Learning from Others

Goodwill in central Indiana is part of a network of 170 locally-based Goodwill Industries organizations around the world.  There is a lot of information-sharing among Goodwills.  We learn a lot from many of our colleagues, and they learn from us.  Each year we host a lot of visitors from around the country who are interested in knowing more about some of our operations and services in central Indiana.  Invariably, they reciprocate when we want to learn more about certain aspects of what they are doing.  It’s a powerful network.

On occasion, the knowledge-sharing crosses borders.  Nine years ago, we agreed to help train persons who were working to establish Goodwill Industries in South Korea.  Since then, we have conducted training in various aspects of our work – mostly in retail operations – for a total of 35 Koreans who have come to Indianapolis for periods ranging from a few days to a few weeks.  The Korean Goodwill leaders have persevered through numerous startup difficulties, adapted U.S. Goodwill methods to their culture and economy, and are now growing at an increasingly rapid rate.

I recently had an opportunity to accompany Goodwill Industries International (GII) CEO Jim Gibbons and three other members of the GII team to Korea to see the work being done there and meet with leaders of Goodwill Industries of Korea as they enter into a new, stronger membership relationship with GII. I was impressed with the substantial progress they have made, the high caliber, talent, and dedication of their leaders, and their ambitious plans for the future.  It was gratifying to see firsthand some of the influence of our Indiana operations nearly halfway around the world, and it was particularly heartwarming to see the vocational opportunities the Korean Goodwills are providing for people with severe disabilities – people who in Korean society have few employment options.

Goodwill in Korea uses the slogan “Not charity, but a chance.” It’s the same slogan Goodwill has used to varying degrees since its early days over 100 years ago, and the oldest and still an immensely significant part of the mission is the same – namely, to provide employment opportunities for people who, because of some significant barrier, have limited options to work.  That was the reason Goodwill was founded in Boston at the beginning of the 20th century, established in Indianapolis during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and launched in Korea during the early years of the 21st century.

As the pace of change in our world continues to increase, it’s worth noting that some things remain constant – among them, the need for people to have the opportunity to develop their talents and be productive, contributing citizens.  Such opportunities are often appreciated most by those who have had them the least – whether they live in Indiana, other parts of the United States, or other parts of the world.  That, too, is a lesson worth remembering.