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Queen Bey Would be Proud

As with most things that are good, whole, and the way nature intended, my month began and
will soon end with Beyoncé front and center.

I had the great fortune to attend the GRAMMY’s this year and see her take the stage as she
received her 32nd golden gramophone – making her the GOAT everyone knew she already was
(we just needed the award count to catch up). I wore hot pink, curled my hair, and wore lipstick
– three things I’m pretty sure I haven’t done since the prom. As the guest of someone with
incredible access (and great taste in plus ones), I sat there agog at Trevor Noah and The Rock
(who really is as big as he appears) and LL Cool J and Madonna and Lizzo and Kendrick Lamar
– each of whom passed us to get to their seats.

But the coolest part of the night for me wasn’t the flash of the celebrities, but the regular
people who spoke on the podium right in front of me – the family members and the loved
ones of the performers that night: Brandi Carlile’s wife and kids, one of Lizzo’s big grrrls, a guy that Harry Styles used to work with in a bakery when he was just 14 – the regular people who have had a front row seat to each of the artist’s awesome, not just because they’re a number one fan, but because they know the deepest truth of who they are. Those were the moments that got to me the most and in a way, that kind of kinship and community is what we’re seeking to build here at REDF.

We see this talent in droves in something we call employment social enterprises (ESEs) – a nerdy term that’s best understood this way: “social enterprises” because they’re mission-driven businesses; and “employment” because they exist largely for one big purpose: to create jobs for folks whose talent has often been overlooked. Talent who are overcoming barriers to employment including experiences of incarceration and homelessness, to name a couple. Talent whose inner awesome our entrepreneurs have had a front row seat to for quite some time.

This past week we had an all-hands retreat with our entire team at REDF – an extra special treat in the time of a hybrid workplace. Some folks were meeting each other for the very first time, some were reconnecting in real life after only connecting remotely. It was eclectic and energetic – abuzz with a generosity of ideas and kindness that often occurs when really smart, really passionate, really good-to-the-core people come together as a team and find ways to
deepen their collaboration in service to a common goal: an economy that works, for everyone.

Over the course of the retreat, we deepened our understanding not just of the work, but of
each other – replete with fun facts (and some deep insights) of our stories before and beyond our work. One such fun fact was that one of our colleagues went to high school with Beyoncé, used to see her in the mall where students would kick it – an image that is hard for me to conjure in my head without thinking I’m leafing through Us Magazine’s CelebritiesThey’re Just Like Us!

And yet, before Beyoncé was the royalty she is now, she was indeed just like us. And likely surrounding her were family by blood and family by choice who had a front row seat to her inner awesome eons before she ever stepped foot on a stage.

As I lay my head to sleep after a packed week of reconnection and retreat with my colleagues, the thread of the front row seat is not lost on me. Our ESEs have a front row seat to infinite
talent (12,000 in year one of our strategy period and no doubt an increasing number in year two) whose skills private employers would be so lucky to have. The more jobs they create, and the more successful our talent are in those jobs, the more perspectives will shift on what talent looks like in our country, and the more inclusive our workforce will become.

Our team spent two days nerding out on ways to support the enterprises in this journey. And hundreds of post-its and jam sessions and honing of priorities and surfacing of questions later, I feel like we are well on our way.

I think Queen Bey would be so proud.



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