Stand Together Hug

Stand Together

Brian Hooks<br>chairman and CEO Stand Together

by Brian Hooks
chairman and CEO Stand Together

Can the same principles that drive success at Koch Industries also create solutions for society’s biggest challenges?

Charles Koch certainly thinks so — so much so that he is investing his personal fortune to spark virtuous cycles of mutual benefit through his philanthropy.

Quotation Mark

The cycle begins when we develop capabilities that enable us to create value for others. As we improve and add to our capabilities, new opportunities open, which point to the need for additional capabilities, and so on, in never-ending cycles of improvement and growth.

Charles Koch, on virtuous cycles of mutual benefit propelling KII’s exceptional growth in Discovery August 2018.

Charles has also made a point of seeking partners who are capable of helping people transform their lives. Together, this group is guided by the same North Star: a society where people from all walks of life knock down barriers so everyone can realize their unique potential and contribute to the lives of others.

Starting point

The beginning of this vital approach to philanthropy dates back more than 50 years. In the 1960s, Charles Koch began offering scholarships to students and supporting scholars looking to offer new ideas for addressing problems in society. Along the way, he found partners — including other business leaders and philanthropists — willing to help build new capabilities, unlock opportunities and drive continual transformation.

Today, that philanthropic community is called Stand Together. We help social entrepreneurs supercharge their efforts to help people improve their lives by connecting them with passionate partners and the resources necessary to make a greater difference. Our community includes more than 700 of America’s most effective business and philanthropic leaders, the people leading more than 150 community organizations fighting poverty, more than 1,000 professors at 350 universities, tens of thousands of K-12 teachers and millions of grassroots activists nationwide.

Through that philanthropic community, Stand Together tackles some of the nation’s biggest challenges so that every person has the opportunity to realize his or her potential.

“The progress we’re making,” says Charles Koch with a smile, “is one of the reasons I get up in the morning charged up every day.”

Charles Koch and Brian Hooks at the most recent Stand Together Summit this summer in Colorado Springs.

Charles Koch and Brian Hooks at the most recent Stand Together Summit this summer in Colorado Springs.

Helping every person rise

Although we live in a period of unprecedented progress — economic, social, technological — many people are being left behind. The way our society chooses to address this represents the greatest challenge of our time.

The alarm bells are all around us: A decline in economic mobility that once defined the American dream. A criminal justice system that gives better deals to the rich and guilty than to the poor and innocent. A drop in U.S. life expectancy for the first time in more than 100 years.

Why is this happening? The biggest problem is that the key institutions of society that can make or break a person’s ability to succeed — education, business, communities and government — have become dominated by a top-down approach based on power and control rather than working to empower people.

Our education system teaches to test rather than help students identify their unique gifts and succeed by creating value for others. In business, cronyism and protectionism protect special interests rather than empower innovators and employees. In communities, the War on Poverty has made poverty easier to endure but harder to escape, failing to help people gain the skills and support to succeed. In government, the choices being presented today are too often variations of socialism and nationalism — two paths that lead to the same place: control and dependency rather than empowerment and success.

Such top-down ideas are a reaction to the pace of change and innovation that are causing disruption in people’s lives. However, these ideas have failed every time they’ve been tried. But in tough times, people will settle for bad ideas if that’s all that’s being offered.

Stand Together offers an alternative approach that people across the country have been searching for. Rather than top down, Stand Together’s approach is bottom up — based on a deep belief in people and an understanding that with the right mindset and support, all of us can improve our lives and meaningfully contribute to the lives of others. Stand Together is uniting with anyone to do right and to spark movements that can transform the key institutions of society from the bottom up.

Building on this momentum, Stand Together recently launched its biggest initiative yet: Stand Together to Help Every Person Rise. There’s no single solution. But Stand Together is investing more than ever before to support the social entrepreneurs who are developing effective solutions from the bottom up — and in the process, transforming the key institutions so they empower people to tackle our country’s biggest problems. Here are five examples of the kinds of things our country must do.

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Shaun Alexander, Chad Houser, Judge Sheila Calloway and Café Momentum interns and supporters at the Nashville “pop-up” restaurant.

Empowering everyone to find fulfilling work

Shaun Alexander — former NFL MVP with the Seattle Seahawks — came to his first Stand Together Summit in January wanting to make a greater difference with his philanthropy.

At that Summit, he met Chad Houser, founder of Café Momentum — a top-ranked restaurant in Dallas that’s staffed by an unusual workforce: kids who are exiting the juvenile justice system. Houser told Alexander that, on average, nearly 50% of kids leaving juvenile detention return within a year. But for young people who go through a 12-month, paid internship with Café Momentum, 85% never return to jail. Young people are using these internships — and the confidence and skills that come with them — as a springboard to more fulfilling lives.

Shaun was fired up. He began working with the team at the Stand Together Foundation to think about ways to transform and extend the concept. What if they took the restaurant to Nashville, home of the 2019 NFL Draft? It wasn’t long before Café Momentum had launched a temporary “pop-up” restaurant in Nashville. A group of kids from the local juvenile detention center got a crash course in restaurant service for an event that included Stand Together philanthropists, NFL players and the mayor of Nashville.

After the event, one young participant said, “Having these people come in … coming to tell me I’ve got potential, that I can do things, and showing me I could — that really had a great effect on me.”

Now Shaun’s goal is to help expand Café Momentum to all 32 NFL cities. He recruited several current and former NFL players to get involved as well, propelling a virtuous cycle that will not only help young people nationwide transform their lives but also change how society thinks about the potential of bottom-up solutions like Café Momentum that can empower people to find fulfilling work.

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