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A Startup Wants You to Meet Your Political Nemesis at Starbucks

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What could possibly go wrong?

People drinking coffee inside a Starbucks midday peterskim/Flickr

Want to get free Starbucks coffee? Of course you do — and now, all you have to do is agree to a face-to-face meeting with someone whose politics you despise.

That’s the basic premise behind a new initiative from a startup called Hi From the Other Side, which aims to spark civil discourse between people on opposite sides of the political aisle.

Here’s how it works, according to Boston.com:

Users can sign up for the app via Facebook and are then paired with someone nearby who identifies with the opposing political party. Each user then receives half of the information necessary to unlock a Starbucks gift card. Then, once both participants meet up, they can work together to unlock the gift cards and receive a complimentary cup of java.

An extremely civil and productive conversation will then presumably follow, ending with a liberal and a conservative snapping a selfie together — et voila! America’s vast political chasm, bridged. Supposedly.

Starbucks and its CEO Howard Schultz have never shied away from political statements, from pledging to hire thousands of refugees to taking out a full-page newspaper ad that not-so-subtly decried the campaigning tactics of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Starbucks’ support of the campaign carries with it echoes of the coffee giant’s failed “Race Together” campaign, which had the ill-advised aim of igniting conversations about race between customers and employees by having baristas write the phrase "Race Together" on coffee cups.

While that was a controversial flop, this new initiative is a much smaller step in the direction of fostering open discourse — and it’s one that Starbucks itself isn’t directly involved in, though they do seem to more or less support it: “In this case Starbucks has donated gift cards to Hi From the Other Side to help encourage participants to meet in-person for the important conversations the program facilitates,” a company spokesperson says.

Update 3/29 5:39pm EST: This story has been updated to reflect new information from a Starbucks spokesperson, who says Hi From the Other Side’s website reflected some “mischaracterization” of the coffee company’s actual role in this initiative.

Harvard Startup Teams Up With Starbucks to Promote Civil Discourse [Boston.com]
Why Starbucks’ ‘Race Together’ Campaign Failed [E]
More Starbucks Coverage [E]

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