Guest Post

16
Feb

Work Life Facilitator Training

REGISTER HERE

Over the past 12 years, Advance Memphis has utilized soft-skills job training to help people get to work. From 2005 to 2015, we used a curriculum from an organization called Jobs for Life. Two years ago, Advance Memphis and the Chalmers Center for Economic Development  worked with Jobs for Life to co-publish a new jobs-training curriculum called Work Life, specifically designed for communities suffering from the effects of multi-generational poverty.  Since the completion of the curriculum, Advance Memphis and the Chalmers Center have partnered to train churches and ministries in Work Life, and Advance now runs an annual training for new Work Life Facilitators. Advance Memphis is deeply grateful for this partnership with Jobs for Life and the Chalmers Center that has spanned many years. We are also grateful for the many churches and organizations that are engaged in this work around our nation.

What is Work Life?

Work Life is a biblically integrated job and life-skills curriculum designed specifically for low-income adults. Through Work Life, churches and non-profits can assist the materially poor in developing crucial skills for flourishing in their careers and communities. While Work Life covers typical jobs-readiness topics like interviewing skills and understanding what employers want, the curriculum goes deeper and engages participants in God’s grand story for their lives. Participants, Allies, and Instructors walk together in relationships, uncovering how to live all of life, including work, in light of that story. Naming gifts, developing communication skills, healing from the past, and overcoming difficult roadblocks are all topics addressed in interactive, participatory ways throughout the curriculum. The $350 training package equips you to walk with your low-income neighbors over time, leading to lasting transformation. Register here.

Why Work Life?

Becoming a Work Life facilitator prepares you to:

  • Move your church or ministry from giving things to the poor to building
    relationships with the poor, leading to long term change.
  • Apply the poverty alleviation principles described in When Helping Hurts to your context.
  • Create a concrete jobs preparedness ministry plan tailored to your community.
  • Train low-income people in concrete job and life skills, such as smart communication, knowing and applying their gifts on the job, interviewing techniques, and more.
  • Mobilize church members to serve as allies alongside participants, engaging your broader ministry circles in empowering low-income workers.

Get Trained

Start Work Life classes in your community by:

  • Completing four weeks of online training, unpacking the principles of effective poverty alleviation and adult education.
  • Attending the live training event, practicing facilitation with other ministry leaders and staff from Advance Memphis and Chalmers Center.

The Work Life Facilitator Training costs $350 at the early bird rate and $400 after May 21st. The training will take place in two stages. The online portion will begin June 5; live training will take place July 14th and 15th at Advance MemphisRegister here.

Interested in auditing? If you’re considering whether Work Life is right for your group or you have team members who would benefit from some training (though they won’t be facilitating), consider auditing. Participants may audit the online portion of training for $25. This does not include the live training and will not result in certification. Email Bryce Stout at bstout@advancememphis.org with questions about auditing.

 

Wondering if Work Life is a fit for your organization? Have other questions?

Visit our FAQ page for more information, Or email Bryce Stout at bstout@advancememphis.org.

View sample materials here: Work Life Intro and Course Map | Session 08 | Session 10


16
Feb

Listening to History – Thoughts for Black History Month

 


The Value of Stories

As we at Advance Memphis walk in relationships with our neighbors, one thing that we continually recognize is the importance of stories. Each person on Advance’s staff, each volunteer, and each neighbor has a particular story, which includes the gifts God has created us for, our pains and joys, our desires, our relationships, and so much more.  Because we value relationships so deeply at Advance— in fact, we think that relationships are at the very center of God’s design for our lives— we are always looking to participate in each other’s stories. In our Work Life curriculum, we spend two full lessons talking about the importance of acknowledging and dealing with things in our past (our story) in order to move forward into God’s design for our lives.

On Day 6 of Work Life, the class gathers together for a time of sharing and listening. It takes a lot of bravery and trust to open up to each other and put it all on the table, the good and the bad. Consequently, this time of sharing life stories is consistently the most difficult and impactful part of each Work Life class. The result is an opportunity to look into each other’s lives and see deeper than the sorrows, joys, pain, and growth – it is an opportunity to see God at work, to learn from each other, and to begin participating in each other’s stories.

Acknowledging Our Collective Story

In the month of February, we want to acknowledge the fact that, though individual stories are important, there are larger Stories that affect each of us deeply. To be sure, we are all part of a grand story of cosmic redemption that God is working out on this earth, healing the effects of sin and brokenness all around us. More particularly, the month of February is a time to focus and highlight some parts of our shared story as Americans that is too often glossed over in history books, and dangerously ignored in our conversations about our collective story. Black History Month calls us to acknowledge and inculcate stories of amazing accomplishment against all odds; stories of deep, soul-wrenching pain; stories of success stomped out by sinister systems; stories of beauty and flourishing; all stories that have black people at their center. We must be open to listen to both the heroism and the hurt as we hear the history.

“The problem occurs when we cover [our stories] up, try to ignore the pain, and live as though these things did not happen.”  Each of our Work Life students hears this in Lesson 3, as we begin to look at our past. The Church needs to hear this, too. We hope that the Church, both black and white, will take time this month to listen to our black brothers’ and sisters’ stories from the distant and the recent past in order to be more knowledgeable and maybe even more empathetic participants in our own—and each other’s—stories.

