In each year’s selection process, the GreenLight Fund identifies proven social innovations that address the needs that matter most to individuals facing barriers to social mobility and economic opportunity.

In 2020, GreenLight identified significant barriers to long-term success for returning citizens in Charlotte after a comprehensive assessment of the local landscape. Between 2009 and 2011, 3,169 citizens returned from incarceration to Mecklenburg County, and 35% of those returning citizens were rearrested within one year of their release.

To help improve the opportunities for returning citizens, GreenLight Charlotte invested in its second portfolio organization, the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO). CEO provides comprehensive employment services to men and women with recent criminal convictions. Participants who join CEO start with a one-week orientation and life skills education course and then join a transitional work crew where they work 3-4 days per week. On the other days, participants work with job coaches and job developers to work toward full-time positions.

Establishing and Maintaining Partnerships
After selecting an organization for investment, GreenLight helps cultivate partnerships between the organization and local anchor institutions, such as community organizations, local government, major employers, and school systems.

GreenLight Charlotte has worked alongside CEO in building relationships with the Mecklenburg County Manager’s Office, North Carolina Department of Corrections (NCDOC), the Board of Commissioners, the City of Charlotte, and the local re-entry council of service providers. These partnerships have allowed for work crew expansions with the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and corporate partners.

Maya Feemster-Jones, CEO Charlotte Site Director, expressed:

“GreenLight Fund has served as a resource referral and a reference with us and community organizations for exclusive relationships and funding opportunities.”

GreenLight’s financial investment is only the beginning of our partnership with our portfolio organizations. GreenLight is committed to the sustainability and long-term impact of the organization in our community. Since their launch in August 2020, GreenLight Charlotte has continued to work with CEO by supporting their existing partnerships and finding new opportunities for programmatic and financial growth. Maya Feemster-Jones added:

“The check-ins with former Executive Director, Carrie Cook, were essential temperature checks which would bridge or support any relationships with current and potential partners. Also, Carrie would create opportunities for us to have a seat at tables in varying organizations in the county.”

Measurable Results
Now two years after their launch, CEO is working to open opportunities for returning citizens in Charlotte with substantial success. 118 participants have gained work experience and earned income stability through CEO’s transitional jobs this past year. On average, CEO’s participants receive a $14.84 wage at job placement compared to the $7.25 minimum wage in Charlotte.

At GreenLight Fund Charlotte, we are committed to building lasting partnerships within the community to understand local needs and bring the most promising social innovations to address Charlotte’s most persistent challenges.