Sneak Preview – REDF Goes to Work for Thousands of Californians

When I got my first job as a teenager in New York City, I applied for my work permit at a huge, old administration building way downtown. While I stood on line, I had time to think about my grandparents who had lived nearby after immigrating to the US. My grandfather worked as a tenement janitor, and my grandmother — as family lore has it — sold crockery from a pushcart on the Lower East Side. They worked hard.

I’m thinking about them again today as we provide a sneak preview of REDF’s new 2011-2015 Strategy which we’ll announce at our Benefit on September 30, at which we are honoring our committed partners Mitchell Kapor and Freada Kapor Klein and Matthew Cate, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

With the support of our Board of Directors and our Advisory Council, REDF has created an ambitious five year plan to create jobs for thousands of young people and adults who would otherwise be unlikely to work due to histories of chronic poverty, homelessness, incarceration, addiction, or mental illness.

We also aim to develop a social enterprise business model that will employ many more people in a sustained way across the country for years to come. Enlarging the circle of opportunity so that many more people can work is critical to our families and communities, and also to our economic future. It’s something that should appeal to people on all sides of the political spectrum.

Think about your own work history – that of your family and friends. On a personal level, I know I am motivated by respect I have for the risk-taking and hard work of my grandparents.

Their son – my father — eventually brought my family to the other end of the job market, giving us a wholly different life. He became an attorney, and an elected official (who first honed his oratory next to that pushcart). But one thing never changed – the significance of work as a centerpiece of our lives. It meant we could earn a living, do things, and help those we loved. And it was also about more than that. Work was about relationships, contribution, opportunity and hope.

I remember the powerful stories my father heard at work on the weekends when we’d miss him because he’d be at his office. A woman came to him in tears because her son had become addicted to drugs and stolen everything she had in her home. A man in a wheelchair was devastated because he could not get a job. Creating opportunities to help people solve these practical problems motivated his work as a legislator.

I learned that transformative change — for people and communities — is possible. I learned what opportunity means in a world where the playing field is not always level.

Over the next five years, REDF will work with partners across the state to create social enterprise jobs for thousands of Californians who have been shut out of the workforce. We will learn from our work on the ground how to develop a widely-replicable social enterprise model that creates job opportunities and pathways that bring people into the economic mainstream throughout the country.

To do this, REDF is seeking eligible organizations to become part of our portfolio. We will work with organizations running social enterprises that are selected through our open and competitive process, including an online Request for Qualifications.

With your engagement, help, and support we will succeed. Join us. Spread the word. Learn more about how you can help create jobs, opportunity, and hope.