Looking Back: A Story to Listen To

Let us offer one example, from John Hope Bryant, founder of Operation Hope.  John Hope Bryant explains in his book How the Poor Can Save Capitalism, how President Abraham Lincoln began the Freedman’s Savings Bank shortly after the end of the Civil War, in order to help empower former slaves who desired to enter into the economy. Unfortunately, Lincoln was assassinated shortly thereafter and the new president, Andrew Johnson, had vastly different stances on black empowerment. Bryant notes, “At its height, the Freedman’s Savings Bank had seventy thousand depositors, all of whom were formerly enslaved. Unfortunately, due in large part to the destructive efforts of Johnson and the mismanagement and gaming of the bank that followed, the bank ultimately did fail, and every depositor lost his or her money. All of it. This may be part of the reason that black Americans and other disadvantaged groups do not trust banks and the government today.”[1]

W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in the early 1900’s of the crash of the Freedmen’s Bank, “All the hard-earned dollars of the freedmen disappeared; but that was the least of the loss—all the faith in saving went too, and much of the faith in men; and that was a loss that a Nation which today sneers at Negro shiftlessness has never yet made good.  Not even ten additional years of slavery could have done so much to throttle the thrift of the freedmen as the mismanagement and bankruptcy of the [Freedmen’s Bank].”[2]  Du Bois demonstrates in an almost-prophetic manner the incredible effect that this Historical Event—an intimate piece of our Nation’s Story—had on the trust of former slaves in financial institutions, and on the perceptions of black people in the eyes of the Nation.

Moving Forward: Participate in Others’ Stories

Without listening to our Story—even the parts we wish we could ignore—we cannot move forward. Advance Memphis desires to continue to build relationships every day that help us to be a part of each other’s stories as we walk together in God’s design for our lives. During Black History Month, we wanted to take a moment to recall one episode in our Nation’s Story that affects people to this day, and to encourage the Church to learn more about our history—our stories—so that we can all take steps to move toward healing.

This healing will be impossible without listening and participation. At Advance, we seek to take time to listen to our neighbors, and when we do this, we find that we truly learn. It’s our human tendency to speak our minds. But how can we learn without taking time to genuinely listen? In this vein, we encourage both white people and black people in the Church to enter into long-term relationships with each other—come volunteer at Advance, or visit a local church where you are in the minority, or invite somebody into your home that has a very different story than you do. May God help us to begin actively participating in each other’s stories; when we do this, we will reflect his Kingdom in more deep and beautiful ways.


[1] John Hope Bryant, How the Poor can Save Capitalism (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2014), 62.

[2] W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994), 22-23.

22
Dec

Cost of Poverty Experience – “COPE”

Here at Advance Memphis, we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to witness so often the transformation that happens when genuine relational interaction takes place between our neighbors and others who live in different circumstances. These interactions are not transactional encounters; rather, they go beyond relief to create real empathy and understanding. Recently we had the opportunity to join our neighbors in the 38126 neighborhood and employees of SouthernSun Asset Management in a “Cost of Poverty Experience” (COPE) simulation, which occurred in the Advance Memphis Warehouse. Advance Memphis graduates volunteered to role-play neighborhood institutions, while SouthernSun employees played roles of people in poverty.

A SouthernSun employee described the experience: “During each week [the simulation included four 15 minute “weeks”], you had to complete what seem like simple tasks, such as going to the grocery store, paying rent, and getting to and from work (if you are fortunate enough to have a job). These roles turned out to be much more stressful than I anticipated. Trying to prioritize what had to be taken care of first to not lose your home or job was a struggle… It was a very overwhelming hour.”  She also noted, “There were many circumstances that arose that put people in a place to make difficult decisions to provide for their families.”

During the event, we were able to see some light bulbs go off and see our neighbors learn and teach others about what it is like to live in poverty. Here are some of the thoughts from our neighbors who chose to volunteer to be a part of the COPE simulation:

“[The simulation] shows the reality of so many people in the community: just because you have a job doesn’t mean that everything will be easy. “- J. Reeves

“It really is something that we in the urban community deal with. [We] helped people see what poverty feels like and that it is not a myth but what many people deal with every day”- A. Williams

“I liked that… we were able help people see just for a moment what we go through every day” -J. Reeves

“I think we should do it every class to help others not just judge from the outside”- Q. Pitchford

And from a SouthernSun employee:

“It was a beautiful experience to witness this vast group of people come together and empathize with one another while also discussing what one could do going forward to help alleviate poverty.”

So often in America we break down society into categories such as the “haves” and the “have-nots,” but the reality is that we are all in need because poverty goes beyond material possessions. Our hope here at Advance is that, through fiercely loving our neighbors, providing services for sustainability, and engaging people with the truth of the gospel, we will help enable our neighbors in 38126 not only to feel advocated for, but to contribute to changing 38126 and the city of Memphis.

12
May

Reading List | The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches

The Elusive Dream‘Community is where humility and glory touch.’ Henri Nouwen

In our country, the most segregated hour of the week still remains every Sunday morning. Building upon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of racial integration, Dr. Korie Edwards displays the needed power of diagnosis, and the unchanging realities which must be fully faced in order to embrace the beautiful symphony of brotherhood to which Dr. King poetically refers.

