Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World FAQs 

Here are some of the commonly asked questions we receive regarding Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World. If you don’t see your question/answer here or still need more information, please call us at (800) 424-9484, or contact us here.

What is the goal of Getting Ahead?
  • Getting Ahead is a way to analyze one’s own life and to make plans for building personal and family resources. It is an agenda-free learning experience that helps people take charge of their lives.
  • Getting Ahead is a way for people in poverty to become involved in building communities where everyone can live well.
  • Getting Ahead investigators provide vital concrete information that planners need if they are going to address poverty effectively. Getting Ahead investigators define what poverty is like locally.
  • Getting Ahead graduates provide accurate information on the barriers they encounter as they begin to transition out of poverty. Bridges steering committees (collaboratives that use Bridges concepts) can use the information to reduce barriers and to develop comprehensive approaches to ending poverty.
  • Compliance is not the goal. Don’t expect Getting Ahead graduates to become “compliant.” Getting Ahead graduates are more likely to be focused and involved people who are in motion and self-directed.
What kinds of groups have used Getting Ahead?
  • Getting Ahead has been used by neighborhoods, nonprofits, colleges, and faith-based and governmental organizations that serve people in poverty. Examples include courts, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, housing programs, mental health clinics, prisons, colleges, technical schools, literacy programs, hospitals and other healthcare employers, high schools, public health departments, and Circles initiatives.
  • Some Getting Ahead groups are open to anyone in the community, and organizations usually accept referrals from more than one organization. For example, in Columbiana County, Ohio, the judge, social workers, schools, pastors, and governmental agencies invited people to attend the Getting Ahead group. Other Getting Ahead groups are for people at a single organization, a domestic violence shelter or housing program, for example. Some communities, like South Bend, Indiana, have a collaborative approach where one organization takes responsibility for coordinating the effort and partners with agencies across the community.
How were the groups introduced to Getting Ahead?
  • The organizations that offer Getting Ahead typically learn about it during Bridges workshops. Bridges trainers who teach the core Bridges constructs/ideas help the audience see what they can do next, like offering Getting Ahead to people in poverty, or changing the design of their programs, or coming together as a community to address poverty in a comprehensive way.
  • Some people learn about Getting Ahead by word of mouth or through our websites, but it’s important that people who are considering offering a Getting Ahead program attend a full-day Bridges workshop. It’s important that providers of Getting Ahead understand the core constructs of Bridges.
Who starts Getting Ahead? Is it a community-based Bridges initiative or an individual organization’s decision?
  • It happens both ways. In Boulder, Colorado, a community plan was formed to introduce Bridges and Getting Ahead. In fact, from the outset, the plan included a Bridges Trainer Certification and a Getting Ahead Facilitator Training.
  • In Schenectady, New York, City Mission offered Getting Ahead to people involved in their programs. From there Getting Ahead and the Bridges initiative spread to the drug court, and before long the hospital was using Bridges concepts too. A Bridges steering committee is now driving the changes in the community.
How long does it take an organization to become committed to Getting Ahead?
  • Not long at all. This can happen in 4–12 months if the CEO wants to offer Getting Ahead right away. The steps would be to train staff in Bridges, train facilitators in Getting Ahead, recruit Getting Ahead investigators, and begin the 20-session workshop.
  • But running Getting Ahead is actually the easy part. The hard part is preparing the community to support Getting Ahead graduates as they begin building their resources.
How long does it take a community to become committed to Getting Ahead?
  • Your community at large will become committed to Getting Ahead graduates as soon as they meet them. The only question is: How early in the process will your community become intentional about helping people get out of poverty? Without that, you can have lots of Getting Ahead graduates with no place to go. It’s the long-term support that is needed. There are a number of ways that support is provided. To learn more, read “Support for Getting Ahead Graduates” on pages 33–43 in Facilitator Notes for Getting Ahead.
  • The steps would be to train lots of people and many organizations in Bridges, formalize the intention to provide Getting Ahead and to support the graduates, ideally start a Bridges steering committee, start Getting Ahead at a minimum of one site, and monitor and support the initiative.
  • Getting Ahead can become part of the community response to ending poverty if the community puts in place the needed supports for the Getting Ahead graduates. Otherwise it remains an education program and implies that it is up to the individual alone to find his or her way out of poverty.
In which direction do Getting Ahead graduates typically go, and what kinds of support do they need?
  • Some Getting Ahead graduates will focus on stabilizing their worlds. For this they will need support from the typical governmental, nongovernmental, and faith-based organizations for housing, transportation, childcare, and safety.
