Community Empowerment Grant

Springfield WORKS is an investigator.

Together, we are building a resilient, inclusive, and equitable economy in the Greater Springfield Region.

As a community, Springfield is rich in programs, but poor in systems. While there are an array of social service organizations across the city, the community lacks sufficient cross sector coordination to identify gaps, leverage resources, increase communication, and find opportunities to benefit those most marginalized in our community.

Springfield WORKS, a community-wide initiative with the Western Mass Economic Development Council, received its first revolutionary $400,000 Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant in February of 2022, a second Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant in January 2023 of $500,000, and now a third grant in 2024 for $450,000!

Stories from our Community Empowerment Project: Melissa and India

Our Work with the Community Empowerment Grant

The goal of this initiative is to create the conditions that expand equitable opportunities for residents impacted by conviction histories, poverty, and social and economic inequity.

2023: Community Empowerment Grant Program

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Bridging the gap between justice-involved individuals and their families, and community services

After analyzing the results of the survey in 2022, we focused on closing the gap between justice-involved individuals and their access to services and employment. We brought together eight local agencies and 170 of their clients to discuss barriers to employment, systemic challenges faced by people with a criminal record, and led training in trauma-informed practices. This program shifted the burden of navigating services and training onto the agencies, rather than the individual, built trust between clients and providers, and changed the way agency staff viewed barriers to employment.

Impact and Outcomes

Outcomes - Direct Impact

  • Virtually all clients reported they now know where to go to get help addressing a barrier to employment
  • All clients reported a positive experience

Outcomes - Capacity Building

  • Agency staff learned skills to provide better services: developing connection and trust with clients, understanding and asking about barriers to employment that they previously would not, and seeking more appropriate resources to support readiness for employment
  • Clients described a sense of safety, connection, and trust to discuss difficult and personal issues that had been barriers to success
  • 413Cares Online platform facilitated connections between social services programs across Western Mass, making navigating and connecting to resources easier

Outcomes - Systems Change

  • Designed to create lasting change in the ways current systems approach barriers to employment
  • Began to shift the burden of navigating these systems to the service providers rather than program recipients
  • Partner agencies and staff indicated the intention to continue to use the assessment tool and online platform

Changing employer patterns and reducing workplace discrimination against those with a criminal record is imperative for the success of our overall economy. We will engage employers to break down barriers, and implement and strengthen hiring relationships for "fair chance" hiring of individuals impacted by conviction histories, poverty, and social and economic inequity.

We will introduce an inclusive “Outside-In” hiring strategy to expand equitable opportunities for local residents using a Human-Centered Design (HCD) methodology. HCD is a creative design process centered on the principle that those closest to a problem have critical insight into the need or solutions. Adopting an HCD framework will bring together client voices and employers to the “hiring” conversation with intentionality and respect.