Dr. Edwards’ research uses the interracial church as the emphasis for her watershed social analysis, yet her discoveries point to problems plaguing communities, organizations, and administrations throughout the United States. Preferences, both latent ideologies and group interests, contain the power to override overt missions and purposes. Even in the most well-intentioned communities, the minority group submits to the majority group’s preferences in order to sustain racial integration ironically further perpetuating the cycle of white hegemony. When this phenomenon occurs within the church, we are asking our African-american brothers and sisters to forsake the solitary arena where historically they have found power, control, and freedom of choice. Further light is shined on the reductionist dangers of color-blind theology and the quiet discrimination of our social networks exposing further nuances of white flight.

In closing, Dr. Edwards crafts a compassionate plea for us to delve deeper into our racial history and challenge our contemporary racial experiences discovering the glorious riches of the gospel through communities that celebrate racial justice and equality not mere racial integration, and indeed, it calls for a celebration, not just striving, to claim our beautiful inheritance.

I, personally, entered this book with one set of questions and left with a myriad of more along with a call to listen more intently, to expand my borders intentionally, and to embrace the awkward to challenge the subtle ideological nuances both inwardly and outwardly.


Reviewer Jill Stockburger is a guest blogger.

The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches by Dr. Korie Edwards. Support a local bookseller by calling Burke’s Bookstore in Cooper Young at  901.278.7484 or order online here


The Advance Memphis Reading List is comprised of books related to the work here at Advance and recommended by staff, grads, or volunteers. If you’re interested in contributing a book review, get in touch with Kate


 

11
May

Understanding Advance as an Alternative Staffing Organization

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JR, Santa, and Jackson

For the spring semester of 2015, Advance has been lucky to host Jackson McNeil as he served as an intern to complete requirements of his Urban Studies program at Rhodes College. We’re grateful for the selfless and effective way Jackson serves. We’re also grateful for the work he did on his semester-ending assignment for his Nonprofits in the City class under the instruction of Dr. Peter Hossler.

Below is the paper in its entirety, including explanations of Alternative Staffing Organizations, Advance’s role in this niche, and data to help demonstrate results. If you’ve ever wanted to understand what Advance was attempting to do by running a not-for-profit temporary staffing business, this should help.

Advance Memphis’ Alternative Staffing Organization
Jackson McNeil

A recent study done by Forbes listed Memphis as the top city for temporary jobs in 2015. 2014 data supporting this claim stated that the temporary workforce in Memphis was 30,816 individuals, accounting for 5% of the total workforce population in the city (Dill). With a high rate of poverty and unemployment in the city of Memphis comes a high rate of low skilled workers and cheap labor that attracts many companies using temporary work. In the 38126 zip code, many residents are struggling to find and keep jobs, and a local nonprofit is attempting to meet this need through multiple programs and a staffing service connecting community members with jobs.

ASA

Recently, Advance Memphis joined the Alternative Staffing Alliance. For more information on this field, click the logo or visit www.altstaffing.org.

“Alternative Staffing Organizations” is the name given to “social-purpose businesses created by community-based organizations and national nonprofits to ‘broker up’ job seekers, starting with temporary assignments and forming bridges to better jobs” (Carre, Holgate and Levine). Advance Memphis, a local nonprofit focused on economic development in the 38126 zip code operates a staffing service that connects program graduates with local temporary to permanent jobs and direct hires. My research examines whether or not this staffing service, which is typically a job taken on by the mainstream for profit industry, is meeting its own goals of finding employees meaningful work for individuals which empowers them and enables them to become economically self-sufficient.

History of Advance Memphis
Advance Memphis is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1999 by Steve Nash to serve the 38126 zip code, which consists of the Cleaborn Pointe and Foote Homes Public Housing Developments in Memphis, TN. This mission of Advance Memphis is “To serve adults in the Cleaborn/Foote community of inner city Memphis by empowering residents to acquire knowledge, resources, and skills to be economically self-sufficient through the gospel of Jesus Christ”. The vision of Advance Memphis is “To see the Cleaborn and Foote neighborhood transformed into a revitalized community through the empowerment of local adults.” The same year Steve created Advance, the 38126 zip code was named the 3rd poorest urban zip code in all of the United States. Some alarming statistics offered on Advance’s “About” page are that 70% of residents are unemployed, 58% of households are without a car, and 47% of residents have less than a high school degree. In the “History” section of the website, it states that “For decades, the community has been plagued by generational poverty and its symptoms: crime, unemployment, low graduation rates, and a high infant mortality rate. Conversely, the neighborhood is blessed with residents who unquestioningly share with their neighbors and who take care of one another, even at great cost to themselves.” (About Advance Memphis) While Advance recognizes that the neighborhood is plagued by social ills, the organization also recognizes the sacrificial philanthropy already happening in the neighborhood through informal ways that residents support their family of neighbors. This is supported by research on communities of color that suggests that there is a large amount of intra community philanthropy happening that does not always get classified as philanthropy in the mainstream conversations of charity and service (Smith, Shue and Vest).

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Andre began working at NGP, Inc. through the Staffing Service but is now a permanent employee.

Advance Memphis began with Nash connecting friends from the neighborhood with job opportunities and developing more relationships in the neighborhood. Eventually, programs began to be added around the theme of economic self-sufficiency and individual and community empowerment. Their main program is “Jobs For Life”, which “is a six-week, soft skills job training program, designed for those who are unemployed or underemployed” (About Advance Memphis). Other programs include a financial literacy class, professional counseling, professional legal aid, substance abuse rehabilitation program, High School Equivalency Preparation Program, Anger Management, an Individual Development Account Program that matches every dollar saved by participants with two dollars, LAUNCH entrepreneurship program, and a Community Steering Committee (About Advance Memphis).

