The words of Grammy and Peabody Award-winning poet and artist J. Ivy, resounded off the walls of The Warfield Theatre in San Francisco. With passion and purpose, he told the sold-out crowd attending REDF’s annual celebration, “Dreams don’t come true. They are true. So dream big.” The crowd responded in kind, with rapt attention and enthusiastic applause.
I stood in the wings, waiting to go on stage with Anthony Jackson, an honoree of the evening. I thought about the inner strength of women and men like Anthony, who, after facing challenges that might seem insurmountable, strive to achieve the things that so many of us take for granted—the security of a job and a place to live, and the promise of a better future.
The event capped a turning point year for REDF. After 20 years operating only in California, REDF expanded nationally. And after a year when our hard-working staff put the pedal to the metal, it felt good to take a moment to celebrate!
As the year ends, I’d like to share some of the results achieved side by side with our extraordinary partners. The results are not only REDF’s, but yours.
Your generous contributions have been essential, making this year’s campaign the most successful yet. While the year is not quite over, we want to pause and thank you, our donors, for your incredible generosity!
REDF could not have done it without our social enterprise partners, the businesses stepping up to hire and buy from them, the people in government busting out of tradition to invest in social enterprise, and the human services agencies delivering support.
60+ Social Enterprises in 20 States
Along with hundreds of REDF supporters, celebrating alongside us at The Warfield were many leaders of the 20+ outstanding social enterprises in REDF’s new national portfolio. REDF is funding and advising another 16 social enterprises around the country and just launched the inaugural cohort of our SE4Jobs Accelerator, a specialized boot camp-style, 7-month long learning program we are leading with Points of Light Civic Accelerator for 18 outstanding leaders of early-stage social enterprises—developing the pipeline.
This nationwide group of social enterprise businesses are dedicated to helping more people clear away barriers to work caused by homelessness, incarceration, trauma, addiction, and mental health challenges, while becoming more sustainable, providing more jobs, and developing the most effective programming so that those employed are able to keep jobs, and advance.
We have profiled many of these social enterprises in our MADE series and in other short videos–from The Empowerment Plan to the Center for Employment Opportunities, which are posted on REDF’s information-packed, growing national platform REDFworkshop.org.
Accelerating Toward Impact at Scale
REDF has also kicked into high gear the multi-sector partnerships that will accelerate change with the urgency demanded, while starting to work on a multi-site gold-standard evaluation that will help us understand the impact and social return on investment.
As an example, the Los Angeles Regional Initiative for Social Enterprise (LA:RISE) is an initiative of the City of Los Angeles’ workforce program. The City engaged REDF to coordinate a tightly choreographed partnership between social enterprises and service agencies providing transitional jobs and support, and businesses offering long-term employment. The solid start has led the City of Los Angeles to propose another $2 million to expand it, with adjacent jurisdictions eager to replicate.
The San Francisco Foundation, with its’ new focus on equity, is backing REDF’s planning of a similar initiative in the Bay Area; and REDF is exploring the possibilities in Seattle, Denver, and Chicago as well and other places with the growing interest of Mayors, businesses, and funders.
Supporting Second Chances.
To cap the year off, REDF is co-hosting a Second Chance Summit in San Francisco with Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation, a phenomenally successful Portland-based business that makes organic, delicious bread while intentionally employing many who have been incarcerated.
On the topic of incarceration, it is worth watching the powerful documentary 13th, that makes a clear case for all of us to do what we can to help people reintegrate into society, documenting the racial injustice and short-sighted, bipartisan policy decisions that resulted in millions incarcerated today and rates of recidivism so high that once you’ve served your time, discharge is more like a revolving door than an exit–with huge costs to individuals, families and taxpayers.
Much unfinished business remains. Our Chairman and founder George R. Robert has made a clarion call for us to take action as a moral obligation and many allies are responding. In 2016, we kicked off in style REDF’s ambitious 5-year strategy that will help 50,000 people move into the workforce by 2020. Powered by the energy and talent of the people who want the chance to work, and the hundreds of entrepreneurs across the U.S. who are running businesses to help them do so, we are moving full speed ahead!
Anthony Jackson said it all, right before he received the annual Stuart G. Moldaw award for his accomplishments as a REDF portfolio member the Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD) in Los Angeles:
“I won’t sugarcoat it. It’s been a tough road….When I walked through the doors of CRCD, I had nothing. Nowhere to go and no one I could turn to for help. But I knew if I didn’t change my life soon I was going to end up dead. Or in prison. Those two choices are retirement plans for guys in my neighborhood.
CRCD literally saved my life.
They gave me a job even though I had hardly any work experience, been in jail, and struggled with drugs and alcohol. They helped me gain work skills, and life skills. They helped me learn how to communicate, how to be responsible, how to be a leader, and a role model. CRCD even helped me become a better father…..
They helped me change my life; change my future; and the future I am going to create for my son. Look at me talking about the future. Two years ago all I could do was make it through today.
And it all started with a job.”