This past summer I had the awesome experience of working at REDF as a Farber intern. As an MBA student, I am a typical type A, results-driven person. I am also very passionate about solving societal issues that impact low-income communities such as chronic unemployment and financial literacy. I struggle to satisfy both of these two identities as it relates to my career. I applied to REDF hoping this would be the perfect internship to apply my business acumen and work with organizations that are solving the societal challenges that are important to me.
I was thrilled to have my hopes fulfilled at REDF.
This summer I supported New Moms, a non-profit that helps young mothers from Chicago’s impoverished West side who are homeless create more stable lives for themselves and their children. The mom’s work making beautiful, soy-based candles in Bright Endeavors, New Mom’s social enterprise. While working at the social enterprise and earning an income, they also receive comprehensive supportive services that help them succeed.
I also had the pleasure of working Conservation Corps North Bay (CCNB), a nonprofit dedicated to developing youth and conserving natural resources for a strong, sustainable community.
For both organizations I was able to create financial models, conduct market analysis and even make pricing recommendations based on my analysis. These jobs satisfied both parts of me—the MBA graduate student with a toolkit full of analytical skills, and the social do-gooder, who wants to use my expertise to make a difference. And I knew the work I did for New Mom’s and CCNB wasn’t going to just sit on a shelf. It was going to be used to make real decisions and help the social enterprises do their work even better, and serve more people. My internship was everything I hoped for.
During one of our last internship events, we had the opportunity to meet Tyrone Mullins, a co-founder of Green Streets a social enterprise and one of REDF’s strategic grantees that was born in a San Francisco housing project. Green Streets offers environmental services for businesses, homes, market rate and affordable housing properties. Tyrone spoke very candidly about the grit it takes to run a social enterprise such as Green Streets. Changing lives and communities takes real dedication. I could see the exhaustion on his face, and yet, his entire demeanor changed when he discussed the support he received from REDF. “The people who work for us do it because they are hopeful they can change their situations, yet it’s about more than just hoping, anyone can hope. With Green Streets, we are trying to give them a way out, back up that hope. That’s one of the reasons I really like working with REDF, whatever anyone says here, they back it up.”
I learned a tremendous amount this summer about venture philanthropy and employment focused social enterprises, yet the most powerful lesson I will take away is the importance of backing up hope. As a society, we are always hoping for positive changes to occur and spend a great deal of time discussing how or when these changes might occur. Well, backing up hope is what REDF does, day in and day out with the assistance they provide to social enterprises and through the advocacy and educational work they are involved in. It’s what I plan to do moving forward in my career.