Another programmatic effort launched in October of 2009 was a staffing service. After hearing Steve Nash speak at an event about the programs happening at Advance Memphis, an executive at KTG USA, a tissue manufacturer with a location in Memphis, convinced Nash that he should think about starting a staffing service to better connect graduates with local jobs usually filled by for-profit staffing services. Shortly after, Juanita Johnson was hired by Advance to create the Advance Memphis Staffing Service and Employment Support and oversee this activity because of her experience working in the for-profit staffing service industry in Memphis and the connections she had because her work. Since 2009, two other employees have been hired by Advance that focus on staffing (Johnson).

History of Alternative Staffing Organizations
Extensive research conducted on Alternative Staffing Organizations by The Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston states that these organizations first emerged in the 1970’s, and as the temporary work industry grew tremendously in the 1990’s and federal spending on workforce development was reduced, a large number of nonprofits stepped in as to fill this role of workforce development and job brokering for many individuals transitioning from welfare to work (Holgate, Carre and Levine). Other research adds to the context of this historical period by noting that the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which intended to move individuals from welfare to the work world increased the need for workforce development (Perlmutter, Deckop and Konrad). Another aspect of the PRWORA was that it began to prioritize “work first” approaches over “training first” approaches. The “work first” approach is said to be a more disciplining non-compliance approach and overemphasizes personal deficits of unemployed people (Peck and Theodore). “Work first” activation programs have also been found to further social exclusion of individuals, when they are designed in part to include these individuals in society through the formal labor market (Perkins).

Research has shown that this “work first” approach is also problematic for a specific population that typically faces many social disadvantages and needs intensive individual support, which can help improve retention rates and provide long-term support (Cortis, Bullen and Hamilton). A three year study of workers at Alternative Staffing Organizations that served primarily racial minority workers living in poverty noted that “Poverty itself aggravates the limitations imposed by any barrier on obtaining and holding a job” (Levine, Holgate and Takenaka). A problem with this “work first” approach for those experiencing poverty and many other social ills also arises in the for-profit sector specifically. The need for a positive work environment and intensive individual support doesn’t necessarily fit with most corporate goals focused on the bottom line. It also creates the risk of this population falling into “the category of low value and low uniqueness of human capital” (Perlmutter, Deckop and Konrad).

Human Resources and Best Practices
Advance Memphis strives to show people the innate value that they possess, even when they don’t see it themselves at times. Many residents of this neighborhood that come to Advance have internalized the stigmas attached with the area they live in and have never had meaningful work that empowers them and reinforces their value (Oliver). There is also literature on the stigma around temporary work and the psychological damage it can have on temporary workers (Boyce, Ryan and Imus), which can decrease confidence that individuals need to begin work after long stints of unemployment.

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Juanita Johnson, who heads up the staffing service as well as Human Resources for Advance Memphis employees, shares the responsibility with the two other staffing service employees of acting as Human Resource staff for all the employees on the payroll of the staffing service. In an interview with Johnson, she emphasized Advance’s commitment to their employees and their commitment to their growth. (Lepak and Scott A. Snell) discuss human capital theory within human resources and the benefits of developing employees by recognizing their value and uniqueness. Advance does this through developing deep relationships through programs that are prerequisites for being eligible for employment by the staffing service, such as the Jobs For Life class and other programs such as MAPS that emphasize the individuals unique talents and strengths.

Advance’s staffing service staff knowing their employees so well before sending them to work also gives them a leg up in the competition. Companies state that many alternative staffing services are able to solve the problems of entry level hiring by screening employees and customizing their product to what the company needs by also knowing the companies on a level where they know the workplace environment and skills necessary to be a productive worker (Carre, Holgate and Takenaka). For example, if the Advance staff sees that an individual works more productively when they are not interacting with people, they can place them in a job that doesn’t require them to interact with coworkers often.

What (Konrad and Mangel) would refer to as work-life programs, which are “initiatives adopted by organizations to help employees manage the interface between their paid work and other important life activities, including family”, are essential to Advance’s staffing service effort to increase work productivity and retention rates. Advance offers services and programs such as parenting classes, counseling, anger management, and substance abuse groups to address barriers faced in the workplace and outside of the workplace. Johnson also stated in her interview that the personal hours that all Advance staff puts in as a team sets them apart from other staffing services, from frequently calling employees going to work for the first time to encourage them and check up on them, to giving people rides to and from work last minute when the situation arises (Johnson).

Advantages/Disadvantages of Nonprofit Status
The staffing service industry is an industry that achieves financial results through high volume and low margin (Carre, Holgate and Takenaka). Due to Advance’s locality and relatively small number of employees, their commitment to paying above minimum wage (Johnson), and commitment to people and their success over financial gain, the staffing service does not achieve tremendous financial results. Although in the year 2013, the staffing service did produce a profit for the first time that helped subsidize other programs at Advance, currently the staffing service is running at a deficit (Oliver).

asoblog2Mainstream for profit agencies have to focus on corporate goals, which means that either there is a low incentive to transition their employees to permanent work and transfer them to the businesses payroll instead of keeping them on their own, or they charge the employees a fee for making this transition (Carre, Holgate and Levine). Advance Memphis’ staffing service’s main objective is finding their employees permanent work, which means incentivizing other businesses to transition them to their permanent payroll instead of wanting them on their own for their own profit. Advance and other organizations operating Alternative Staffing Organizations also differ from most for-profit staffing services by not charging a fee when a company wants to directly hire from the staffing service (Carre, Holgate and Levine). These two practices would not be seen by for-profits as effective and efficient strategies, but Advance exhibits their commitment to their employees over their own personal gain as an organization.

