Our clients are doing important, amazing, transformational work! This month, we’re highlighting the work of our friends at EMERGE Community Development.
What makes the EMERGE team a group of superheroes?
EMERGE’s team is passionate about addressing the challenges of people moving out of poverty who often face multiple barriers to employment, including lack of transportation, child care challenges, lack of education, limited work history, or criminal background. Over the last few years, our focus has shifted from expedited job placement to helping participants enter career pathways that lead to sequential increase in skills and income.
To meet the diverse and complex needs of those we serve, EMERGE employs staff and workforce coaches who reflect the cultures, races, communities and backgrounds of those we serve. Agency-wide, approximately 63% of staff identify as people of color; and, although we don’t specifically track this information, we know that approximately one-third of EMERGE staff have overcome their own criminal backgrounds, have experienced homelessness, are first or second generation immigrant/refugees, are former EMERGE participants, or can directly relate to the diverse population that we serve. Although all situations are not the same, we have found that buy-in and trust of new clients is greatly increased when these commonalities are appropriately disclosed.
EMERGE has a highly experienced and energetic group of leaders, many of whom have come up through the organization from their beginnings as direct service providers. With a culture of adaptive risk-taking and entrepreneurial resolve, our leadership vision insists that we find the right tension of continuing to try new things, without taking on uncalculated risk. We are known to undertake some of the most pressing community needs: concentrated unemployment, gang involved youth, community re-entry for ex-offenders, family homelessness, long-term welfare participation, and the arrival of New Americans. EMERGE seeks to meet people “where they are” and design strategies in human-centered ways.
What are your superpowers?
EMERGE is a unique hybrid of different models and traditions of community work, which is perhaps our greatest strength. We are a comprehensive community developer, an expert workforce developer, a proven social enterprise job creator (through four enterprise businesses), and a holistic supportive housing provider. This broad and innovative model has its roots in the historic Settlement House movement that is part of our heritage, and—on a day-to-day basis—we believe that the combination of all of these elements ensures that we practice a high degree of cultural and community adeptness.
A recent example of EMERGE’s innovation and community responsiveness is the March 2017 opening of the Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center, which is an all-inclusive workforce development and education resource destination for the largely East African residents in the Cedar Riverside community of Minneapolis. This area has been challenged by poverty, high unemployment (18%), and inadequate educational opportunities. Services include workforce readiness and coaching, career training, placement and retention services, and transitional employment strategies for adults and youth. EMERGE is the lead agency for the Cedar Riverside Opportunity Center, partnering with Hennepin County, the City of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Community and Technical College to make the Opportunity Center an education and workforce service hub for the area.
How is EMERGE “saving the world?”
EMERGE’s mission is to reveal the potential in people and communities through skill building, employment, and economic opportunity. We offer a robust portfolio of job placement, workforce development, career training, financial coaching, housing, and other key services, serving 3,000 low-income people each year. Our services are available to anyone who needs them, but many people we serve are facing significant obstacles. Some of them are re-entering the community after periods of incarceration. Others are young men involved with gangs, but ready to turn their lives around. Overall, we facilitate life change in areas of our community where jobs are scarce, poverty levels are high, and racial/economic disparities prevail.
EMERGE reaches out to the community by being an active part of it, engaging directly in the economic, social, political and cultural life of North Minneapolis and Cedar-Riverside. From employing residents to owning, operating and renovating buildings to hosting political caucuses and community groups to being part of coalitions and movements, EMERGE is part of the fabric of Minneapolis.
How has Creation In Common been a Trusty Side CIC (“side-kick”) to EMERGE?
Through our work with Creation in Common, EMERGE developed a 5-year strategic plan that will significantly increase our impact on the employment and economic disparity gaps in North Minneapolis, Cedar-Riverside, and Saint Paul. This plan provides a realistic pathway to place 5,000 people in jobs over five years, increase the average wage and retention rate of those we serve, and help 3,000 people gain skills or a credential.