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Welcoming Maria Kim as REDF’s CEO

When I joined REDF in 2007, we were innovating with a handful of ground-breaking organizations in the SF Bay Area to develop what we now call ‘employment social enterprises’. Today, we are a national organization that has worked with ESEs from coast to coast that have provided jobs and support to 74,000 people who are busting through barriers to employment.

As REDF enters its 25th year, I am passing the baton to the extraordinary Maria Kim. She joined REDF eight months ago as our President, bringing a crucial field-based perspective and deep expertise after heading up Cara, an outstanding ESE located in Chicago, where she served for 16 years. Starting today, Maria will be our new CEO leading us on the next leg of our journey. I will stay on the REDF Board, and on-staff working as senior advisor focused on strategic partnerships and policy – the system-level work that helps REDF translate its influence into action.

Maria is the right leader at the right time to take REDF to the next level. She embodies the mix of characteristics we need most – boldness and thoughtful consideration, a passion for equity and justice alongside a firm grasp of what is required to innovate on the ground, and strong motivation to take actions that impact peoples’ lives now. She’s done the work that REDF supports, and has invaluable insights to help us understand how we can most effectively support field leaders.

REDF’s work is at an exciting inflection point. Our country is starting to recognize the need for practical, sustainable solutions like employment social enterprise that move us toward economic and racial equity. REDF’s team, our ‘secret sauce’, brings their brilliant, creative minds to this work, fully committed to community, justice, and equity. Our extraordinary, dedicated Advisors and our Board members are actively supporting us. Government is paying attention. Funders are leaning in as they’ve seen the results REDF and our ESE partners have achieved. And REDF’s Community is now comprised of visionary leaders from 220 ESEs in 30+ states across the country.

On a personal note, I have met so many talented people whose lives had been filled with traumatic experiences who then went on to thrive on the job and in their lives after working in an ESE where they found a network that supports their success. Several have started and lead ESEs, and are now members of REDF’s Community. The tenacity of the entire ESE community motivates me and motivates REDF to focus on building an economy that works. For everyone. I am proud of what we’ve accomplished together. It has been an enormous honor to lead this wonderful organization. And I am excited about the future with the right team and strategy in place.

In terms of social change, along with so many others, I am concerned about the state of our democracy, and of course feel it even more acutely on the heels of the horrifying Russian invasion of Ukraine. I have the opportunity to put that concern into action, as, in addition to my ongoing work at REDF, I have recently been appointed to a new role as a senior advisor to Dean Wilson of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley (my alma mater) who is keenly interested in using the many assets of this leading policy school to help us all build new muscles for democratic engagement and policy innovation.

As we welcome Maria, I am confident that with her sparkling leadership, together we will help ensure REDF and the employment social enterprise field’s success and impact – for another 25 years (and beyond).

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