Ford employees from Canada, Mexico and the United States take new perspectives back to their jobs after completing Ford's philanthropic leadership program
DEARBORN, Mich. — Over the past eight months, fellows participating in the 2019 class of Thirty Under 30 immersed themselves into some of the community and neighborhood development challenges facing seven nonprofit organizations in southeast Michigan, Canada and Mexico. The program concluded recently at Ford World Headquarters with the group presenting the solutions they came up with to help.
"I love this program," said Executive Chairman Bill Ford. "When we started it, we thought we'd be teaching you guys and guess what? It's come the other way. And that to me is the best part about this – the learning that you bring from your engagement back to the company."
Ford championed the Thirty Under 30 program, which is designed to empower employees under the age of 30 to work with philanthropic organizations and serve their communities. The employees take time away from their jobs to not only learn what it takes to run a charity but also how to develop strategies to help nonprofits connect with younger generations who represent future donors and volunteers.
This year's class of Thirty Under 30 included 35 fellows representing 15 different skill teams. Five people were added to the 30 this year as part of a pilot program in Mexico. The group's charge was to help develop innovative solutions for a variety of issues, such as blighted property, security and community education.
Teams of five people each were assigned to seven nonprofit groups. Below is a list of the nonprofits, the issues discovered by the Thirty Under 30 teams and the solutions they proposed:
- Central Detroit Christian Community Development
The team saw a gap in community education programs for middle school-aged students. Their solution is to develop after-school and summer programming including courses in math and science and offer the teens a safe space to gather learn and grow together.
- Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation
After observing a lack of age diversity in volunteers for this organization, the team’s solution is to develop a new leadership board dedicated to young professionals. The new board will bring a diverse age group to the table that can lend a different perspective on program development and committee succession planning.
- Habitat for Humanity-Huron Valley
The people in this neighborhood don’t have a place large enough to hold community gatherings. The team’s solution is to establish a new community center that offers free or low-cost programming and provides a collaborative, inclusive space that encourages working together to foster a safer neighborhood.
This organization supports Regent Park, a neighborhood known historically for its high crime rate. To help residents feel safer and more secure, the team proposes introducing new technology that includes improved street lighting and video doorbells.
- The Neighbourhood Organization (Canada)
Seventy percent of the population in the Thornscliffe neighbourhood are newcomers and refugees. To engage residents, promote inclusiveness and help people create a sense of belonging, the team proposes creating a mentorship program that provides a network of support.
- Urban Neighborhood Initiatives
This neighborhood is characterized by blighted properties. To help reduce crime, increase property values and build a sense of ownership within the community, the team suggests creating a database that will allow landowners to identify, restore and maintain neglected properties in the neighborhood.
- TECHO (Mexico)
This organization doesn’t have a problem attracting volunteers, however, the team saw a need for the group to make better use of the people they have onboard, so they created an online tool that will help develop volunteers and match their unique talents for skill-based projects. The network is a way for the nonprofit to optimize time, resources and energy to create more meaningful change in the communities served.
Erin Rose Briggs, who works in Product Development, said the Thirty Under 30 program provided her with a unique opportunity to meet like-minded people and see the world in a different way.
"As a mechanical engineer you get stuck in the nitty gritty, super mechanical, minute details of your job – working on a component like a latch, handle or hood," said Briggs who worked with nonprofit CDC. "Thirty Under 30 really inspired and energized me to see the bigger picture through design thinking, which teaches you to take a step back, get to know who your customers or stakeholders are, empathize with them and then start attacking a problem."
Mujadded Qureshi, who works in product development, said the concept of design thinking was just a buzzword for him prior to participating in the program.
"I never really knew what it was," said Qureshi, who worked with Urban Neighborhood Initiatives. "Using the empathy methods that we learned, talking to the citizens and figuring out what the actual issues and needs they have are, we came to realize that this is something that could really help transform the neighborhood."
Ashmita Randhawa, who works in Marketing, Sales & Service, was part of the Canadian team working with The Neighbourhood Organization. She said participating in Thirty Under 30 was a personal growth experience.
"It's really helped me be more confident in how I want to approach and tackle a situation," she said. "One of the big ‘aha' moments for me was, in life you're always incentivized for having the answer, and the truth is that we often don't have the answer. So to be patient with yourself and sometimes say I don't know because it's only when you say I don't know that you find out."
This year's class was the first to include a team from Mexico. Itzel Garrido Ambriz who works in Marketing at Ford Credit in Mexico City, was a member of the team supporting TECHO.
"It was an amazing experience. We have never done anything like this in Mexico," she said. "Using design thinking and working with the community was great. We all learned a lot from the program and I hope they will take it to Mexico permanently because it was really rewarding."
All of the Thirty Under 30 fellows said their work doesn't end here. They all share a passion to continue their projects into the future.
"We're so invested," said Elyssa Kopke, who works at the Chicago Assembly Plant. Her team supported Habitat for Humanity-Huron Valley. "We can't just walk away."