REDF Shows that Jobs are Key to Inclusion
August 9, 2016
by Leela Stake
Our own Leela Stake recently sat down with Carla Javits, president and CEO of REDF, to talk about how the agency’s partnership with REDF is helping change hearts and minds about people who face the greatest barriers to employment. FleishmanHillard is committing more than 600 pro bono hours to REDF this year.
Q: What does REDF do?
Javits: REDF believes in the transformative power of a job. We believe that everyone, everywhere, who is willing and able to work should have a job. The challenge is that people will look at others who may have a criminal background or come from tough backgrounds, and they don’t want to hire them.
REDF provides money and business advisory services to social enterprise businesses that are 100% mission and purpose driven to provide people overcoming employment barriers with a first chance to work. These are men and women who need a transitional, supportive work environment that includes things like child care services, mental health services and other forms of support. They earn an income while gaining real work experience that will help them secure competitive employment.
REDF has helped 11,000 people move into the workforce through our support of more than 60 organizations. It’s been a proven and sustainable business model, and our vision is to have 50,000 people employed over the next five years.
Q: How does the theme of inclusion relate to REDF’s work?
Javits: Work is about way more than just a paycheck. The first thing social enterprise employees say about their jobs is that it gives them a sense of purpose, a sense of inclusion, of being valued and contributing to society. The theme of inclusion is on our minds in light of many recent world events. There is a large community that is not fully included and respected as everyone should be. Part of this problem is that there are people who struggle to get into the normalcy of work and a job. It’s more than just getting paid; it cuts directly to a sense of inclusion in society.
Q: What’s next for REDF and vision for the future?
Javits: People who have been employed a year by a social enterprise have a 238% increase in their income. Housing stability also goes up. With all of the success we have seen, we’ve decided to double down on our model by providing support and business advice across the country. We now have a new portfolio with 36 social enterprises in 15 states and we are hoping to continue to do more. We want to build relationships with businesses, governments and nonprofits to make this model a normal part of what cities provide as a proven solution for joblessness.
Q: What role does communication play in advancing social change?
Javits: It’s a noisy and competitive environment for nonprofits. Having a strategic plan and a sticky message is so important in trying to change hearts and minds. We must change the way people think about problems and solutions. Through communications and this partnership with FleishmanHillard, we can take this message so much farther than we could on our own.