Throughout my career I have always been interested in the various aspects of building and operationalizing a social enterprise business and the challenges that come along with scaling. Prior to business school, I worked as a consultant with government, non-profit and private sector clients which provided me the opportunity to understanding how to leverage the best of these worlds within the field of social enterprise. This summer as a Farber Intern at REDF provided me another great opportunity – the chance to put that learning into practice.
For my Farber Internship I spent the summer at Chrysalis Enterprises in downtown LA. Chrysalis is an employment-focused social enterprise dedicated to creating a pathway to self-sufficiency for people experiencing homelessness and those with low-incomes by providing the resources and support needed to find and retain employment. They accomplish this through their three main social enterprises – Chrysalis Works (street maintenance), New Roads (highway maintenance), and Chrysalis Staffing.
After joining the team, I went through a thorough two-week orientation which involved working with crews along LA highways, sitting in the assessment sessions for new incoming clients, and shadowing case managers and volunteers who conduct resume and interview prep for clients getting ready to go into the workforce. This orientation was key in helping me understand who Chrysalis serves and how they help before I dived into my projects.
The major portion of my summer was focused on conducting a technology and business current state and future state analysis to help Chrysalis understand where they are, how they need to grow and what kind of decisions lie ahead in terms of expansion. Later this year, Chrysalis will be opening its third location in Anaheim, Orange County – where the population they will serve has different demographics and challenges than the people they work within downtown LA. In order to plan for this expansion, Chrysalis wanted to understand if the existing technology architecture would support this growth and expansion along with what they should be looking at to excel as a mature social enterprise.
As I interviewed current staff and clients in addition to external organizations of similar scale and scope as Chrysalis, I started to realize that when it comes to expansion, unfortunately, there is rarely time to consider technology. This creates many challenges including a pattern of inefficient processes due to a lack of a supportive technology platform. Building our current and future state architectures to help Chrysalis understand the crucial technology decisions they need to make as well as the phase of organizational maturity they are currently in was an exciting experience.
In addition to the enterprise-wide aspect, I also focused on helping streamline and operationalize various aspects of case management and client services. Along with the expansion to Orange County, Chrysalis was planning to launch a completely revamped version of their programmatic content to clients. Throughout the summer, using best practices from both nonprofit and governmental agencies, I was able to incorporate essential life skills and tangible knowledge building components within the curriculum while getting it ready to be operationalized and launched. In order to increase efficiencies for case management across all locations at Chrysalis in addition to the new locations opening up at Orange County, I co-developed a manual that assisted employment specialists and managers to standardize various aspects of client engagement such as feedback time, check in periods, resource building etc. Building out guidelines and reporting tools were additional areas where I was able to contribute to the organizational shift that Chrysalis was undergoing from being a LA based employment development model to a Southern California based non-profit.
The biggest impact on me throughout the summer was the interactions I had with Chrysalis’s clients along with the staff who daily put their hearts, minds and souls into helping their clients build their skills and experience so they can succeed in the workforce and build a better life. This type of dedication was something I had never experienced professionally or personally. While I walked away this summer with a strong understanding of the operations and business development needs of social enterprises, I also realized the integral role that human connection plays in being successful. That’s something that Chrysalis has truly accomplished.