The Starbucks Challenge in Context

Last month, greenLAgirl and CityHippy kicked off the Starbucks Challenge.  The purpose of the Challenge was to mobilize bloggers and blog-readers around the world to call Starbucks to task on their stated policy of making available Fair Trade coffee in all of their stores, no questions asked.

Those of you who have been following the Challenge know that the results have been mixed.  To date 194 challenges have been taken in 27 States and 13 countries (see map).  According to greenLAgirl, in the past 12 days only 18 of 31 challenges have passed.  While Starbucks public relations scrambles to control the damage and raise awareness of their policy at the field level, the blogosphere continues to move at a faster pace than the ponderous corporate structure can manage.

But beneath the surface of this conflict between the progressives of the blogosphere and the megalith that is Starbucks there lies a phenomenon that will shake the tree of corporate hierarchy to its roots.  The Starbucks challenge illustrates that our connected interests are no longer constrained by geography or the information flows of old media.  We no longer require centrally planned movements or charistmatic leaders to organize and to act.  Nowhere has this phenomenon been described more eloquently than in The Ecology of the Movements.  As our connectedness spreads across the globe, it is not difficult to imagine a world in which our collective interests converge.

We are the emerging swarm, and we believe in social justice, grassroots democracy, and clean, sustainable technologies.  We believe in the end of war and economic opportunities that preserve community and cultural identity.  We are the overwhelming majority of the world’s citizens, whose simple needs have been so hopelessly complicated by disconnected corporate hierarchies and inefficient government bureaucracies.  A new order is emerging, and it behooves the Starbucks of this world to wake up and smell the brewing coffee of change.

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