Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cultivate Holland Births Jobs for the Urban Poor Through Business Training

Graduates from a Cultivate Holland Class
Poverty fighting jobs are created by thriving businesses in disadvantaged communities. 

With that premise, Cultivate Holland, LLC, a Holland, Michigan faith-based non-profit organization, provides twelve-week classes for urban business people to help grow their ventures in order to create more jobs for disadvantaged individuals. As its website details:


Cultivate Holland, LLC is focused on providing the tools with which you can begin to grow or start your business and eliminate poverty in Holland and beyond.  Your success begins by attending a series of coaching and mentoring meetings designed for business owners and entrepreneurs.  Studies have shown that businesses can increase productivity by 26% when the ownership or management receives and implements proper training.  This increased productivity is achieved through training and mentoring without the expenditure of any capital.  With increased productivity comes increased job availability.  We encourage these newly created job providers to fill their new openings with unemployed persons from the core urban community in Holland.  As a non-profit agency, and with our association with Partners Worldwide, we are uniquely positioned to provide, for the first time, a proven strategy and curriculum to create and sustain new jobs.  
Visit here to learn more about this innovative poverty-fighting organization which is an affiliate of Partners Worldwide.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Self-Sabotage in Employment Training Businesses

In less than a month, the job-training participant is ready to graduate the six month program into a job in the community.

Over the last few months, he has been a model employee who achieved much on the job after not working for 5 years because of prison and addiction. All of the sudden, the problems start. He begins to be late for work after being consistently on time. He gets into an argument at home and misses work because of a day in jail. The list of troubles grows to the point where he is fired only weeks from a successful graduation.

Self sabotage. It's a discouraging reality in employment training businesses. And, unfortunately, it is not rare. Over the years, I have seen this pattern repeat causing introspection and a loss of confidence for leaders of such projects.

But while self-sabotage happens, there are steps a program can take to lessen its prevalence and its negative effects.

As a leader, one must never take it personally when self-sabotage occurs. In a crazy way, it's actually a sign of newfound health for individuals rebuilding lives from addiction, homelessness or prison. A person who self-sabotages is an individual who has rarely experienced success in their past. Suddenly, they start achieving positive results and fear of success becomes a powerful negative force. Getting in trouble or making bad choices becomes "rational" because they find an odd security in the resulting consequences. So self-sabotage means the program is making a positive impact on a participant's life.

A powerful way to lessen the odds of self-sabotage is to prepare clients for its possibility while developing an early warning system for it. In all of our employment training businesses, we focus heavily on one-on-one mentorship of our clients because life-on-life relationships are the best way to overcome the challenges facing people rebuilding lives. In the context of these meetings, it is important to start talking about what success looks like soon after someone joins the program. We have people write down their life story and what they would like to accomplish in the future. This gives our program staff the opportunity to identify patterns that could lead to self-sabotage. They discuss ways to avoid it in the future by reminding individuals of what they want to accomplish in their life. We talk about how important it is to finish strong in any job because even the best employee can slip into destructive "short-timer" disease when nearing the end of a job.

A temptation of employee-training programs is to lessen the one-on-one meetings with a client as they near graduation because of the mistaken belief that the individual needs less attention than someone new to the program and the desire to transition him into self-sufficiency. That is a mistake. Instead, projects need to increase support over the course of one's time in the program, particularly in one-on-one meetings and community gatherings, in order to fight the possibility of self-defeating behaviors.

Finally, self-sabotage doesn't always have to be a negative outcome. Even when it does happen, it can provide opportunities to make big positive impacts on someone's life. Personal growth is never a linear process, especially for individuals trying to overcome addiction. Mistakes often create growth in the future. If a faith-based employment training business is truly making an impact, slip-ups provide just enough pain that someone doesn't want to lose the positives they have been experiencing. So they then find strength to quickly change direction and return to moving forward with their life and career.

Over the years, we have story after story of individuals who ended their time with us badly only to return later to apologize and to share how they got back on track because of their faith and our program. In the end, it's truly a thing of beauty to watch how God pursues and helps lives to flourish even in the midst of our mistakes.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Rochester Furniture Manufacturing Business Employs the Chronically Homeless

Hope Initiatives in Rochester, New York, seeks to address the causes of poverty in its community by employing and job-training individuals with significant employability issues in a faith-based program.

The organization operates a manufacturing business that produces 20,000 pieces of furniture a year as well as a local moving and storage business.

                                                      Visit here to learn more.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Five Thoughts on Serving People Escaping Addiction in Colorado

Over the last week, all of us at Bud's Warehouse have been reminded how difficult it is to serve people rebuilding lives from addiction. Sometimes, sadly, drug abuse ends badly. And when it does, individuals who are dedicated to helping others often take it very hard. There's never easy answers when someone so very young with a lot of promise leaves behind two young children. 

