Landforce: 3 Cities in 4 days
The Landforce team, at a pivotal time in our growth, recently returned from a whirlwind trip, visiting 4 organizations and 2 museums in 3 cities, all in just 4 days. At 15 months old we understand the need to learn from organizations that do similar work and explore their practices while sharing our processes as well. Throughout this trip we were able to learn best practices, share what we know, and make connections to some phenomenal people and organizations. We are deeply grateful to our colleagues in these cities for sharing their knowledge and passion with us.
The first organization we had the pleasure of visiting is PowerCorps PHL (Philadelphia). They are a City of Philadelphia AmeriCorps initiative, administered in partnership with EducationWorks. The organization is designed to support Philadelphia’s environmental stewardship, youth violence prevention and workforce development priorities. As soon as we walked in, we were captivated by their energy. The conversation took off, and soon ideas were flying back and forth across the table. Some takeaways that we will be building into our own work this year include: a traditional and working interview, practicing professional email etiquette, and assigning specific crew member roles to further develop skills, capacity and responsibility.
The second group we had the pleasure of visiting is Roots to Re-Entry (Philadelphia), who are housed in the beautiful Pennsylvania Horticulture Society workspace. However, the bulk of Roots to Re-Entry’s work occurs at the Philadelphia Prison System where they teach basic landscaping and carpentry to people looking to expand their skill set. In addition, they have an established employer network and assist Returning Citizens with job placement and aide in their re-entry transition. Some activities they engage in that we are keen to implement in our own program include but are not limited to project based learning that includes both “hands-on” and “minds-on” experiences, and building a strong employer network.
The third organization is Civic Works (Baltimore), who has the pleasure of being housed in Clifton Mansion, an historic building surrounded by a beautiful green landscape. They have two programs that we had the opportunity to learn more about, The Community Lot Team and The Baltimore Center for Green Careers.
The Community Lot Team transforms vacant and abandoned lots in Baltimore City into community gardens and green spaces. Their work engages community residents, local artists, volunteer groups, and Americorps members. Our team was taken by their use of reclaimed materials and implementation of green infrastructure in the gardens and green spaces.
The Baltimore Center for Green Careers help their participants obtain certifications, skills, and trainings like environmental remediation, weatherization and solar power installation that will increase their employability. We were captivated by the model they have established with employers, allowing employers to recruit their graduates only if they meet certain equity criteria, and prioritizing those companies that provide the best jobs and most employment for their graduates. We now have a great model for us to work towards.
Last but not least, Living Classrooms: Project SERVE hosted us in their wondrous new state of the art building. This group, which has been active for over 30 years in Baltimore, runs like a well oiled machine. They do everything from workforce development programs to educational programs aboard their historic ships. While we did get to visit the ships, we won’t be incorporating sailing into our curriculum any time soon. What we would like to incorporate are some programmatic functions like: alumni activities aimed at keeping former members in close contact, members only events, and proactive conflict resolution techniques.
On the final day of the trip, thanks to the military service of our colleague and Crew Leader, Nate Broadus, we were fortunate enough to be able to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture. And while we spent 3 hours viewing exhibits and experiencing the museum, this was not nearly enough time to take in all of the exhibits, but it was one of the most powerful experiences we have had. We did get to enjoy the heralded cafe of the museum before departing. Book your tickets now, or take a Veteran, like we did.
The aforementioned is the tip of the iceberg in terms of all the wisdom and advice the Landforce team absorbed during this trip. We have come back inspired to reach new heights this season, and we will continue to learn from this trip for a long time to come, so check in often to see our progress as we take the great program we already have and make it even better.