What Does HOPE Look Like in the U.S.?
The last few months, I’ve had a number of conversations with friends who wonder how the principles that drive HOPE could be applied domestically. It’s a good question, and although HOPE has decided to remain focused internationally, I strongly believe we need more organizations working to help restore dignity through the gift of employment in the U.S.
Here are some examples of organizations I admire that are creatively addressing poverty in the U.S. Some provide job preparedness. Others provide access to financial services. All are having a positive impact.
- Defy Ventures and Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP). M.B.A. boot camp for convicts and ex-convicts, PEP and Defy are built on an interesting hypothesis: Often criminals are born entrepreneurs. Many students used to manage networks—albeit illegal—and possess ingenuity, the ability to think on their feet. Defy and PEP are helping them transfer these skills to thrive in the business world. See defyventures.org. Eighty nine percent of criminals who return to prison are unemployed when arrested. In sum: A job keeps people from going behind bars again. PEP offers business training, giving prisoners a second chance. Results are remarkable. Within 90 days of getting out of prison, 100 percent of individuals at PEP find jobs. And the recidivism rate of PEP’s graduates—five percent. (Nationwide it’s 60 percent.) See www.prisonentrepreneurship.org.
- Assets Lancaster. Based in the city of HOPE’s headquarters, Assets provides a 10-12 week course in business training and management, as well as business mentoring for entrepreneurs. It’s also hands-on training and it is having an impact in building a better city. See www.assetslancaster.org.
2) Business Training/Job Preparedness
- Jobs for Life (JfL). JfL taps into one of the most overlooked resources to provide job training—the Church. Through JfL, the Church is equipping individuals with skills to interview, to network, and to find and to retain a job. See www.jobsforlife.org/JfL-profile.htm and video.
- The Chalmers Center. World class, Chalmers develops curriculum to provide a hand up.Faith & Finances is their course empowering churches and organizations to teach foundational principles of finance. See www.chalmers.org/work/gtc/programs/financial.
3) Financial Services
- Grameen America – Prosper.com – Accion USA. Nobel Peace Prize winnerMuhammad Yunus made microfinance a household name. He decided to take his pioneering Grameen Bank—which has served the poor globally—to New York City. Now it has spread throughout the U.S. Grameen, Accion, and Prosper.com are just three organizations giving financial services, such as savings and small loans, as well as business training to get people on their feet again. See grameenamerica.org, www.accionusa.org, and www.prosper.com.
- Grace Period. Loan sharks and “payday” lenders—with interest rates as steep as 400 percent—are often the only option in an emergency. Grace Period offers an alternative. Providing small loans, Grace Period also requires members to save for the next emergency. See www.graceperiod.org.
These are just some organizations giving people a hand up, rather than a handout in the U.S.
Peter Greer is president and CEO of HOPE International, a global nonprofit focused on Christ-centered job creation, savings mobilization, and financial training.
A graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School and the former Managing Director of Urwego in Rwanda, he authored The Poor Will Be Glad (2009), The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good (2013), and Mission Drift (2014). Peter blogs at www.peterkgreer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @peterkgreer.
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