Impact Reports | Grantmaking that Works
Kessler Foundation has issued five Impact Reports highlighting the outcomes of major grants supported under its Signature Employment Grant (SEG) program. The reports provide illustrative examples of the successful elements of selected Signature grantees, namely, a focus on changing attitudes about people with disabilities and their ability to work, a person-centered approach, technological platforms or model documentation, strong community partnerships, and wraparound services. The markers for success were increased employment of people with disabilities, employer and program participant satisfaction, and model replicability.
In 2009, Kessler Foundation began partnering with the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University to conduct independent program evaluations of its SEG projects. Independent examination of projects enables better judgment of program success, provides accountability, and is critical to smarter investing for future projects. Each Impact Report summarizes the key findings of the Heldrich Center’s individual program evaluations.
Signature Employment Grant 2015: Realizing Education and Advancement for Disabled Youth (READY) at Access Living
Young people with disabilities often face multiple social and physical barriers that prevent them from accessing opportunities on a playing field level with their non-disabled peers. From kindergarten through high school, Individualized Education Plans (IEP) help students with disabilities navigate and address those barriers. Unfortunately, youth with disabilities are often left on their own to make the transition from high school to further education or employment. In 2015, Kessler Foundation provided critical operational funding to the Realizing Education and Advancement for Disabled Youth (READY) program at Access Living to address this gap. Using a person-centered model, READY supports youth with disabilities transitioning out of the Chicago public high school system to gain access to college or employment. It addresses the barriers beyond high school, and provides tools and resources for youth with disabilities to build a foundation for success in college and the work force.
Signature Employment Grant 2013: College to Careers
While there are many programs to support K-12 students with disabilities, there are no integrated federal or state support networks to enable college students with disabilities to navigate from college to careers. The Bridging the Gap College to Careers (C2C) program fills that gap through a semester long program offering college credit to students with disabilities completing a professional development course with complimentary wrap-around services. The project builds on a pioneering course, “Professional Development and Disability” created at the University of California at Berkeley (Berkeley) and implemented at three state universities including Berkeley, San Diego State University and California State University, Fullerton. The program builds a comprehensive array of experiences around the curriculum, including peer mentoring, internships, and placement services. The program’s objective is to improve the employment outcomes of college students with disabilities by preparing them to compete and succeed in the workplace.
Signature Employment Grant 2011: Operation Hope
Through a program dubbed “Operation Hope”, Hudson Community Enterprises (HCE) sought to expand its profitable Enterprise Content Management (ECM) business and employ people with disabilities. Operation Hope is built on a social enterprise business model originally launched by HCE for a document and scanning business with previous support from Kessler Foundation. HCE’s overall goal is to move people with disabilities away from sheltered workshops into market-driven positions with benefits and opportunities for advancement. Operation Hope’s model includes a training program as well as a robust employee assistance program to support workers’ lives both inside and outside of work. HCE employs people with a range of disabilities, some with multiple disabilities, though Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and learning disabilities are most common.
Signature Employment Grant 2013: Putting Faith to Work
Begun in 2014, Putting Faith to Work (PFTW) replicated and scaled up a Kessler Foundation Community Employment pilot in Minnesota. PFTW brought together four University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (Kentucky, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Texas) who are members of the National Collaborative on Faith and Disability to collaborate with local faith-based communities in each state. The project strengthened the ability of 27 congregations to connect members with disabilities to employment and provide individualized support. “The Putting Faith to Work (PFTW) project empowers faith communities to support people with disabilities as they find and maintain employment aligned with their gifts, passions, and skills. This pathway to work is forged by tapping into the personal network, creativity, and commitment existing within any congregation. The premise of PFTW resonates with clergy and members, who see alignment with tenets of their faith tradition and expression of their community’s faith in the world.
Signature Employment Grant 2014: Veteran Staffing Network
Building off its experience running the Veteran Workforce Investment program (2010-2013), which provided veterans with training and career coaching, the Easter Seals of Greater Washington Baltimore region launched the Veterans Staffing Network (VSN) in 2014 with funding from Kessler Foundation and others. As a social enterprise, VSN has mission and business objectives. The goal is not simply to get veterans jobs in a cost-effective manner, but to support self-sufficiency, meaningful careers, and community integration. VSN’s target population, according to the program’s architect, is “anyone who wore a uniform, or stood next to someone wearing a uniform,” which includes veterans, wounded warriors, reservists, and their spouses. The program has three primary elements: job coaching, business development (identifying job opportunities), and recruiting job seekers.