Helping Those Who Want to Help Others

The Ford Thirty Under 30 leadership course taps employees who want to be involved in their communities.

The Ford Thirty Under 30 program is an innovative corporate leadership course that empowers young employees to work with and learn about philanthropic organizations. The program, a yearlong course run by the Ford Motor Company Fund, was announced last year by Executive Chairman Bill Ford. The program represents our ongoing initiative to develop young employee leaders who also serve their communities.

Thirty Under 30 fellows are made up of 30 diverse U.S. employees, under the age of 30, selected from more than 300 competitive applications across the country. They take time away from their jobs as Ford engineers, financial, marketing and IT professionals 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 a future donor and volunteer base.

Over the year of the course, fellows will learn civic engagement and leadership skills with a focus on philanthropy and volunteerism. They’ll be paired with employees of nonprofits, giving both Ford and participating charitable organizations the opportunity to learn from one another.

When students experience first-hand how subject matter is relevant to them and the world in which they live, the learning process becomes more compelling. As part of their curriculum, the Thirty Under 30 fellows are introduced to the concept of “design thinking” through the Henry Ford Learning Institute (HFLI). This unique problem-solving approach provides a structured process for addressing challenges in all aspects of life by encouraging empathy while building skills to think creatively, work collaboratively and implement innovation. Design thinking teaches fellows to embrace experimentation and the ups and downs typical to the creative process.

HFLI actually developed the first K-12 curriculum in the U.S. that pairs work in core subjects with design thinking. But design thinking can be used in communities and workplaces by people of any age. Through their HFLI-led learning experiences, employees at Ford Motor Company, Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, Design West Michigan, Gleaners Community Food Bank, Usher’s New Look, University of Michigan-Dearborn and at other organizations have developed new skills and mind-sets as well as emergent applications of this powerful process to persistent challenges.

By connecting younger employees with nonprofits, the Ford Thirty Under 30 leadership course taps into a growing interest among younger employees to be involved in their communities in ways beyond sending money to charitable organizations. The course offers them an innovative opportunity to explore their growing interest in civic engagement and volunteering, and helps us establish future generations of community-minded workers.

“We only are as good as the people in our organization and in our community. Millennials are the future. To spearhead change, we must help younger generations thrive, which includes cultivating their growing comprehension that it is not about what you get for yourself, but what you do for other people.”