Our Business Framework for CityLab helps form a community where prospects are paired with backers to form individual social-financial agreements that are “designed to unlock potential and create a long-term sense of shared purpose.”
The Inherent Knowledge CityLab is the only CISCO Academy provider in California coupled with a certified on-the-job training to help its students immediately apply their new skills with a paying employer.
By design, CityLab moves previously unskilled learners of all ages through both the conceptual and hands-on learning path of the IT Essentials coursework and into a paying job.
Because it is held in the “maker” focused environment of MakerLabs, students of CityLab are introduced to many different applications of the coursework.
CityLab serves as a veritable laboratory of design, art, manufacturing, music, and entrepreneurship: hence the name, CityLab Professional.
The MakerLab provides a concentrated environment to teach the Internet of Everything, an ideal theater in which students can experiment with and perform their new skills.
CityLab then takes select students out into the “real-world” through apprenticeships: business environments where students can apply their new skills outside of the TechShop laboratory and get paid.
It’s not quite immediate gratification for young students, but it does enable students to connect their learning to earning, providing them with their first taste of a new, professional identity.
CityLab mentors help formerly disenfranchised students (either because of ethnic or economic disparities, or having been caught up in the legal system) experience success with their skills and to internalize a new set of values.
Together, students propel themselves out of old habits of mind, out of economies of poverty, and into a newly enfranchised status in they can participate in the global economy of today’s and tomorrow’s technology.
Despite the country’s economic recovery and lowest unemployment level in years, several individuals are still excluded from that prosperity, unable to provide a decent life for their families.
Many face serious challenges like histories of incarceration, homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse, making it difficult for them to get a foothold in the workforce. The exclusion of so many negatively impacts the state’s economy, contributes to multi-generational poverty, and depresses educational outcomes of children whose parents are not working. It drives taxpayer costs of recidivism to incarceration and homelessness and exacerbates economic disparities that impact people of color.
These individuals need jobs and specialized services to help them succeed. Social enterprises provide both; that’s why Inherent Knowledge Social Purpose Corporation invests in them. In partnership with the public sector, we can put more people to work.
Social enterprises are businesses with a clear social mission, selling products and services to the market and reinvesting their profits in helping people. These businesses provide a real, paying job and specialized services that help employees stabilize their lives, build skills, and develop a work history. Services like financial literacy, housing, and counseling help people overcoming challenges find lasting, competitive jobs.
Research shows this approach works. It leads to greater economic security and mobility and a significant rate of return to society—$2.23 in benefits for every $1.00 spent.
Public policies should create incentives and invest resources to grow social enterprises. Young people and adults returning home from incarceration, exiting homelessness and foster care, and overcoming barriers can benefit from evidence-based investments and significant leverage of private sector resources. Five policy recommendations follow:
Two federal programs provide resources to social enterprises, and each could do much more: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment & Training (known in California as CalFresh), and the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA). CalFresh recipients are often eligible for Employment & Training funding. WIOA helps job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services. The following are examples of how connecting Technical Education, Local Employment, and Affordable Housing solutions work together with a solid team.
Goodwill of Silicon Valley runs two social enterprises that contribute to our short term training goals, enabling our students to apply learned skills in a computer refurbishing plant, and acquire the technical evidence of knowledge through Cisco Certification Courses and Exams.
The Donated Goods Revenue business, which includes thrift stores, commodities recycling, and computer refurbishing; and the Clean Wheels auto detailing business.
The people employed in these businesses face barriers such as a history of incarceration, homelessness and substance use, and receive wage-paying employment in addition to supportive, barrier-removing services, aligning our training and support missions supports more families.
Goodwill Silicon Valley’s mission is to support their employees, their customers, and people with challenging barriers to employment; to raise their standard of living and improve their lives through services and social enterprise.
The Santa Clara County Faith Reentry Collaborative is a network of multi-faith religious institutions, community organizations, and volunteers established to provide transitional services to newly released inmates. Faith-based organizations offer strong supportive and welcoming environments and provide assistance that draws upon community values, culture and faith traditions. They promote a change of heart, transforming individuals from the inside out, restoring them to a better life, our work with Cathedral of Faith, and Transform our World increase that success through community mentoring and support after release.
