Ah-Ha Moments – Iesha Fraser, Director of Employment Services and Social Enterprise, Community Housing Partnership

Iesha Fraser has worked at Community Housing Partnership, and its social enterprise Solution SF, for nearly six years. Recently she became their Director of Employment Services & Social Enterprise where she works with the team to grow a business that can employ and equip an underserved population with the skills needed for a more stable future.

Iesha is passionate about their work and more determined than ever to grow Solutions SF’s impact. Read on to learn how she walked into the role and how the recent gathering of the REDF national portfolio leaders helped her pave a way forward.

Meant to Be
I remember the day of my interview at CHP like it was yesterday: I walked through a neighborhood blighted by poverty, substance addiction, and homelessness. For some, the walk could have been unnerving. For me, even though it was my first time in the neighborhood, I took in the sights and most importantly, the people. As I prepared my thoughts for my interview, seeing who I would be serving made all the difference. I knew that Community Housing Partnership was where I could make an impact and where I was meant to be. To this day, I feel the same way each day I come to work.

Deep-Seated Belief in the Potential of People
I believe in the importance of the work we do to create opportunities for individuals to get their lives back on track. We truly believe in the people we work with, many of whom would not get another chance. Most importantly, by partnering with individuals, we’re assisting them to reach their potential, and to feel whole again with a new outlook on all that life has to offer.

Ah-Ha Moments
I left the REDF Portfolio Retreat feeling excited and inspired, with the realization I had much work to do. Listening to the speakers and seeing the impact the portfolio organizations were making gave me the desire to think about other ways of helping the people we serve. What else should we be doing? How do we do it? Where do I start?  With my mind racing, and absorbing all these ideas that were coming to me, my vision for Solution SF and our future presented itself before me, creating my “ah-ha” moment.

We needed some improvement and remodeling of our client services. We’ve always been focused on building our business for economic employment opportunities for long-term growth.  The retreat inspired me to develop additional services within our program to increase our impact, and expand our offerings. By creating and implementing more strategic and intentional processes, we can decrease the high level of transition we experience and how much we have to hire to sustain our business’ needs. Because of where we are currently with our business and the opportunities and partnerships that have presented themselves to us, we are now in a better place to put more energy towards developing an enriched program, focused on next level development and additional platforms and partnerships for employment opportunities outside of the minimum wage sector.

The collaborative work during the sessions let by the innovation capacity-building firm, Smallify, helped me identify the small things we could do now (picking off some low hanging fruit) to set the stage for our new direction. Attending the session on Executive Functioning Skills helped me think intentionally about our pathway and how to redefine the expectations at each stage for greater success. I found clarity and a path to a new beginning. I came back and presented a “client-focused services with a business mind” presentation to my team. We plan to incorporate Executive Functioning Skills and SMART goals in every aspect of the department so that we not only do better in the support we provide but also improve how we continue to support clients in their professional development and progression to long-term, unsupported employment. The REDF retreat was so refreshing to me because it gave me an opportunity to visualize the direction our social enterprise is moving toward.

Growth Mindset
As I continue to learn and adjust to my new role, it is important that I am able to collaborate with other leaders in the portfolio because I enjoy learning, and I think I have knowledge and experience that can support others. Everyone in the REDF portfolio is striving to change people’s lives through the work we do. Collaboration is a key piece to ensuring we can all support each other. As I look at the work ahead of me, I am excited about change, which isn’t always easy. With support and the goal in mind to serve more people and improve how we serve them, I know our impact will be even greater.