Research shows that Alternative Staffing Organizations, such as Advance’s staffing service, incur greater indirect expenditure due to value added support services. As previously mentioned, the population going to work through Alternative Staffing Organizations typically needs more extensive support than a typical for-profit staffing services are able or willing to offer. Due to the fact that Advance serves a specific zip code, they are able to focus more highly on their smaller number of employees and give them the support they need. Though this serves as a financial disadvantage from a profit standpoint, it actually seems to serve as an advantage to Alternative Staffing Organizations because of their ability to focus on individuals and their organizational mission and goals.

Recently there has been a push for operational efficiency as the nonprofit world becomes more competitive and grant money becomes harder to get, putting more pressure on nonprofits to operate more like a business and less like a value driven organization. “Business firms must produce profits and answer to the expectations of shareholders and government must respond to the desires of voters, but nonprofits appear to face neither the test of profitability nor the test of electability. Rather, they face a far more complex test of relevance that is related to their mission.” (Frumkin and Andre-Clark).

The solution to sustainability that is suggested is one that Advance meets very well. The research suggests that a nonprofit “must develop a clear strategy for competing against for-profits, one that capitalizes on the commitments and values that donors, volunteers, and staff bring to their work.” which gives them an edge over for-profit businesses (Frumkin and Andre-Clark). Johnson stated that although some companies do like the idea of contributing to the social goals of Advance Memphis, and the reason that Advance’s staffing service was initially created was because of this draw to the potential social good created, many companies are surprised and pleased with the quality of work that Advance offers through their staffing service and this is what keeps them as customers. This has been a large part of Advance’s customer base growing from one business at the beginning of 2010, to twelve different companies today (Johnson).

Although Advance may not be competitive with larger mainstream staffing services in Memphis in regards to their profit margin, research would suggest that Advance actually possesses an advantage in terms of sustainability and opportunity for success because of their dedication to the values and mission of the organization and their ability to achieve their mission through their work in the staffing service.

Results
Advance Memphis’ staffing service has achieved results that may not seem like much at first glance, but put in the context of the community that Advance serves, there are huge gains happening in the community because of the work that Advance is doing through their staffing service and other programs offered. In the 2013 Annual review, in the staffing service’s third year of operation, 138 graduates went to work, while 52 graduates found permanent work and earned $421,682. Graduates that went to work through Advance’s staffing service earned $885,000. This results in over $1 million dollars that is being earned by residents of one of the poorest and under resourced zip codes in the country (Lareau, 2013 Annual Review). In 2014’s Annual Review, 100 graduates were reported as having started temporary work, while 26 transferred into permanent jobs and 26 more were directly hired into permanent positions. Advance’s commitment to paying above minimum wage was also reflected in the reported average wage of $8.81 (Lareau, What We Did This Year: Outcome, Progress, Change). In Advance’s staffing service’s 5 year history, approximately 1,000 graduates of the program have found work of some form, with approximately 100 transitioning to permanent after starting out in temporary work.

Conclusion
Through Advance Memphis’ staffing service that I find to utilize best practices of Human Resource practices in Alternative Staffing Organizations, I believe that Advance as an organization and the staffing service operated by Advance both successfully address their mission “To serve adults in the Cleaborn/Foote community of inner city Memphis by empowering residents to acquire knowledge, resources, and skills to be economically self-sufficient through the gospel of Jesus Christ” (About Advance Memphis). When asked what their greatest success is as an organization, Chris Oliver responded that “when someone who has been unworked or has low skill levels can obtain a permanent job and provide for their family and take ownership of helping those around them take the same steps”. This has been seen by those at Advance and the empowerment that happens when this takes place is evident (Oliver).

Future Goals and Research Limitations
As far as Advance and the staffing service’s long term goals as an organization, the staffing service hopes to see more graduates in positions where they can gain skilled labor and partnerships or the creation of a program that can train employees in skilled labor (Johnson). As an organization as a whole, they would like to see more job opportunities in the 38126 zip code, such as small businesses started out of Advance’s LAUNCH entrepreneurship class, and more stability with home ownership and employment. They also hope to address larger structural problems now that they have established relationships in the community and can work alongside the neighborhood to address these problems (Oliver).

Limitations to my own research include not enough data to easily access and analyze that would have given be better quantitative knowledge of the staffing service, and also of other for-profit staffing services in Memphis. I think a comparison of retention rates, wages, and work conditions of employees working through staffing services would be valuable to add to this research and better support my findings. Also recidivism rates would be interesting to analyze and research in relation to convicted offenders going to work through Advance’s staffing service, if this data was available.

