Read full article from forbes.com here:
As we prepare to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Genesys Works this fall, I recently had the opportunity to meet with fifteen of our program alums representing each of our training classes since 2002. Hearing their heartwarming stories of change and transformation as a result of being connected with meaningful work experiences while in high school was truly inspiring. But as a former corporate executive, I got excited hearing of the financial impact the early career opportunities had on these young women and men. It was clear to see that our investment in their futures paid off, but how much? Can that impact be measured? If so, what was our return on investment?
Measuring and benchmarking outcomes in the social sector has its challenges, but it can (and should) be done. Institutional investors and corporate partners increasingly want to see empirical evidence that their investments of time and money are generating positive results. This is where Social Return on Investment (SROI) calculations come in, which compares program expenditures with all gains for participants and society.
As a social enterprise working to transform the lives of disadvantaged high school students through skills training, meaningful internships, and college and career coaching, Genesys Works is helping move more students out of poverty and into professional careers, creating a more productive and diverse workforce in the process. That all sounds great on paper, but is a program like ours a sound investment in America’s future from an economic perspective? Are we an efficient use of society’s resources?
To answer these questions, we engaged the services of a recognized expert in the SROI field, Dr. Clive Belfield, Principal Economist at the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies in Education at Columbia University, to perform an independent SROI analysis. Dr. Belfield’s analysis concluded that for every $1 of donor investment, there was $13.46 of induced economic impact. This benefit comes from higher rates of college enrollment and completion, higher career incomes, and lower social burdens (e.g. lower welfare reliance, criminal activity, health care costs, etc.). With a return of nearly 13.5 times the contributed capital, the economic value of investing in youth career-readiness programming is evident.
Across the country, programs like Genesys Works, Year Up, Per Scholas, NPower, and Urban Alliance are hard at work helping young adults from low-income backgrounds join the economic mainstream through skills training and meaningful employment. But if we really aim to make a dent in the skills gap facing American companies and create the more diverse and inclusive workforce we all dream of, we need more resources. In the end, it comes down to jobs and money – internship and apprenticeship opportunities for those we serve, and investment capital to deliver and grow our programming.
The social and economic returns on investments in workforce readiness are significant and compelling. I urge all corporate and community leaders to rethink existing commitments to college and career-readiness initiatives and double-down on our collective efforts to create equitable employment opportunities for all. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.