The Physics of Hope: Changing the Trajectory of Lives

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What ingredients go in to building a successful model for helping people in need? Jim Gibbons, CEO and President of Goodwill Industries International, Inc., discusses making lasting impacts in underserved communities with Food Network celebrity Melissa d’Arabian on this Add Passion and Stir. Goodwill Industries helps people reach their full potential through education, skills training, and leveraging business to have a sustained impact. “The power of goodwill isn’t the stores, it’s the stories of the people…It’s about dignity and the power of work,” explains Gibbons. For d’Arabian, poverty is personal. “I know what it is to be in a classroom hungry, and I know what it is to be in a classroom not hungry. I choose not hungry.” Her background echoes the Goodwill model. As a nine-year-old, she was getting free school lunches on an IOU system knowing she would never be able to repay her debt, when one day a secretary proposed that she help serve the school lunches in order to get hers for free. “That little gesture… really changed the trajectory of my entire life. I felt a sense of efficacy and belonging and pride. I went in there and put that hair net on every day with a sense of joy in my heart,” she says. Gibbons notes that her story speaks to hope. “When there’s a certainty that you’ll be nourished, you can then build on that hope… Absent that, all of the other stuff is really tough to overcome.”

As the first blind graduate of Harvard Business School, Gibbons has tackled his own challenges. “I hope that through my work and who I am that it offers a level of hope that no matter what your disability or barrier to opportunity is, you can overcome that. It takes a little bit of tenacity and… stick-to-itiveness.” Goodwill is a networked association of autonomous organizations and the model relies on each one having the authority and flexibility to meet the needs of their own communities. “What are the needs? What are other organizations in the community doing? How do you close the gap? What are the opportunities? … We’ve got to meet the individuals where they are so that the Goodwill programming can be made meaningful to them in terms of their life goals,” he says. Drawing from her own experience, d’Arabian notes, “That’s something we forget…people want to work, they want to belong.”

Share in this heart-felt and personal conversation about hope and helping people help themselves.

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