  • Some Getting Ahead graduates will focus on building particular resources, like physical (health issues and recovery from addictions, for example), emotional (dealing with domestic violence, family crises, and building emotional management skills), financial (dealing with savings, IDAs, housing, creditors, and predators), and spiritual. For this they will need support from typical governmental, nongovernmental, and faith-based organizations.
  • Some Getting Ahead graduates will focus on mental resources. An education that leads to a good paying job is a way out of poverty. Getting Ahead graduates will need support to get GEDs, certifications, and college degrees. Community colleges, apprentice programs, unions, and workforce development sites can be important partners. Those institutions will need to be engaged by the Bridges steering committee.
  • Some Getting Ahead graduates will focus on getting and keeping jobs. A good-paying job is a way out of poverty. The community can do a lot to support entry-level graduates in their first year of work by using the proven methods of Cascade Engineering, Cincinnati Works, The Source, and Working Bridges. It can also support Getting Ahead graduates as they move to self-sufficient wages by engaging local businesses and civic leaders. The core idea here is to create an employee assistance program that supports low-wage workers as they transition to good-paying jobs.
  • Some Getting Ahead graduates will focus on starting a business. Owning your own business is a way out of poverty. Communities have helped Getting Ahead graduates establish an employee-owned cleaning business and a nonprofit taxi service.
  • Some Getting Ahead graduates will focus on bridging social capital. Having lots of bridging social capital is a way out of poverty. While going through Getting Ahead, investigators will be doing activities that help them identify and contact people in the community whom they want on their support team.
  • Some Getting Ahead graduates will focus on removing community and systemic barriers. Bridges steering committees and guiding coalitions must make it their work to knock down the barriers that people in poverty encounter. By listening to Getting Ahead graduates who are in transition out of poverty, they will learn what those barriers are. In one city, Getting Ahead graduates worked with the transportation department to extend bus routes and keep the buses open longer into the evening.
  • The best approach is for your community to develop a multi-pronged and collaborative approach.
Are financing issues the biggest obstacles to providing Getting Ahead?
  • The biggest obstacle is not money; it’s the will to do Getting Ahead. When people (administrators of organizations in particular) decide that they really want to do Getting Ahead, they find the money. This is made easier by these Getting Ahead Web pages, where you can read program descriptions, outcome studies, sample budgets, and other documents to assist when writing grants. It is also easier to raise money when Getting Ahead is being done in several organizations in the community. Then fundraising can be done collectively as part of a wider community initiative.
How do people become Getting Ahead facilitators?
  • Potential facilitators need to start by reading Facilitator Notes for Getting Ahead. In addition, some view the eight-session webinar presented by experienced facilitators and Getting Ahead graduates. The recommended preparation for conducting Getting Ahead is to attend an on-site or online training by author Philip DeVol. Click here to learn more.
What is the role of the co-facilitator?
  • Co-facilitators (who are usually Getting Ahead graduates) can help run the Getting Ahead group, model what it means to be an investigator, help with logistical matters, and provide feedback to the facilitator. There are many Getting Ahead facilitators who started as Getting Ahead investigators and worked their way to the role of facilitator by first serving as co-facilitators.
What should not be done?
  • We’ve been doing Getting Ahead since 2004, and we are now in hundreds of communities in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. We’ve learned a lot in that time about what works and what doesn’t. A model fidelity checklist can be found in the appendix of Facilitator Notes for Getting Ahead. There are also five tables about the unique features of Getting Ahead that help guide facilitators and sponsors.
  • Sometimes it’s better to describe what should not be done. Here are some important things to avoid:
    • Do not do some parts of Getting Ahead and skip others. It is carefully sequenced and depends on discussion and reinforcement.
    • Do not do the modules out of sequence.
    • Do not cut down the number of sessions.
    • Do not reduce stipends to poverty-wage levels.
    • Do not pay investigators more than the facilitator is paid or would be paid (if the facilitator is volunteering his/her time).
    • Do not use the Self-Assessment of Resources outside the context of Getting Ahead.
    • Do not split up the work of facilitating Getting Ahead. This work is based on relationships of mutual respect. If there are two facilitators, they both need to be there for every session.
    • Do not teach. Getting Ahead is not about pouring information into someone’s head; it’s about adults dealing critically and creatively with the reality of poverty in their lives and in the community and discovering how to participate in transforming their world.
    • Do not set up the tables and chairs like a classroom.
How can we learn from others who are doing Getting Ahead?
  • The Getting Ahead community of practice is developing a body of knowledge that will help all sites to work better. To become a member of our learning community, keep an eye on this webpage or email ljackson@ahaprocess.com.
  • Join teleconferences when they are offered, develop personal relationships with people at other sites, and contribute to the growing body of knowledge by contributing documents, stories, pictures, video clips, and ideas to the website. You can do that by contacting Philip DeVol at pdevol@ahaprocess.com.