–Jackson McNeil

Works Cited

About Advance Memphis. n.d. <http://advancememphis.org/about/>.
Boyce, Anthony S., et al. “”Temporary Work, Permanent Loser?” A Model of the Stigmatization of Temporary Workers.” Journal of Management (2007): 5-29. Electronic Document.
Carre, Francoise, et al. Brokering Up: The Role of Temporary Staffing in Overcoming Labor Market Barriers. Research Report. Boston: Center for Social Policy Publications, 2009. Electronic Document.
—. Why Use the Services of Alternative Staffing Organizations: Perspectives from Customer Businesses. Research Report. Boston: Center for Social Policy Publications, 2012. Electronic Document.
Cortis, Natasha, Jane Bullen and Myra Hamilton. “Sustaining transitions from welfare to work: the perceptions of employers and employment service providers.” Australian Journal of Social Issues (2013): 363-372. Electronic Document.
Dill, Kathryn. The Best Cities for Temp Jobs in 2015. 1 April 2015. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathryndill/2015/04/01/the-best-cities-for-temp-jobs-in-2015/>.
Frumkin, Peter and Alice Andre-Clark. “When Missions, Markets, and Politics Collide: Value and Strategy in the Nonprofit Human Services.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (2000): 141-163. Electronic Document.
Holgate, Brandynn, et al. Alternative Staffing Organizations and Skills: Linking Temporary Work With Training . Report. Boston: Center For Social Policy, 2012. Electronic Document.
Johnson, Juanita. Advance Memphis Staffing Service Jackson McNeil. 24 April 2015.
Konrad, Alison M. and Robert Mangel. “The Impact of Work-Life Programs on Firm Productivity.” Strategic Management Journal (2000): 1225-1237. Electronic Document.
Lareau, Kate. 2013 Annual Review. End of Year. Memphis: Advance Memphis, 2013. Document.
—. What We Did This Year: Outcome, Progress, Change. 12 December 2014. Website. 20 April 2015.
Lepak, David P. and Scott A. Scott A. Snell. “orgThe Human Resource Architecture: Toward a Theory of Human Capital Allocation and Development.” Academy of Managment Review (1999): 31-48. Electronic Document.
Levine, Helen, et al. The Alternate Staffing Work Experience: Populations, Barries, and Employment Outcomes. Research Report. Boston: Center for Social Policy, 2012. Electronic Document.
Oliver, Chris. Advance Memphis Jackson McNeil. 10 April 2015. Document.
Peck, Jamie and Nikolas Theodore. “‘Work First’: workforce and the regulation of contingent labour markets.” Cambridge Journal of Economics (2000): 119-138. Electronic Document.
Perkins, Daniel. “Activation and social inclusion: challenges and possibilities.” Australian Journal of Social Issues (2010): 267-287. Electronic Document.
Perlmutter, Felice Davidson, et al. “Nonprofits and the Job Retention of Former Welfare Clients.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (2005): 473-490. Electronic Document.
Smith, Bradford, et al. “Philanthropy in Communities of Color.” Ott, J. Steven and Lisa A. Dicke. The Nature of the Nonprofit Sector. Boulder: Westview Press, 2012. 308-317. Book.

29
Jul

Be a Part of Faith & Finances Certification Training

fascil-faithandfinances-color-headerOne of the many programs we offer at Advance Memphis is a financial literacy class, Faith & Finances. The course reviews spending, saving, and income/expense tracking. But more importantly, Faith & Finances connects our finances to God’s greater plan in His world. When I think about Memphis and the high bankruptcy rates, our nation’s saving habits (or lack thereof), and even my own struggles with personal finances, I can easily become discouraged. Instead, Faith & Finances reminds me, and the class, that God sent Jesus to reconcile all things to Himself. This is great news for the city, the nation, and myself! God has a plan and is using my resources (ultimately His) to accomplish that plan. When I believe this, I am encouraged by the importance I have in stewarding His resources.

The Faith & Finances curriculum comes from The Chalmer’s Center for Economic Development. Over the course of 12 weeks, Faith & Finances hones in on how our individual finances fit into God’s plan. For the past several years, we have taught these classes at Advance and think the material is outstanding, the classes are fun, and the entire design honors the participants and their experiences. Since Advance Memphis is so invested in the themes and ideas connected in the curriculum, we are offering a certification course for future Faith & Finances sites. The Faith & Finances Certification Training is for anyone interested in hosting a site or using this curriculum.

  • The training begins with an online portion on September 29th
  • Additionally, there is a live training event on November 14th-15th
  • Cost for the training is $350 (if you register before September 14th)

Having personally been through this training and led portions of it as certified a trainer, I can say that this will be a tremendously valuable experience for anyone interested in adult education and/or financial literacy among low-income communities. Register today!

6
May

Students Earn High School Diploma Despite Unexpected Roadblock

Sharon earned her High School Diploma and staff members dressed in graduation robes to surprise her with the news.

Sharon earned her High School Diploma and staff members dressed in graduation robes to surprise her with the news.

At the beginning of this year, achieving a high school diploma as an adult learner in Memphis, TN, was the hardest it has been in decades. Forget the barriers of transportation, child care, money, and discouragement. Forget being tested on new material, paying at least 15% more to test, or having your previous progress erased at the new year. The reason high school diplomas were hard to come by was because you simply could not test.

It took 2 and a half months before Memphis residents could take the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET), a new test of High School proficiency to compete with the GED, in Shelby County. In fact, there was no test of high school proficiency offered at all in January and the only option for February or early March was to take the GED (General Educational Development) test at Southwest Tennessee Community College’s Macon Road campus near Germantown- almost 30 minutes from Downtown (longer by bus).

