At the Cutting Edge of Workforce Development: My Summer Immersed in Employment Social Enterprise – Govind Srivastav, Booth School of Business

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In 2019, an informational interview put REDF on my map. I had just spent a year living and working in Puerto Rico, where I focused on economic resiliency programs that aided recovery after Hurricane Maria. During my time there, I became interested in exploring how new forms of business development programs can not only support businesses, but their owners, communities, and local economies. Hearing about REDF’s holistic approach to supporting employment social enterprise leaders and their businesses felt revolutionary and exciting. This past summer I got an even closer look at this innovative solution by interning with REDF as a Farber Fellow.

During my fellowship I worked with The Knowledge House, a nonprofit employment social enterprise based in the Bronx but rapidly growing across the United States. The Knowledge House runs upskilling programs to equip participants with the technology and workplace skills needed to launch successful careers in the technology industry. Their in-house web development and design enterprise, 718 Digital Labs, both helps the organization earn revenue to sustain their programming and provides apprentices with tangible industry experience and employment.

Over the summer, I supported The Knowledge House in developing their talent services business line, which connects graduates of their programs to employers for full time employment opportunities. Over the past few years, The Knowledge House has proven the efficacy of its upskilling programs in developing relevant skills for the tech industry and raising participant income levels. Now, they are well positioned to take their programs a step further through formal relationships with employers. Structuring pathways to employment will help them bolster their programs for long-term sustainability and better help participants secure long-term employment after graduation.

In collaboration with various stakeholders at The Knowledge House, and with support from REDF’s Capacity Building team, I conducted a feasibility assessment on potential business lines, created financial projections, and developed a recommendation for a new service program. A recurring theme in the project was the need to balance the dual goals of impact in post-programmatic placement with revenue growth for the organization. In this way, the project perfectly coupled my experience working in impact with the business skills I have been honing through my MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. I hope that by implementing this new program, The Knowledge House will develop strong relationships with corporate employers to ensure their program graduates have structured pathways to full time roles.

The Farber Fellowship with REDF and The Knowledge House helped me see the efficacy of the employment social enterprise model in action. My project sat within a vast field of support that REDF provided to The Knowledge House, so it served as a window to REDF’s holistic approach to capacity building, leadership development, and funding. By working closely with The Knowledge House, I got to be a part of an energetic and entrepreneurial team that is staying ahead of trends in both the technology and workforce development sector. I shared the team’s passion about workforce development and learned how to harness its power to drive broader change for the community. Through the Farber Fellowship, I felt the impact that social enterprise support can create as a meaningful economic development solution.