Free coffee for all...just as long as you promise to drink it with your enemies.
That’s the premise behind one Harvard Business School startup, and it's already begun uniting people across the political divide. “Hi from the Other Side,” headed by student Henry Tsai, works to foster conversation between liberals and conservatives, and its latest stunt relies on Starbucks gift cards to incentivize participation. The scheme's pretty genius: You're offered a Starbucks gift card, but you can only unlock said card by joining forces with someone from “the other side.”
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(...Is this a movie? Because it totally should be.)
Coffee lovers can sign up for the fledgling business’ app through Facebook, where they’ll receive half of the information they need to unlock a gift card. Next, they’re introduced via email to someone nearby who has opposing political beliefs. It’s up to them to find a time to chat and, if possible, head to their local Starbucks together. Only by speaking to one another can they hope to actually use the gift card and get their free coffee.
It’s either a brilliant way to bring people together, or a bad romantic comedy in the making. Either way, we’re into it. And judging from the praise the app’s been getting, which is showcased on its website, so are its users.
“I was astonished how similar our backgrounds were,” commented Tony, a Trump supporter. “We had [a] very civil conversation.”
Meanwhile, Rebecca, a Clinton supporter, added, “Everything I see in the news and my social feeds is ugliness and divisiveness. It was really refreshing to be able to sit face-to-face and find common ground with another mom like me who just happened to have different views on public policy.”
There’s even a helpful conversation guide for when things get awkward, which includes handy advice like “Use ‘I’ statements to keep the discussion based on your personal experience, rather than pointing fingers,” and “Embrace silence...Give yourself time to process what you've heard and talked about.”
(If Henry Tsai’s app doesn’t work out, he should really consider a career in couples counseling.)
While Starbucks and its employees are not officially involved, the company did support Tsai's efforts with an initial contribution of about 300 gift cards. It's a progressive move, but an unsurprising one given Starbucks' other recent forays into the realm of political discourse. A day after the 2016 election, the company’s CEO, Howard Schultz, wrote to employees asking them to “take care of each other.” He also promised to hire 10,000 refugees after Trump’s executive order on immigration.
Well, if anything can unite us, it’s coffee. Here’s to the initiative’s continued success.