Seattle-based Starbucks Coffee Co. debuted “Upstanders,” its first original content series, which aims to inspire Americans to engage in acts of compassion, citizenship and civility, the company says. The series features 10 stories, each told in written, video and podcast form, about ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities.
The series was written and produced by Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman and chief executive officer, and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Starbucks executive producer and a former senior editor of The Washington Post.
“We’ve asked ourselves what is the role and responsibility of a public company and, as citizens, how we can catalyze hope in a time when we need more optimism, empathy, compassion and leadership,” Schultz said in a statement. “The upstanders featured in this series are inspiring individuals whose actions are emblematic of the American spirit and what is missing from so much of today’s national dialogue. We have always been storytellers at heart, and more of these stories need to be heard. We are using our scale to share them as broadly as possible.”
Chandrasekaran added: “‘Upstanders’ is a unique set of stories told in a unique way. When we turn on the news or scroll through our social media feeds, we are inundated with stories of discord and dysfunction. But there is more to America than that. In cities and towns across the country, there are people who are courageously, selflessly, collaboratively and thoughtfully creating positive change. We want to share their stories, which are often ignored by traditional news organizations, with millions of our fellow Americans through Starbucks unparalleled platform.”
The stories in the series include the following:
- The Mosque Across the Street: When an Islamic center purchased a plot of land opposite a church in Memphis, Tenn., the local Muslim community expected hostility. Pastor Steve Stone had something else in mind.
- Breaking the Prison Pipeline: Susan Burton, who spent years in prison, is determined to keep other female ex-convicts from returning to prison by giving them a place to live that is free of drugs, alcohol and abusive relationships. She has helped hundreds of them start new lives.
- Homes for Everyone: Faced with a growing homeless population, Utah changed the way it provides shelter to those on the streets. Under Lloyd Pendleton’s leadership, the state has reduced its chronic homeless population by 91 percent.
- Scholarships for Every Student: In Baldwin, Mich., college wasn’t in the cards for most high-school graduates — until residents did something remarkable: they banded together and raised enough money to provide every student with a scholarship.
- The Kids Who Killed an Incinerator: Seventeen-year-old Destiny Watford’s decision to stand up for her community and oppose the construction of an incinerator led to an improbable series of events that would stun her neighbors and everyone connected with the project.
- The Hunger Hack: In the United States, 40 percent of the food supply is wasted. College student Maria Rose Belding created a web-based solution that saves tens of thousands of pounds of food each year.
- The Empathetic Police Academy: Susan Rahr is transforming the way police officers are trained in Washington State. Instead of preparing them to wage a war on crime, she wants them to become guardians of the community.
- Employing the Full Spectrum: John D’Eri set out to find a job for his autistic son, Andrew. His journey led him to open a car wash where 85 percent of the employees are on the autism spectrum — and the business is booming.
- A Warrior’s Workout: Former pro football player David Vobora gave up a lucrative career in private training to work with wounded warriors. His workouts have brought them new strength and inspiration.
- Building Homes. Building Lives: After spending his teenage years in and out of jail, Robert Clark turned his life around. Now he’s committed himself to helping the at-risk youth of Newark, N.J., do the same, by leading them in building homes for poor families.
Through the month of September, Starbucks will continue to celebrate these upstanders through local Town Hall events in Memphis, Tenn.; Dallas; Deerfield, Fla.; and Washington, D.C. Hosted by Chandrasekaran, the events will welcome local citizens and civic-minded organizations to learn about and share how we can all do more to create positive change, the company says.
“Upstanders” is now available in written and video form on Starbucks.com/Upstanders, powered by Fotition. a recently launched social change platform. Audio versions of each story will launch weekly through downloadable podcasts, which also are accessible through the site, it adds.