Category Archives: Nonprofit Strategy

Power of Possible

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” –Helen Keller

As I reflect on 2015, I consistently marvel at what can happen when people unite in a common, optimistic purpose. This year, as a result of collaboration among our family of organizations, we helped make it possible for 70,000 people to  change the course of their lives, their work, and ultimately, their legacy, through job placements, educational services, training, a variety of assessments, and behavioral and health services. I am proud of the commitment I witness every day by my colleagues who work alongside our customers. Our staff is dedicated and hardworking, joined in their common vision to improve the lives of those we serve through innovation, creativity, problem-solving and action. I am humbled by the work I witness, done in service to our customers. But even more, I am humbled by the optimism, the faith, the hope, and ultimately, the courage it takes for those we serve to invite change—especially change that will have far-reaching, long-lasting consequences for generations to come.

I have done a lot of research on change theories. I have learned that the majority of people—even those faced with life-threatening illness or danger—do not opt to step away from what is familiar into what feels like dangerous and unknown territory.

What does it take to effect change? Change starts with vision, with hope, and with optimism. It starts with imaging what is possible. For many of our customers, it means stepping away from the constructs of history and stigma to imagine a world where opportunity is equal, where there is a chance for economic independence and where it is possible to change the course of one family’s story.

Change cannot happen without vision, hope and optimism. But it takes sustainable action to truly drive change. Action looks like showing up for class or work day after day, even with transportation or child care issues. It means pushing through the stigma of a past history to create a new future and believing in success. It means trusting someone when trust has been missing before now. It means believing there are choices when the course may have seemed prescribed for generations past.

As I look to 2016, I am ever more optimistic about what all of us can achieve working together. We have plans that reflect our commitment to work that is sustainable, relevant, and which will have the greatest impact on the greatest number of people. The power of possible is boundless. I am excited to share this journey with you. I believe that together, we can imagine—and create—a new paradigm for independence, dignity and joy for many thousands more people. What do you imagine is possible?

 

Minimum Wage Increase: Costs, Benefits and Complexities

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The social and economic implications of raising the minimum wage make it a very complex issue. We know that increased wages enhance educational, housing and nutritional opportunities for families and have a tremendously positive impact on the purchasing power of individuals.

Christine McMahon

Christine McMahon

In general, raising the minimum wage is hard to argue against, yet we need to consider the unintended consequences. Will employers withhold additional dollars for training and education? Will a higher minimum wage raise the qualifications for entry-level jobs? Will this result in a reduction in hiring? We have to ask the right questions and ensure that employers and employees work together to enhance the workplace experience.

In the U.S. general elections held on November 4th voters in four states – Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota – approved measures to increase the minimum wage. The measures, which will all be fully implemented by January 2017, will affect approximately 420,000 low-wage earners.

In Illinois, voters passed a non-binding referendum to increase the minimum wage to $10/hour, and voters in San Francisco voted to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour, following in the footsteps of Seattle, which last year became the first major city to implement at $15/hour minimum wage. Meanwhile, in October, the Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance that sets a minimum hourly wage of $15.37 for workers at Los Angeles hotels with at least 125 guest rooms.

These increases have been implemented by voters in bipartisan fashion, across party lines, and appear to signify a new economic reality. While increases in the minimum wage have historically had a small impact on the nation’s economy as a whole, it will be interesting to see the impact of wage increases at city and state levels in the years ahead.

One area that causes me concern is the impact of a higher minimum wage on disadvantaged youth and unskilled workers. Fedcap’s mission is to help people with barriers become economically self-sufficient through training and employment, and to create pathways to economic self-sufficiency. Will a higher minimum wage create yet another barrier for these individuals to enter the workforce and gain the experience and skills they need to advance? That is the complexity that we face as we consider this issue.

Certainly, while it is clear that an increased wage is a first step in rising out of poverty, in and of itself, it is not sufficient. A higher minimum wage will not enable people to own their own home, purchase health insurance or afford a quality education for their children. Education and training have always been and will continue to be the means by which people escape the poverty trap. Whatever the minimum wage may be, we always have to think about the best ways to help people advance in the workplace and build a pathway to economic well-being.

Our 8th Solutions Series was convened to explore these complex questions. I thank you for your participation, and look forward to continuing the conversation.

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