Mark my words — things are going to get interesting in 2012!

With the presidential election looming, and the economy still on shaky ground, it seems a foregone conclusion that our country is going to go through a vigorous national debate (to put it politely) on the subject of job creation and around which entities, organizations, and/or individuals are ultimately responsible for it.

On one hand, you’ll obviously have a camp demanding increased government stimulus and intervention, claiming that the shortage of jobs is largely the fault of big business and their perceived adoption of greedy/selfish/short-sighted policies around issues such as outsourcing and automation.  And yet, for every one of these people, you’ll find somebody else arguing that government needs to get off the backs of business and become more friendly to corporate America, since ultimately it’s entrepreneurs, not public officials, who create sustainable jobs.

Without question, I’m sure we could spin up a lively discussion on this blog about these issues, the facts involved, and what side of the political aisle is the virtuous one.  Let’s not go there, though, if we can help it.  Instead, I wanted to set the stage, above, in order to talk about a number of emerging attempts I’ve witnessed lately where some non-traditional pockets of society seem to be stepping up and seeking to combat the unemployment problem in innovative new ways.

For starters, I was rather surprised to walk into Starbucks the other day, order my mocha, and discover that they were selling these special “Indivisible Wristbands” at the front counter where people could donate and show support for job growth in America.  Kind of wild.  Apparently, this is the latest installment of the whole “philanthropic bracelet” craze that Lance Armstrong kicked off, a few years back, with his LiveStrong campaign.  At any rate, you can read more about this new Starbucks initiative at the link here, if interested.  Here’s the rough concept:

Starbucks is teaming up with Opportunity Finance Network® (OFN) which is a group of community lending institutions set up to provide financing to community businesses that need our help. In donating to OFN, 100% of your donation will help create and sustain jobs in underserved communities. To launch this project, the Starbucks Foundation is donating the first $5,000,000. As a thank you for your donation, you’ll get a wristband to wear proudly as a symbol of your support.  (Editor’s Note: jumping ahead…) We hope that you’ll join in and donate to the Create Jobs for USA fund. By wearing this wristband, you’ll share that as Americans we are indivisible and together we can help create and sustain jobs here in the U.S.A. One hundred percent of the materials are from right here in the U.S.A. The red, white and blue cord is manufactured in Rhode Island, and the brass crimps come from Florida. The zinc alloy bead is made in a woman-owned manufacturing plant in Los Angeles where the wristband is also being assembled.

At any rate, I was intrigued by the whole notion and have secretly always wanted to participate in the bracelet-wearing fad,  so I ponied up the $5 and walked away with a swanky red-white-and-blue band proudly wrapped around my wrist.  At the end of the day, I figured I was unlikely to come across a cause I’d ever support as much as job growth…

So that little Starbucks moment was an interesting development.

Then, on a totally separate note, I was watching TV last night and became aware of yet another new initiative where people (in this case corporate executives) were stepping up and trying to tackle the job growth problem on a national level — in this case, through a new coalition called the Job Creators Alliance.  This group, which you can read more about here, is comprised of numerous retired CEOs and states its mission as follows: “Our goal is to defend and preserve the system of free enterprise in the United States for future generations so entrepreneurship can flourish, resulting in job creation.

In the interview I watched, where top executives from companies such as Best Buy and Staples were featured, their premise was that real jobs can only be created by the private sector — and that government has made the landscape way too challenging for businesses to borrow money, expand, and compete.  They claimed that their own companies, which have created hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs over the past several decades, would never have a chance of surviving through infancy in today’s highly-regulated environment.  And in response to concerns about outsourcing and immigration, they shared some “facts” (which I certainly don’t claim to have verified) such as that roughly a quarter of U.S. companies have been founded by immigrants — at least in recent years — and that the companies who outsource the most actually are the SAME ones creating the most jobs in America, itself.

Overall, if you look into the above group, I’m sure you’ll form your own conclusions based on your own political leanings and life experience.  From my vantage point, however, the individuals involved in this coalition seemed sincere.  Right or wrong, they seemed to have America’s best interests at heart and to be acting out of patriotic duty to help find a solution to our society’s unemployment problem.  This bodes well.  I love the new voices and salute the growing groundswell of focus, attention, and fresh thinking being placed on the job-creation issue.