This past summer I was a Farber Intern working with Chrysalis Enterprises, an employment-focused social enterprise serving LA’s low-income and homeless communities. Their mission is simple to state but incredibly challenging to achieve: to help people with high barriers to employment prepare for, find, and keep jobs. Chrysalis does this by providing a combination of job preparation services and transitional employment. When I joined the team, they were six-months into an ambitious five-year strategic plan which called for doubling the number of jobs they helped clients find and keep. My projects focused on two components of this goal: the first was improving their existing operations (specifically client communications) to increase the percentage of job seekers who found permanent employment; the second involved evaluating communities in which to open additional Chrysalis offices.
Tackling communications and metrics
The first project was an opportunity to tackle an unstructured problem. My manager simply provided me with a list of individuals to interview. As I explored the issue of client communications, I found that challenges were experienced in many parts of the organization. As I interviewed staff I learned about their pain-points and saw potential opportunities for improvements. I also drew on REDF’s portfolio managers for assistance. They connected me with peer social enterprises who had faced similar challenges. Ultimately, I used the data and insights from my research to make a series of policy and technology recommendations.
The second project was a close collaboration with the Chrysalis strategy team. Building on a foundation laid by the Farber Intern who worked at Chrysalis last summer, I helped finalize a set of indicators and metrics that would help evaluate communities as “a fit” for a new Chrysalis site. Those metrics included but were not limited to: the level of need within a community; the social enterprise opportunities, and the interest from local stakeholders.
Once the metrics were finalized, I used them to access the various communities in and around Los Angeles County. For each metric, a community was given a rating corresponding to the level of attractiveness or unattractiveness from Chrysalis’ perspective. Once a series of communities were evaluated I then adjusted their ratings based on the relative attractiveness. While it was fun to do a deep dive on research for each community, what I enjoyed most was figuring out how to tell the story of the research in a way that was approachable and actionable for the senior team and ultimately, board of directors.
Making connections and getting inspired
Aside from my project work, the summer was full of opportunities to connect with people from Chrysalis and REDF. While I am notoriously bad with names, by the end of the second trip to REDF’s central office I could confidently tell you the names of each of my Farber classmates and even several REDF staff thanks to a combination of workshops, dinners, and karaoke outings, we became colleagues and friends. I am excited to stay connected to my Farber Intern class to see how we use our skills, and what we learned this summer, to making our parts of the world a better place.
The most impactful part of my summer was the time I spent getting to know Chrysalis staff and clients. The staff’s work ethic and spirit were astounding. And after a summer of talking about Nashville hot chicken, many in the office joined me at my favorite hot chicken restaurant in LA. I was also inspired by the hope and optimism of the clients I got to interview and shadow over the summer.
As I look toward my career post-MBA, I am certain social enterprise will play a central role.
Garrison Turner is an MBA candidate at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. He serves on the boards of Marshall Net Impact and Black Graduate Business Leaders. Outside of Marshall, he works as an assistant to the Regional Baha’i Council of California where he supports teams engaged in youth development and community building efforts throughout Greater Los Angeles. Prior to business school, Garrison spent three years working in environmental consulting where he conducted air quality and greenhouse gas analysis for clients in the Manufacturing and Oil & Gas industries. Garrison graduated from Columbia University with a B.S. in Earth and Environmental Engineering, where he was an active member of the Intercultural Resource Center and Engineers Without Borders.
This is part of our Farber Blog Series.