The Triple Win: An Imperative for Businesses

October 7, 2015

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Blair Taylor, Chief Community Officer for Starbucks, and Connie M. Yowell, Chief Executive Officer for Collective Shift and Director of Education for the MacArthur Foundation at the 2015 Corporate Citizenship Conference.

Takeaways

Key to successful partnerships? The “triple win”—a win for society, for individuals, and for corporate America

Tuesday morning of the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Conference began with a call to action. Central to the entire conference was the shared belief that corporate citizenship is no longer just about charity drives or volunteer days. Corporate citizenship is most effective and most sustainable when it is an integral part of a company’s shared values and increasingly its business model. Blair Taylor, Chief Community Officer for Starbucks, and Connie M. Yowell, Chief Executive Officer for Collective Shift and Director of Education for the MacArthur Foundation, quickly took the conversation a step further, however, and called these initiatives “an imperative for businesses.”

When Taylor and Yowell began talking 18 months ago about a social issue they shared a passion around, they were looking for the “triple win”—a win for society, for individuals, and for corporate America. In today’s world, the only sustainable solutions incorporate all three. Rather than house a project in a foundation arm, they sought to anchor theirs to the very engine of corporate America: its labor pool.

Arguably the biggest issue of our time, there are currently 7 million Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor working. These “opportunity youth” have fallen through the cracks of our fragmented learning ecosystem, with no pathway visible to them out of this educational gap and into the workforce. The good news is Taylor and Yowell on Tuesday launched a solution addressing this—LRNG, which redesigns learning for the 21st century.

These opportunity youth are comparable to the veterans of 25 years ago. Due to a lack of shared language around translating their skills, there is a vast pool of untapped latent talent. Five trillion dollars in untapped potential, in fact. Already piloted for three years and now ready to scale, LRNG addresses this gap by collaborating with cities to create an alternative learning approach based on badges. These digital badges (reminiscent of both boy scout days and military rank) can be earned for even soft skills such as teamwork and can eventually unlock internship and job opportunities for these youth, creating clear and powerful pathways.

The success to these pathways lies at the intersection of cities and businesses. LRNG is a new tool, but more than that, it is connecting what already exists. Education and training are a means to an end, but it seems the educational system has lost track of that end. LRNG asks, what does corporate America actually need, and how do we prepare young people to get there? By collaborating at the intersection of cities, nonprofits, and businesses, we can make that pathway from point A to point B visible, transparent, and achievable.