The Employment Connection is offering reimbursable subsidized wages. An employer could receive a monthly reimbursement for each full-time newly-hired Employment Connection jobseeker.
This allows our partners to save money by bringing on board new employees and invest in a quality workforce.
The Employment Connection partners with De Anza Community College Occupational Training Institute (OTI) to offer the managed Transitional Subsidized Employment program to employers.
The program benefits employers by assisting with staffing needs at no cost. TSE assists growing businesses by subsidizing TSE employees’ wages for the first three months of full-time employment. The program is designed to help people re-enter the workforce and promote business growth.
The State should be incentivized to invest more WIOA and SNAP E&T resources in social enterprises with demonstrated outcomes.
California should invest discretionary funds in interventions that yield independently-verified results in terms of employment, income, and reduced recidivism for at-risk populations. Evidence shows that combining real work in a social enterprise keeps people employed longer than traditional workforce services alone, raises wages while reducing public benefits, and stabilizes housing . Populations that benefit most from social enterprise while also reducing reliance on public funds are overwhelmingly people of color, including young people and adults who have been homeless, in foster care, out of school and not working, and/or returning citizens. We do not receive public funds. We run three social enterprises: The Technical Training Revenue business, which prepares students to navigate a first day career in technical network support, The Online Sales and Support Revenue Business, which trains and supports local employers as they migrate to cloud-based solutions driving new economies, and The Small Home Construction Unit, which builds, installs, and maintains a series of tiny homes, built with honey farmers, or apiarists in mind.
Local and state policymakers should authorize a significant, multi-year “pay for performance” investment in growth and sustainability of social enterprises.
The public sector should use its purchasing power to drive revenues and job growth of social enterprises. Procurement incentives can be utilized to enable social enterprises to expand revenue, thereby hiring and training more individuals overcoming barriers to employment. Proposition 51 includes $500 million to construct/modernize CTE facilities as well as purchase equipment on comprehensive high school sites. During our pilot period and having designed the only CTE pathway for inmates to connect with a CTE Pathway through a community college, allows our program to be adopted with minimum effort, and the results offer Re-Entry Committees access to three areas where run three social enterprises:
The Technical Training Revenue business, which prepares students to navigate a first day career in technical network support.
The Online Sales and Support Revenue Business, which trains and supports local employers as they migrate to cloud-based solutions driving new economies, and,
The Small Home Construction Unit, which builds, installs, and maintains a series of tiny homes, built with honey farmers, or apiarists in mind.
Local and state policymakers should ensure their procurement policies include social enterprises in their business preference program enabling them to secure contracts and potentially receiving business technical assistance.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable federal credit for low-earning workers. Bolstering EITC to childless adults, who make up a significant share of social enterprise employees, will increase earning power and help provide for nonresident children. Families earning wages or self-employment income up to $24,950 may qualify for CalEITC. For the first year, this benefit
Policymakers should 1) double the credit for childless workers, 2) align income eligibility with the rising minimum wage and increase credit size for newly-eligible low-earning workers, and 3) increase outreach funding to help eligible workers learn about and use free tax prep assistance to ensure more low-wage workers receive EITC.
Given that two-thirds of social enterprise employees have criminal records, reducing felonies to misdemeanors, sealing juvenile records, changing professional credential requirements that exclude people with criminal records, and implementing “ban the box” measures all can aid formerly incarcerated social enterprise employees to access a multitude of opportunities, including employment, educational, and housing. The Fair Chance Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2018, is a California law that generally prohibits employers of more than 5 employees from asking about your conviction history before making you a job offer. This type of law is also known as a “Ban the Box” law.
Local and state policymakers should remove unnecessary barriers to employment, enabling qualified individuals with arrest or conviction records to find meaningful jobs, improve economic stability, and reduce risk of recidivism.
 Nan Maxwell, Dana Rotz, and Adam Dunn. “Economic self-sufficiency and life stability one year after starting a social enterprise job.” Mathematica Policy Research, 2014.