It is unclear why a credential that only benefits the city (and nation as a whole), the lack of which is well documented as being a trap for folks to remain poor, would be so elusive for nearly a quarter year, especially in a city already injured by the symptoms and causes of poverty. But the fact remains that GED and ETS (the companies offering high school equivalency tests in Tennessee), the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and Shelby County Schools failed in the first two and a half months of the year to make the tests accessible to residents in the city.

Latisha earned her diploma and went to work on the Green Machine. Mike Shaw is an instructor and author of this blog entry.

Latisha earned her diploma and got a job on the Green Machine. Pictured with Mike Shaw, instructor and author of this blog entry.

Despite this setback, the first 2 high school diplomas obtained by students in Advance Memphis High School Equivalency Program were earned during the first week that the HiSET was offered in Shelby County. This should not be a surprise. It should be widely known that a high school diploma earned via the GED or HiSET tests represents more than a mastery of the basics of algebra, geometry, English syntax, or US history. Earning a high school diploma as an adult learner proves that the recipient is a hard worker, can finish what they start, can show up when required, and is driven to do more with their life. Waiting to take the test was just another hurdle in the track toward helping themselves toward a better life. For most of my students, their high school graduation is not the end of their journey. Instead, it is a key to open the door to new beginnings, new opportunities, and even new lives. When we refused people the chance to test we didn’t simple fail to offer a finish line, we failed to offer a starting line.

Every GED or High School Equivalency success is a testament to our students’ perseverance; this year, it’s truer than ever.

Mike Shaw
GED Instructor
mshaw@advancememphis.org

 

10
Apr

Loving the Children of 38126

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Keidra Boaze, High School Equivalency Instructor

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hand and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are about the earth.” Deuteronomy 11: 13-21

My name is Keidra Boaze and I am one of the High School Equivalency Instructors at Advance Memphis. Teaching is a huge passion of mine. The gift of teaching that the Lord has given me has proven all the more that I was made in his image–He is the one TRUE teacher and I have learned so much from him. In light of this, our licensed counselor, Molly Akin and I decided to begin a brain development/parenting class based on the curriculum from the Urban Child Institute titled Touch Talk Read Play (TTRP). Our heart was to further equip our neighbors in 38126 with tools for ways to help their children develop cognitively, socio-emotionally, and physically.

We recently began our first pilot class and I’ve been blown away by participants’ response to it. In the beginning, I thought that–based on different cultural practices–that students might be offended by the content. I also thought that we would be doing a lot more teaching than learning. After only a couple classes, I have learned that I was very wrong. Our participants have been eager to learn about child development and how many different circumstantial and environmental activities can affect their child’s (ren’s) brain both negatively and positively. They have also been FULL of wisdom. I come from a poor African American family and I am even learning the not ALL cultural practices are wrong. The key was helping our participants see that they were also doing some things right! We never want to destroy their dignity and the work that they have done as best as they can.

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One of the participants has older children. She, as well as other participants, was beginning to feel defeated by some of the discussions. We had to reassure the entire class that it was NEVER too late to restore those relationships and continue to help their children develop. The challenge to them was to implement a strategy from the Touch module which includes talking as well. She said that her 14 year old was feeling neglected by her. During the week, she decided to spend quality time with him by taking him to dinner. In class discussion, she expressed her excitement about his response to their time together. We were so excited for her and to see that things are never too late for redemption.

The passage I quoted above is really the foundation of child development. In the context of Israel, they were to tell the good news of the Lord to their children in every circumstance. We, too, are desiring for our participants to TTRP with their children in different capacities, especially in sharing the truth of who Christ is. I am grateful to take part in such an amazing class.

