As a Farber Intern, I worked with REDF and Conservation Corps North Bay (CCNB), a member of REDF’s national portfolio of social enterprises. CCNB employs and trains disconnected youth in natural resource work and also runs a school that helps crew members obtain high school diplomas.
While working at CCNB, I conducted a programmatic and financial feasibility analysis of a potential business line and updated marketing plans for current business lines. I also developed an organizational assessment tool for trauma-informed brain and behavioral science interventions for REDF. This was a special opportunity that allowed me to extend my medical knowledge and prior violence prevention work into the field of workforce development.
Although I learned countless lessons this summer, the following reflections stand out.
Metric-driven decision-making has surged into the non-profit world and is here to stay. Today we expect directors of Social Enterprises to have quantifiable data at their fingertips regarding the financial, programmatic, and operational health of the enterprise.
Before we order up the equivalent of a chest x-ray for a mission-driven organization, we have to ask, “How will those metrics be used?” I came to understand that the marketing key progress indicators I created for CCNB had inadvertently become a long list of dis-incentivizing tasks.
Most organizations keep track of how many clients exit their program. REDF encourages organizations to be even more refined by also defining and tracking the number of positive and negative exits. CCNB, which enthusiastically and diligently does this, now has a more accurate way of evaluating its outcomes. Thanks to the metrics they choose to track, they now have a clearer basis for making programmatic adjustments.
Job ready means job ready
REDF and its portfolio of social enterprises create transitional employment opportunities to help people with barriers to employment become job ready. The barriers are deep, complex, and often traumatic. Becoming job ready is an incredible and life-changing accomplishment.
Unfortunately, potential employers often fail to appreciate the effort that goes into becoming job ready, and despite that hard work continue to view those with barriers as high-risk candidates. My plea to all of us is to shed this ill-informed perspective. Employee support is a universal need that is as prevalent in highly-skilled professions (think physician burn out) as it is in entry-level jobs, regardless if the person is “barrier-free” (and who among us is really?). In this light, I encourage traditional businesses to take a page from social enterprises, which intentionally design schedules, workflows, and the overall cultural environment to properly assess and meet employee needs. In CCNB’s case, attention to supports has resulted in their youth becoming sought-after job candidates, where they are hired by private companies and state agencies and go on to become star employees.
Michael Fu is an MD/MBA student at the Stanford School of Medicine and Stanford Graduate School of Business. He recently led efforts in youth development and violence prevention, working with Cure Violence to launch a podcast series to educate medical professionals on community violence. Prior to Stanford, Michael served as a Teach For America Chicago Corps member and taught 7th grade math. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BS in Bioengineering.
This is part of our Farber Blog Series.