Hiring Well, Doing Good is a regional employment initiative aimed at freeing families from the shackles of dependence on government and rebuilding community and civil society so that individuals can achieve productivity, self-worth, and dignity as contributing members of a free society. This initiative began testing its theory of change in 2016 in some of Atlanta’s most troubled neighborhoods. What came from those early tests was convincing proof that this initiative held the potential not just to put people back to work, but to fundamentally reestablish what once was a bedrock principle of American civil society:

The best way to alleviate poverty and distress is for communities to rally together and neighbors to help neighbors. 

Now, Hiring Well, Doing Good is expanding over the next three years to at least eight struggling communities throughout the Southeast—still the poorest region of the United States and with the lowest levels of social capital and economic mobility. In each community, we’ll roll out an interconnected strategy that works with businesses, civic groups, and local charities to provide focused, personal support for those experiencing long-term unemployment, including training and apprenticeship opportunities and on-the-job mentoring.

At the same time, community-based working groups will work to identify specific local challenges and opportunities to decrease un- and under-employment in their area. Our policy teams will address legal, legislative, and regulatory barriers, while our communications teams set out to address cultural barriers and rally the community to our side.

We believe that Hiring Well, Doing Good holds the potential to be a silver bullet for the cause of free markets and limited government. In testing and replicating a permanent, long-term, systemic solution to the problems of joblessness and poverty, we believe we can empower a generation to live as responsible citizens in a free society.

A W.H.O.L.E. Approach to Addressing Poverty in the Southeast

Today, the Southeast (home to less than a third U.S. population) remains the poorest region in the country, struggling under an endemic lack of opportunity:

— 84 percent of the counties in the U.S. rated “persistently poor” are in the Southeast.

— An astonishing 38 percent of working-age adults are out of the labor force.

— Of the nation’s 1.5 million people behind bars, more than a third (535,000 people) are in the Southeast.

— Of 4.5 million Americans on probation or parole, 37 percent (1.6 million) live here.

Throughout the Southeast, we have seen too many individuals simply fall out of the job market – and then stay out – initiating what can become generational cycles of poverty, crime, lost potential, and hopelessness.

And while individual communities have sought solutions, it’s become starkly clear that we are not making enough progress, fast enough. We can’t wait any longer for piecemeal solutions – not when the price of doing so is to see countless families and children continue to slip through the cracks.

Our Strategy: A W.H.O.L.E. Approach

In recognition of this crisis, Alabama Policy Institute, Beacon Center of Tennessee, and Georgia Center for Opportunity are partnering together for a region-wide, long-term effort – one that provides top-to-bottom solutions to remove systemic barriers that prevent individuals from achieving their potential and leading productive, flourishing lives.

We’ve all heard the saying: Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.

Hiring Well, Doing Good, proposes not just to show an individual how to fish (or how to get a job), but to develop a W.H.O.L.E. connection and infrastructure for the community that shows them how to build a boat to go into deeper waters, how to create hatcheries and raise more fish, and how to market their fish to sell to others!

In other words, Hiring Well, Doing Good focuses on a W.H.O.L.E. solution:

Work, Help, Open doors, Lead, and Educate.

Plan of Action

Success requires us to roll out an inter-connected strategy over the next 36 months, with Hiring Well, Doing Good Initiatives in eight communities throughout the region – starting with one new city in each of our current partner states in 2018.

WORK: In each state, the lead organization will work with a nonpartisan network of non-profit and business leaders to connect employers who are looking to hire with human-service nonprofits that represent those in distress.

HELP: Partnering organizations will coordinate to ensure that those in need receive whatever support is necessary to get them back in the workforce, from training and apprenticeship opportunities to on-the-job mentoring to transportation assistance.

OPEN DOORS: A working group in each community will work with state and local authorities to identify public policy challenges and opportunities to decrease un- and underemployment in their area.

LEAD: The initiative will provide a focal point to organize existing local efforts and maximize the productivity and accessibility of existing services.

EDUCATE: Our public relations and education campaigns will work to address two parallel issues: first, exposing the artificial barriers to opportunity that keep too many people out of the job market, and second, engaging employers and community leaders as to how they can help meet the need.

Ultimately, our W.H.O.L.E. approach to the Southeast’s poverty and crime problems, will transform the region’s approach to joblessness and poverty and build a permanent infrastructure to help those who are struggling. In doing so, we’ll reassert the primacy of neighbors helping neighbors and break generational cycles of poverty.

We hope you’ll join us to be part of an opportunity revolution across the Southeast. If you want to be part of API’s inaugural Hiring Well, Doing Good event in Walker County, Alabama, please e-mail communications@alabamapolicy.org.