Keidra Boaze
kboaze@advancememphis.org

27
Mar

Kingdom Balance: Economic Outputs and Inputs

Dear Friends:
How can today’s body of Christ live out the Bible’s kingdom economic principles? Are we challenging ourselves to look at our economy through the lens of the Bible? These questions overwhelm me when I realize that through my work, I bear the responsibility to craft programs and policies for many groups: our ministry team (the full and part time staff of Advance Memphis), our graduate employees in the Advance Memphis Staffing Program, and even for volunteers and donors. Bob Goudzwaard argues that while socialist and capitalist economies focus on maximizing OUTPUTS (more production, more money), the biblical economy focuses on INPUTS (taking care of workers, of immigrants, of land and animals). As I’ve studied these principles and begun trying to apply them at Advance and in my home, I am constantly asking myself if my priorities reflect the kingdom principles of INPUTS first, or if I’ve fallen into the trap of OUTPUTS obsession. 
For example: am I more focused on outputs, such as the number of graduates employed, the number of GEDs, and the number of dollars in the bankto the exclusion of people’s hearts? Or am I, instead, concerned with how to honor and develop the individual spiritual gifts and talents of our participants and staff? Do I consider the humanity of our Staffing Program graduate employees and, in turn, craft employment policies that give image bearers dignity? I’m also reconsidering how I view Advance staff, donors, and volunteers. Are they merely “labor” and a means to an end? Are they commodities to use to get ministry results as inexpensively and as efficiently as possible? 
My focus on outputs shows up in a lot of ways. I know there have been times when I’ve been guilty of an attitude and practices focused only on results and on financial “stewardship,” rather than on encouraging and developing the image-bearers I encounter at Advance. Unfortunately, I’ve defined stewardship as “getting the most bang for my buck.” I’ve asked employees for as much work as possible with as little compensation as possible in the name of stewardship (a reduction of Biblical kingdom stewardship). I’ve worried about quantity over quality. In this, I’ve failed to love my neighbor as myself. Remember: it’s a command God gave His people to love our neighbor. I’ve asked Christ’s forgiveness for my mistreatment of my fellow man and of His natural resources, and I ask your forgiveness as well. Today, I’m working to reconnect with the inputs while learning to trust God for the outputs even as we continue setting goals and working toward results. I’m acknowledging that stewardship may mean doing what’s right in loving my neighbor, even if it costs more. 
Recently, I’ve worked on increasing the tangible ways that I’m caring for our inputs. We’ve added professional development days for full time staff and we’re working to add them for Staffing Program employees. Advance challenges ourselves to move as many employees as possible from temporary to permanent employment, even if it makes our work more difficult. We’ve begun giving employees “flex time” to acknowledge the evenings, weekends, and early morning hours that they often work in order to serve and love our neighbors. We’re sharing the surplus from the Staffing Program with its employees, increasing wages (longing for the day when a full day’s work is a living wage for the employee) and offering bonuses for attendance. 
We’re also having “Feast Days”enjoying time with Staffing employees, mentors, and business owners as we grill and eat lunch together. Counseling is now available for everyone at Advance: on site for participants and off-site for staff members. We’re adding new ways to develop our Staffing Program leaders, preparing them to move to permanent positions. We’re taking steps that value the image-bearers we encounter, but there’s more work and learning to be done.  Skills and wages must increase for our neighbors, especially sinceTennessee leads the nation in minimum wage workers.
When viewed through a Biblical lens, how does your place in our economy change? Does it change how you manage your home or businessor even daily errands? Does it change who you hire? Does it change how you manage or how you work as part of your team? 
These are the questions that I’m struggling to answer, and I invite the Church to join me in this prayerful struggle. Sovereign economy? No! Sovereign man? No! Sovereign God. YES! PLEASE join me in our application of Biblical truths regarding inputs and outputs. It matters to our Creator. I believe that through prayer, God’s word, diverse and challenging personal relationships, and humility, we can experience a foretaste of God’s kingdom economy in the midst of our own lives and community.
18
Oct

The Complexity and Shame of Addiction

Compiled by Cindy Goad from materials edited by David Sper, written by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson, “When We Just Can’t Stop: Overcoming Addiction”

Addictions raise many questions. Are they moral weaknesses, diseases, habits, or sins? Are they physical dependencies, or complicated spiritual cycles? What’s needed for change? Is it medical treatment, family intervention, daily group accountability, or spiritual transformation? Can behaviors be changed quickly, or will recovery be the process of a lifetime? The answer to these questions are anything but simple. Honesty demands that we acknowledge the complexity of addiction. Defining Addiction: An addiction is an enslaving, destructive dependency… “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”

Because a person can be physically predisposed to an addiction, and because of the likelihood of medical complications, addictions are often viewed as a disease. It would be a mistake, however, to think only in terms of the physical dimensions. Most addictions are rooted in moral choices and spiritual needs.

Shame, however, is also a deceiver. In the beginning, pleasure holds us in the addiction. In time, shame has the same effect. 

What is most important is not whether we are predisposed to an enslaving habit, but whether we are willing to do whatever it takes to bring this predisposed “diseased body,” habit or idol under the control of reason and faith. Addictions are not just diversions of choice. We see them as lifeboats necessary for our survival. Addictions give us something we believe we must have in order to live. They provide predictable relief and power in an unpredictable and painful world. Our addictions provide a remedy that helps us to forget the pain–at least for a little while. In time, they become worse than the pain we were trying to relieve. Now we find ourselves needing relief not only from our inescapable losses but also from the shame of our own foolishness. We feel shame for an addictive behavior that made our problems worse.

Shame, however, is also a deceiver. In the beginning, pleasure holds us in the addiction. In time, shame has the same effect.

With shame, unless you first identify the problem, you will pass by the many treatments in Scripture without ever seeing or hearing them. Shame. You feel worthless, rejected, dirty and exposed. Sometimes you feel it because of what you have done, in which case your badness must exceed community standards. Shame attaches itself to our sins and does indeed have many faces. It seems to be everywhere and yet still be elusive. Maybe that’s why we can’t do anything with it until we put words on it. But God puts words on it, so we should too. That itself can be hopeful. It can also leave us wanting more. If you want more right away, just watch Jesus. He goes out of his way to meet, touch, bless and restore the shamed and addicted.

At this crossroads of invitation, there is an opportunity for change. It is an opportunity to discover life through a process of admitting our addiction, acknowledging our pain, accepting responsibility for the damage we’ve done, pleading for mercy, choosing surrender, and caring for others. Here at this crossroads, our hearts can come alive in the presence of One who, while knowing everything about us, still wants to come into us and be the God and Friend we’ve been looking for. It will become clear that we need undeserved help and forgiveness. Mercy will become our new found joy. Mercy invites us to a change of heart, a repentance, that will cause us to gladly turn from our idolatrous obsessions. With failure behind us, mercy now calls us to a new dependence on God. For the first time, we will have more than momentary pleasure. Now we will have reason to destroy the idol and break all ties with it.

In our reflective moments we will always have to admit that the pleasure of our addiction doesn’t deserve to be compared to the mercies of God.

Titus 2:11-14

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

–Cindy Chapple | Leader of Overcoming through Christ at Advance Memphis | cchapple@advancememphis.org