A couple of thoughts:

Addiction is a terrible foe. It takes both individual choice and God's grace for someone to overcome the grip of drug abuse. 

It saddens me that at the same time deaths from drug abuse seem to be rising, my state, Colorado, is in the midst of a group celebration of the legalization of marijuana. While this drug may not be as dangerous as others, do not be fooled into believing that its legalization will not damage lives in Colorado. Some will try this drug who otherwise would not have and will slip into other types of abuse. People who use marijuana will get hurt on the job and will injure other people while driving. And who knows the long-term consequences of THC in terms of mental illness and cancers. I wonder how all the people jumping into the marijuana production industry sleep at night with the negative impacts they are causing? I guess that question answers itself. How else do we drug ourselves out of a conscious?

People who help others escape addiction also need to walk by God's grace. Every recovery is messy and will never be accomplished perfectly. The important thing is to keep trying. Individuals created in the image of God deserve our love and our caring efforts. 

And in the end it comes down to choice. People have to choose to want to be better. But when we reach out in love, when we support each other in community, and when we remind each other of the love of Christ that choice becomes easier to make and maintain.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New Earth Works

Fresh vegetables, bread and coffee are changing lives in Washington State through the New Earth Works project that employs people transitioning from addiction, jail and gangs.

Tierra Nueva, a faith-based community development organization in the Skagit Valley of Washington has combined resources of its three social enterprises, Underground Coffee Project, New Earth Farm and New Earth Bread into its new collaborative New Earth Works to deliver fresh vegetables, artisan bread and gourmet coffee to the Skagit and Seattle areas.

Watch to learn more:


Friday, February 14, 2014

Ambitious New Economic Empowerment Program Starts in Lousiville, Kentucky

Access Ventures, in Louisville, Ky, is a developing faith venture project of Sojourn Community Church

The project has started with a financially-sustainable housing project that has raised funds to renovate 20 homes in the disadvantaged community. Ownership of these homes will be transferred to the renters after they successfully complete a training program that includes training in work and life skills. Access Ventures plans to expand into micro-lending, business start-up classes and job training. 

On their web site they define the following goals:

·  To restore people, through the power of the gospel
·  To demonstrate just, loving, and peaceful relationships
·  To equip and develop neighbors to work and support themselves and their families
·  To genuinely, and sacrificially, care for those in our neighborhoods and invite them to share in our lives

This began with sustainable housing development (Access Housing) and has progressed into areas of economic empowerment with Access Finance (i.e. payday lending, tackling consumer debt, micro-business lending – targeting solutions to problems that plague every American…low and middle-class alike).  By focusing on financial transactions that are direct, transparent, personal, and based on long-term relationships, Access is able to accomplish its mission by transforming the way individuals fundamentally work with money.  
Read more here

I am excited to watch as they grow their ambitious program.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Employment Training Social Enterprises Should Take Another Look at Contract Labor Ventures

If there is such a thing as a moment, the social enterprise movement is experiencing it right now. This approach has become very popular in the non-profit world, especially among millennials seeking to create employment training opportunities. Almost every week someone contacts us here at Belay Enterprises wanting to learn about our model as they develop their own start-up social venture.

In the rush of enthusiasm for social enterprise, potential practitioners often overlook how hard it is to start and sustain such projects. I spend a lot of time encouraging people in the non-profit sector to start taking risks because the sector often is biased against such action because of its funding model. Leaders don't want to disappoint donors because a project didn't work out. But organizations need to take risks in order to achieve growth in social enterprise.

In addition, sustaining such a project can be equally difficult. Ventures that survive the start-up phase often require serious talent and expertise to maintain sustainability. And then to grow, they need significant investment. This difficult reality is one reason why some social enterprise leaders question its ability to ever address the employment training needs of people rebuilding lives. I argue there is real value, especially for faith-based organizations, to focus their efforts instead of going for scale.

But another way out of this dilemma is to embrace both the difficult nature of social enterprise and the fact that for-profit businesses are better equipped at creating job opportunities. A social enterprise's chief contribution is its ability to effectively employ and train individuals with significant challenges to employability. If a nonprofit can partner its unique value with for-profit businesses with hiring needs, this is an extremely effective way to achieve scale and significant-training opportunities. A non-profit contract labor service has the potential to open up training opportunities for individuals like ex-offenders that some companies are hesitant to directly hire. But the support and training of the non-profit enterprise combined with the real job opportunity at the for-profit business offers benefits for both the employee and the employer. 


Contract labor ventures may not be as exciting as other social enterprise start-ups, but I think they offer a real opportunity to create significant jobs for people rebuilding lives.