I entered my first year of business school interested in learning more about funders who focus on scaling impact, as well as learning more about the day-to-day operations of successful social enterprises. After meeting REDF staff at the Net Impact conference, I discovered the Farber Program—an internship that offered the opportunity to strategize how a social enterprise could build upon its strengths uncover the microeconomics for understanding labor markets; and analyze large data sets on industries for employment.
While interning at REDF this past summer I had the amazing opportunity to work with Cara, a Chicago-based non-profit that helps people striving to improve their lives with a paying job, and the support they need to make that happen. In addition to providing an intensive workforce development program, Cara runs two social enterprises that provide transitional employment to hundreds of individuals each year.
Cara had recently set out ambitious employment targets for both their alternative staffing agency, Cara Connects, and their neighborhood beautification social enterprise, Cleanslate. My first project was to identify the most promising occupations and industries in the local region that are simultaneously the best fit for Cara Connects employees. I analyzed the growth of entry-level occupations in Chicago and interviewed Connects managers to better understand what types of jobs are the best fit for the people they are employing. My recommendations are helping the staff at Connects take a more strategic approach to business development.
My second project was focused on helping Cleanslate meet its goals for number of people employed. I worked with Cleanslate’s leadership to develop ideas for new business lines. In collaboration with the leadership team, I developed a reusable set of criteria (i.e., minimum number of people employed, alignment with skills and experience of target population, etc.) that will enable Cleanslate to structure and standardize how they assess new business ideas in the future.
Throughout the summer, I was constantly amazed by the multiplier effect of REDF’s network. I had access to social enterprises across the country, experts in employment supports, and people who had been working with various social enterprise models for many years.
I’ve never worked in a job before where I was so clearly able to see the direct impact of my work. Even before I left, Cara was implementing changes to their social enterprise strategies based on my findings. Working with Cara and REDF made for one of the most challenging, yet rewarding internships I could have imagined.
Maura Welch is a dual master’s degree candidate in business administration and public policy at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She currently serves as a social impact career advisor and co-chair of the Booth Net Impact chapter. Before graduate school, she worked for Deloitte Consulting as a management consultant in the Federal Government Strategy and Operations practice. Maura is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
This is part of our Farber Blog Series.