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Getting a Second Chance

36 I Nonprofit Professional Performance Magazine Even before that person asks the question, even if they’re too scared to ask what to them is an obvious question, we’re on the approach with them and helping them. It’s that sense of deep empathy and understanding: the person S econd Chance, like a lot of organizations, started with an individual who had a less-than- positive experience. This individual had the addiction disease and came very close to taking his own life. From that profound moment, he realized that he was not unique, and that he could make a difference for others in that situation, and founded Second Chance. It started with providing housing. Then the idea arose that employment was the route away from this: if people could get work, they could now live and have health care. This individual helped as much as he could to ensure that others in similar situations don’t get to that point that he got to. He came back to San Diego and committed his heart and soul to making a difference. It takes courage to move from that dreadful situation and create good out of it, good that continues to Every day, thousands of professionals work in tough environments to make a difference. They deserve credit and acknowledgement because it’s not easy working with this population. Many of our team players at Second Chance (case managers, trainers, whatever that might be) have experienced first-hand the journey and the struggle, and those shared experiences help make the difference for us. help the community. Rethinking Service

you. You did the right thing.” Instead of picking on the thing that people got wrong, you praise the things that people got right. You reinforce positives, and you use that as the example for those people who don’t yet understand. Thinking and approaches change. As one of our board members said, instead of catching me doing something wrong, catch me doing something right. Positive deviance: use that as an example to those who aren’t yet there. We’re forever changing, tweaking, adding a piece, taking away a piece. How do we know if we’re making a difference? What are the metrics? It’s an awkward, difficult world, but we know it’s been successful, in both outcome and impact.The outcome is getting someone a job, but what is the ultimate impact of that job on that person’s life? Impact is what we’re striving for, not just an outcome. How do you measure your mission? Even if you can measure one job,what’s the residual effect, not only on that individual, but that family and the generations that come, and the contact network and all those kinds of things? A guy recently told me this was his third time climbing out of the dreadful depths of alcoholism. Each time, he’d been very successful in between. He told me during the class he’d just opened a Facebook page. He’d not seen his son in years. He figured if he had a Facebook page and his son wanted to find him, that would be the best way. It’s not just about a job. He wanted to be a father. He wanted his son to be in touch. Sometimes we see our defined outputs. But what if we didn’t just measure output, but also impact? Impact, for this gentleman, was not only a job; it was having his son back in his life again.

sitting in front of me has the same experience that I have; they’ve been successful, so maybe there’s a chance that I can be successful, too. That certainly makes a big difference in our approach to the individual and in their response to us. Thirty years ago, our approach to dealing with people who have come from incarceration or who have the disease of addiction was different from our current thinking. We try to inform our curriculum and our approach based on current thinking. For example, when we first went down the route of getting people ready for employment, it was often characterized as being boot camp: in your face, life sucks, the world sucks, you suck, get over it, show some backbone and get on with it, don’t do this, do that. It was a very regimented approach, because we thought that was how you dealt with people who have had long periods of incarceration. A number of counselors, therapists and professors from the local university sit on our board. They tell us that that doesn’t work anymore. We thought it worked 10 or 20 years ago, but these people are used to failing and think of themselves as failures. What we should be doing is the opposite. Instead of picking on the person who turns up late and making them feel bad about themselves, you ignore that person, but to everybody who was early you say “Good for

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