Social Capitalists: Springboard Forward

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
2007 Social Capitalist Winner

Springboard Forward

Belmont, CA
Year founded: 2002
President: Elliott Brown
www.springboardforward.org

Fast Company has recognized Springboard Forward for the second time in three years for its innovative, business-based approach to alleviating poverty in America. Springboard provides career development services through existing community-based agencies and businesses that lead to a lifetime of Engaged Employment™.

Sixty-three percent of families living below the federal poverty line have one or more working members, according to BusinessWeek. This number reflects the changing face of poverty in America: employment alone is no longer enough to lift the working poor and their families out of poverty.

The working poor often feel stuck in "dead-end jobs" and entry-level positions, without the know-how or vision to explore opportunities for career advancement. "The result is profoundly demoralizing for millions of our nation's hard-working citizens," says Elliott Brown, Springboard's founder and president.

The plight of America's working poor is not only a social issue, but also an economic problem impacting business. Seventy-one percent of American workers report feeling disengaged from their jobs, costing the US economy up to $350 billion annually, according to the American Society for Quality. A disengaged workforce is associated with poor customer service and skyrocketing turnover rates, forcing businesses to spend more time and money on recruiting and human resources.

For Springboard, the message is clear: Engaged Employment™ is the missing link. When people find engaging work and see their jobs as pathways to achieving their career aspirations, they build skills and advance in their careers more quickly. Engaged Employment™ leads to better long-term careers for people and better workers for our nation's businesses. Increased employee engagement has consistently been linked to lower employee turnover, increased sales and customer satisfaction.

By partnering with businesses, Springboard empowers entry-level employees to develop career plans while improving their performance on their current jobs. Through career development methodologies, including one-on-one executive coaches, Springboard provides workers with the career skills necessary for achieving sustainable and engaged employment. Springboard's model aims to transform an employee's current job into a "springboard" for achieving future personal and career goals, while also increasing business profitability.

Springboard recently launched a $1.4-million, three-year Retail Demonstration Project to demonstrate the business value of investing in the career development of entry-level wage earners. To undertake this initiative, Springboard partnered with Kenexa, a publicly traded company that offers software solutions for measuring employee engagement. Kenexa provides Springboard with the expertise, data analysis and credibility to market its business-based services nationwide.

Springboard is in the initial fundraising phase of this initiative, having already secured $400,000 from the C.S. Mott Foundation and the Jensen Group. Springboard is seeking another $1 million in funding to build the business case for a model that could impact hundreds of thousands of workers across the country. Because the model is designed to generate long-term earned income and therefore be self-sustaining, Springboard sees this project as a highly leveraged investment for its funders.

Springboard is well-positioned to establish a new framework for investing in the working poor that can be funded, supported and implemented by the nation's businesses. For more information about Springboard Forward or to invest in the proof-of-concept phase of the Retail Demonstration Project, visit our web site.

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