A few weeks ago, Green City Force (GCF) co-founder Lucian Cohen dropped by the office to talk about the recent developments and exciting new ventures of the Clean Energy Corps. We discussed a couple of our favorite topics: importance of earned income strategies for a sustainable social venture and the significance of investing in today’s youth. Lucian co-founded the organization with Lisbeth Shepherd and Erika Symmonds in 2009 to fill the gap in quality job training programs for low-income, high school graduates in the New York City area. Most job training programs cater to adult professionals and last only a few weeks. Many national service corps, which offer a longer-term experience, require a college degree for admission. Together there are very few opportunities for the very people who are most in need of job skills programs. Since GCF’s founding, the organization has trained over 200 young adults (18-24 years old) through its Clean Energy Corps program. The Corps Members are trained for six months in technical and professional skills, consisting of fieldwork and classroom training through GCF’s Green City Academy. Upon program completion, GCF helps place the graduates in college education programs or in jobs related to energy efficiency and buildings management.
The success of the Corps program speaks for itself: • 78% graduation rate • 65% job placement rate. Moreover, Corps members have a significant impact in reducing the carbon footprint of the city. They have contributed to NYC’s Cool Roof Campaign, provided green energy audits for low-income houses, and launched the ‘Love Where You Live’ campaign in the Chelsea-Elliott development.
NYC’s Most Innovative Non-Profit Award 2013 Source: http://www.greencityforce.org/
The sustainability of these successes is due, in part, to revenue from their service projects, sponsors, and partners. Specifically, the program has been sustained through earned income, private donations, foundations and state grants. Lucian highlighted the importance of a hybrid revenue stream and the freedom it provides GCF to hold Corps Members to high standards, making them even more appealing job candidates. Earned income helps GCF run their programs continuously and focus on scaling operations, instead of allocating valuable staff resources to fundraising and development.
Through increasing partnerships and service projects, GCF hopes to expand their operations to other states. The success of GCF can be attributed to the staff’s continuous support and mentorship of the Corps Members to ensure that they succeed and create sustainable careers in the green industry. More importantly, the organization and their Corps Members expand the network of stakeholders that are committed to fighting poverty and to creating a more sustainable world.