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The face of poverty in the United States has changed but strategies to solve the problem have remained the same in the past four decades. For years, Americans have associated poverty with unemployment. Yet, according to Business Week (May 31, 2004), 63 percent of families living below the federal poverty line are working families. Springboard Forward has begun to change the face of poverty in a fundamental way. Armed with the unique perspective that involvement from industry is vital to systemic change in the opportunities and outlook of our nation’s working poor, Springboard Forward is a new breed of nonprofit that has worked with low-wage workers in many business settings with remarkable results, pointing to a direct link between improved employee engagement and profitability.


Springboard Forward believes that Engaged Employment™ leads to better long-term careers for people AND to better workers for our nation’s businesses. Springboard’s mission is to provide career development services through existing community-based agencies and businesses that lead to a lifetime of Engaged Employment™.


In 2002 Elliott Brown established Springboard Forward to help entry-level workers pursue a new path toward fulfilling their potential.

Springboard Forward was featured in 2005 and 2007 in Fast Company Magazine as one of the top 25 organizations tackling social problems with sustainable, entrepreneurial solutions. In 2005 Brown was elected to the prestigious group of Ashoka Fellows, recognized as social entrepreneurs with innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society.


The programs developed by Springboard Forward are based on the premise that a strong sense of empowerment is essential to permanently escape from poverty and that achieving one’s dreams must begin with doing one’s current job well.

Springboard Forward advances a fundamentally different business-based approach to the problems facing the working poor—one that demonstrates to business that it is profitable to invest in the career development of their low-wage workforce.

Springboard Forward partners with businesses to deliver career development services to low-wage employees onsite at business locations. This model includes a career mapping program and on-the-job coaching, similar to executive coaching that is normally reserved for upper-level executives. Springboard Forward provides Manager Effectiveness Training, giving managers the training they need to effectively support the career development of their entry-level workforce.

Workshops provided through partnerships with existing workforce development agencies and community-based organizations include access to Springboard Forward's all-volunteer professional network. Trainings in this arena include a series on networking, with special emphasis on informational interviews as a vehicle for learning about a profession or industry, networking, and sparking the desire to strive for more.


Traditional job training approaches teach vocational skills and not the career mobility skills needed to cultivate a meaningful career. Typically, once graduates obtain entry-level jobs in a new field, they still lack the ability to move beyond this entry-level position. A demoralized and impoverished workforce is a social and an economic problem felt by the businesses employing these workers. Nationally, 71% of the entry-level workforce reports feeling disengaged from their jobs, costing up to $350 billion a year. (American Society for Quality, “The high cost of the wrong corporate culture.” Jan 2004)

Without hope for a better future, low-wage workers have little incentive to perform well in their workplace. Employers see poor customer service and skyrocketing turnover rates and businesses are spend more time and money on recruiting and human resources even as they are perplexed that these efforts bring little result.

The message is clear: Engaged Employment™ is the missing link.

Springboard Forward has worked with low-wage workers in many and diverse settings, including:
Retail employees at Home Depot—where participants in Springboard Forward’s program demonstrated a 48% increase in employee retention;
Customer service workers at a major wireless retailer;
Cafeteria workers at Stanford University and Bon Appetit (corporate cafeteria services for companies such as Google, Cisco, and Yahoo)—where 94% of participants completed the program with an Individual Development Plan for advancement;
Seasonal workers in the City of Palo Alto.

Springboard Forward believes that Engaged Employment™ leads to better long-term careers for people AND to better workers for our nation’s businesses.


Springboard Forward is working to scale its highly successful model beyond the Bay Area while continuing to deliver state-of-the-art career training to entry-level workers. We are building an all-volunteer professional network to enhance the impact of our programs and provide a platform for fostering career discovery beyond the classroom or coaching session. In addition, Springboard Forward continues to develop its Workplace Services model and engage in a sweeping Retail Demonstration Project to impact the industry that employs the largest population of entry-level workers in the nation. Springboard Forward has also partnered with Kenexa, a company that offers software solutions for promoting and measuring employee engagement, to deliver the expertise, data analysis, and credibility to quantify the value of our programs.


Elliott Brown was raised in Ithaca, New York and attended Stanford University. While always involved in the community, especially with youth, he began his professional career in corporate affairs at Sun Microsystems.

Brown left the corporate environment to design and direct youth employment programs in East Palo Alto. He later traveled to Guatemala, where he helped educational programs develop fund raising strategies. When he returned, he started a consulting practice aimed at providing the “administrative backbone” for community-based organizations so their leaders, often not strong administrators, could get out from behind their desks and get back to leading their communities.

Brown envisioned a better way to help people enter the workforce and move beyond entry-level jobs. In 1997 he founded Springboard as a for-profit staffing agency. Unlike its competitors, Springboard placed disadvantaged clients referred by community-based organizations. In 2002 Elliott established Springboard Forward as a nonprofit to help entry-level workers find a path to career discovery and fulfillment of their own potential. Springboard Forward was featured in Fast Company’s January 2005 issue as one of the top 25 organizations tackling social problems with sustainable, entrepreneurial solutions.


Board of Directors
Ben Kiker, Chair, Interwoven, Inc.
Kristine Boyden, A&R Edelman
Elliott Brown, Springboard Forward
James R. Bush (Randy), Deloitte Consulting LLP
Eric Lane, Intuit Corporation
Angel Mendez, Cisco Systems

Advisory Board
Albert Bandura, Stanford University
Deborah Barber, Jackson Hole Group
Eric Benhamou, PalmOne, 3Com, Cypress
John Bowmer, Adecco
Betsy Collard, Director, Stanford University
Chip Conley, Joie de Vivre Hospitality
Mark Conroe, Conroe Ventures
Ron Conway, Silicon Valley Angels
LaDoris Cordell, Stanford University
Bob Friedman, Corporation for Enterprise Development
Jean Hollands, Growth & Leadership Center
Martha Kanter, Foothill/DeAnza District
Rudy Karsan, Kenexa
Don Kennedy, Stanford University
Ted Lempert, Children Now
Gwen McDonald, Network Alliance
Manuel Pastor, Center For Justice, Tolerance & Community, UC, Santa Cruz
Rosa Perez, San Jose/Evergreen Community College District
Steve Poizner, California Insurance Commissioner
Robert Reich, Former US Secretary of Labor
Karen Rudolph, Rudolph & Sletten
Bob Saldich, Raychem
Regina Stanback-Stroud, Skyline College


United States




1301 Shoreway Road, Suite 160
Belmont, CA 94002
Phone: (650) 631-9600
EIN: 91-2165886

A Gift Card

Map A Career

Program for 20 workers

Your gift will provide a career development for up to 20 clients to help them "map" their future. Springboard's career mapping program uses a variety of creative learning modalities to guide our clients through exercises that help them discover and articulate their skills, experience, interests, values and strengths. They then create an individual plan that maps toward these newly identified personal and career goals. The...


Develop A Career

Worker support

Springboard uses professional-level career development methodologies, that include providing entry-level wage earners their own personal executive coaches, to help people pursue a lifetime of engaged and sustainable employment. By sponsoring one Springboard client today, you can offer a person the clarity, confidence and connections they need to become engaged in their work and with the ability to make choices about where they want to be...


Support Workers

Program evaluation

Springboard’s approach focuses on expanding individuals’ view of what’s possible—changing their mindsets about, and increasing, the choices they have in their lives and careers. At Springboard, we believe that a strong sense of hope and choice is essential to permanently escape from poverty. Today, Springboard is launching a large-scale initiative to statistically establish the link between our career development programs and business profitability. This national...