Gap Inc.’s This Way Ahead

In partnership with leading youth-serving nonprofits, Gap Inc.’s This Way Ahead (TWA) program provides job readiness training and real-world work experience to youth facing economic and other challenges in New York City, San Francisco, and Boston. The program features three key phases: job readiness classes on topics such as diversity and conflict resolution; paid internships at Gap and Old Navy stores; and multiple months of follow-on support and guidance from nonprofit staff. The goal is to help youth envision new possibilities and gain the skills and confidence to pursue their own path. 

CEO Leadership

Gap Inc. Chairman and CEO Glenn Murphy chairs the Gap Foundation Board and sees the power of TWA to benefit communities, as well as Gap Inc. Not only does TWA create strong gains in Gap Inc.employees’ professional development, loyalty, and pride in working for the company, the program also informs standard operating policies, such as onboarding for first-time workers. Mr. Murphy’s leadership and continual support for Gap Inc.’s community investment strategy and programs has resulted in employee volunteerism reaching its highest levels ever. In 2012, it is estimated that more than 70,000 Gap Inc. employees volunteered 459,600 hours in the community. Mr. Murphy is a highly visible participant, leading the company’s contingent in San Francisco AIDS Walks and making his presence felt both in and out of the boardroom. Just as important, Mr. Murphy sets the tone internally and externally for how this work is viewed and discussed by underscoring that successful community investment is part of running a successful business.

Innovation

TWA uses an innovative, interactive approach to demonstrate how a company can use a broad range of its assets to make an impact: Gap Inc.’s experience hiring young people and knowing what it takes to develop them, the company’s deep partnership with nonprofits, and the ability to bring a business lens to social innovation. TWA is also set apart by its philosophy. It is explicitly designed not to be a free ride, with only half of participants becoming interns after a competitive selection process meant to mimic a real-world experience. The young people themselves are expected to “own” their path to success. Finally, TWA offers novel opportunities to replicate and Gap Inc. has shared its curriculum to inspire other programs.

Measurement & Impact

Quantitative and qualitative impact measurement was built into TWA’s design. To date, TWA has trained more than 1,300 youth and provided over 400 internship opportunities in New York, San Francisco, and Boston. The results demonstrate significant impact, with each year’s findings showing improvement over those of the prior year. The most recent evaluation reports that 76 percent of youth showed improvements in job attainment skills, 51 percent of youth showed improved confidence, and gains occurred across all six measures of personal growth: maturity, conflict resolution, leadership, financial management, willpower, and career outlook. Gap Inc. employees also benefitted, with 80 percent of volunteers in New York and 67 percent in San Francisco saying they improved leadership skills by acting as facilitators and 100 percent of volunteers saying TWA made them “extremely proud” to be Gap Inc. employees. The evaluations help Gap Inc. continually innovate and challenge itself to achieve greater impact.

Partnership

Gap Inc. has worked with The Door, a youth-serving nonprofit with workforce development expertise, since creating TWA and collaborates through planning meetings and weekly conference calls. The Door has extensive experience in helping youth face a range of challenges and has helped Gap Inc. understand the need for interactive exercises, clear and constructive feedback, and high expectations. At the same time, The Door staff strike a balance between being tough and supportive. They meet weekly with interns to discuss difficult issues such as a family member feeling threatened by an intern’s newfound ambition. Likewise, Gap Inc.’s work with San Francisco-based Enterprise for High School Students and Boston-area Cambridge Housing Authority provides insights that the company can bring to other programs. As in all great partnerships, inspiration and learning flow both ways, and together the partners accomplish more than they could on their own.

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