The first of a new year is a great time to share a few brief highlights about what has been happening at FNC in 2014. This is a pivotal time in the history of FNC and with the adoption of our new strategic plan, we are working hard to identify and bring together stakeholders as partners creating significant change in many focus areas, including:
- Urban youth programming
- Urban farming
- Individual, family and community health and nutrition
- Returning citizens (reentry into society by former prisoners)
- Workforce programming
- Contextualized learning
. . . and many more!
2014 saw the end of our U.S. Department of Labor funded Philadelphia Solar Career Move program. A partnership between FNC, Philadelphia Works, the Smart Energy Initiative, JOIN and Jobs for the Future, the program was funded on the premise that the solar industry was about to experience unprecedented growth in the Philadelphia region. It became quickly evident that this was not the case. This reality could have easily ended the program before it was even off the ground. But with strategic thinking, strong partnerships and creative programming the program was realigned around those industries that will eventually feed the inevitable shift to solar – specifically, electrical and green construction. By the close of the program, we had accomplished a job placement rate of 85%! Of those, 92% reached six-month job retention. The average starting wage was $20.40 for men and an incredible $30.41 for women! And, once again we beat the odds!
How often do all of these people sit down together as equals? How often do they sit down to collectively share knowledge, expertise, and experience along with pastors, doctors, artists, educators, community workers, youth, and men and women from all walks of life?
Marvin, a Solar Career Move participant, felt stuck in an administrative assistant position. He had a passion for solar energy and jumped at the chance to receive training through our program. He passed the difficult NABCEP Entry Level exam on his first try! In his determination to “make my resume stand out among my peers” he took advantage of other trainings through our program, including Asbestos Abatement, OS?HA 30 and Green Customer Service. Marvin was quickly able to find one of the rare solar jobs in the area and in the months after completing the program created safety plans for over 80 job sites, installed over 640 KW in residential solar, managed a team of 5 and designed various PV systems using formulas learned through our program. His most recent assignment is the installation of a 1 MW commercial solar system for a community college. He tells us, “I strongly feel that I could not have moved forward with my life at such an accelerated rate without the support of my friends at FNC and Solar Career Move!”
Did you know that as of this year, Teens 4 Good (T4G) has provided over 12 tons of food to needy families and individuals in Philadelphia? That is due to the hard work of the 583 teens who have worked with the program since its inception! This year, T4G added a nutrition specialist to the team – providing healthy cooking demonstrations and recipes at various food banks. Naysayers projected that people in the communities would not be interested in learning how to cook healthier meals. The opposite proved to be true – with parents eagerly awaiting the nutrition educator’s visits! Because of this, we now seek to fund a mobile teaching kitchen to bring nutrition education to more of Philadelphia’s poorest neighborhoods!
This fall, Julian, a Teens 4 Good program participant in both the school year and summer program, completed his first semester at Community College of Philadelphia while remaining with T4G as the Market Manager. Through his experiences in T4G he was able to not only run the market stand independently, but trained other youth to assist him. Julian took pride and ownership of his work and proudly displayed the leadership skills he learned through the program.
2014 also saw a complete revamping of our BEST Training program. Originally created to provide Advanced Youth Development training to those who work with young people, Yoel Solís, our Education and Literacy Coordinator has completely restructured our program, updated our materials and created a series of training opportunities that will benefit youth workers all across the tri-state area! Upcoming sessions include:
- Advancing Youth Development Community of Practice
- Youth Mental Health First Aid Certification
- LGBTQ 101-102 for Youth Workers (in partnership with The Attic Youth Center)
And, as FNC moves into a new era with a powerful and innovative new strategic plan in place, we are embracing the power of Collective Impact. Collective Impact is the commitment of a diverse group of players from different sectors to a common agenda for solving complex social problems. We have long understood that diverse partnerships lead to better, more streamlined services, but competition for funding often leads to isolated impact as agencies end up going it alone. However, Collective Impact changes the paradigm by embracing the concept that no single organization can create large-scale, lasting social change.
FNC is leading the charge in our region to create lasting solutions by coordinating the efforts of those in government, social services, businesses and philanthropy to work together around clearly defined goals. Currently, FNC is leading one Collective Impact effort that involves transforming Philadelphia’s reentry system for returning citizens, and is part of another initiative to build a sustainable, regional food system where all Philadelphians will have access to affordable, healthy food.