Another role for the Obamas: social entrepreneurs
Barack backs StartupAmerica, which reduce barriers to smale-scale business innovation. Michelle's ChooseMyPlate promotes healthier eating habits.
It’s easy to be critical of government: It seems that our leaders never do enough to fix all the problems we face, whether they are economic, social, international, or domestic. Often social change comes from the ground up, not the other way around.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Inside President Obama's White House
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But the Obamas have developed two programs that address, respectively, the economic recession and health problems related to malnutrition and obesity. They are worth taking a look at in detail and, though criticism remains relevant, the programs bear innovative and promising aspects.
StartupAmerica is President Obama’s initiative, founded in January 2011, to catalyze small-scale entrepreneurship through facilitating access to capital, creating mentorships, and reducing barriers to innovation. The program aims to achieve these goals through partnerships with companies like Google, which has pledged $100 million to startup companies for use of their advertising services, as well as Cisco, which is providing training for 6,000 entrepreneurs, and IndieGoGo, the crowdfunding website, which is offering startup entrepreneurs the opportunity to raise up to $30 million on the site at a 50 percent reduced fee rate.
In focusing on entrepreneurship and innovation, the Startup America initiative looks to create sustainable job growth, which stands as a potential long-term solution to national economic woes in the US.
“The initiative is looking to stimulate entrepreneurship,” Slava Rubin, founder of crowdfunding platform IndieGoGo, said of StartupAmerica. “Most of the jobs created in America are small businesses. By having more funding, we have more business and more jobs. IndieGoGo is a platform where any person, any small business, can follow their dream and create a business. Many of these businesses have been turned down by banks. It’s really exciting that IndieGoGo is included as a partner – we’re the only one, out of 15, that isn’t a billion-dollar company. I think this really shows how forward-thinking the administration is.”
But it’s not just Barack who’s tackling a serious domestic issue. First Lady Michelle Obama has got her finger on our nation’s pulse and is taking on the widespread and systemic problem of unhealthy eating. At first glance, her two initiatives toward this end, Let’s Move! And ChooseMyPlate, seem like sparsely funded, relatively unfocused programs. The budget for ChooseMyPlate is only $2 million, and neither program has clearly outlined goals or an outcome-based approach. In June, the environmental blog Grist reported, House Republicans were trying to further de-fund these national programs. It is unclear, at this point, how these initiatives are going to achieve widespread impact where they are most needed: in the homes and communities of everyday Americans.