part of Operation HOPE's Project 5117, now we have orders for more than 400 HOPE Inside locations, over the last 24 months. HOPE Inside, integrated within bank branches, credit unions, city halls, grocery stores, big box retailers, houses of faith, major employers, anyplace where 'flock, stop and shop.' Our goal: 1,000 locations, and becoming 'the Starbucks of financial inclusion.' And finishing what President Abraham Lincoln started with his Freedman's Bank. And why is all of this important? Because of 7.1 billion people on the planet, 34 million people control 45.6% of the wealth according to a recent report from Credit Suisse. This is simply not sustainable, but there are very few options here in the United States, or around the world, allowing individuals, communities and leaders to access the exclusive levers of the free enterprise system, yet alone to operationalize their aspirations. This is something that the HOPE Inside model does extremely well. Raising credit scores in underserved communities from 500 to 700 is a game changer all on its own, but then we also help individuals to become stakeholders in their own lives; whether that means becoming a homeowner, small business owner, an entrepreneur, a job creator -- or simply owning oneself. "Nothing changes your life more than God or love, than moving your credit score 120 points..." HOPE Inside is but one aspect of my overall vision for empowering communities, called Project 5117 at Operation HOPE. I feel an overwhelming sense of obligation, to people I do not know. People I have not met. To generations yet unborn, and to a current generation of the underserved here and around the world who have not yet gotten their shot at the golden ring of opportunity. It's time for a change, and it is time for each of us to help to create it. Let's go.... John Hope Bryant, Founder, Operation HOPE
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