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ReServe Greater Boston - Thinking Outside the Hiring Box

http://www.reserveinc.orgWhat do three social entrepreneurs in 2005, three men with physical disabilities in 1935, Newton based "Discovering what’s Next," Boston’s Jewish Vocational Services, Tufts Health Plan Foundation, millions of professional adults age 55+ and 25 Boston area Baby Boomer professionals in a conference room at Downtown Crossing have in common? 

What they have in common is new hope. 

Three visionaries, who were able to see beyond the confines of the "aging baby boomers’ employment box," synergistically joined two complementary sets of needs. The result was a solution to two problems that had seemed intractable but whose benefits substantially exceeded all expectations.

On October 31, 2012, at least 25 people (more than expected) gathered in a 4th floor conference room at the JVS Boston Winter Street. Called First Impressions, the seminar introduced 55+ professionals to the ReServe concept. Little time was spent on lecture and theory.

JVS’ Carol Greenfield asked the attendees:  "Give us an idea about your background, and if you could design your own ReServe environment, what would it be like?"

New Workforce Strategy

ReServe (pronounced with a soft "s" as in "serve") is the name given to the new workforce strategy, connecting continuing professionals age 55+ with part-time service opportunities in community-based organizations, public institutions, and government agencies.

What is so unique about the partnership (people and organizations) is this:
  • Professionals 55+ (appear to be) are "desperately" seeking employment opportunities that no company will ever provide due to their age
  • Nonprofit / public sector organizations (it would appear) are unable to fill organizational needs due to a lack of funding 
The unspoken factor that dominates this conversation is the word "passion."  Many of the professionals are looking for a different sort of employment opportunity, one that is more focused on the "heart" and not on the "wallet." 

Two sets of voices are in conversation.
  • The audible voices from the talented 55+ professionals who are unable to secure meaningful work despite their long years of service and experience. 
  • The inaudible voices from the nonprofit and public sector organizations surviving with less than adequate staffing due to limited funding.  In the back of their minds, they say: "Wouldn't it be nice if…, All the while knowing it's not possible."
ReServe changed all of that. Their mission is to match continuing professionals age 55+ with organizations that need their expertise, allowing nonprofits and public agencies (Partners) to tap into a lifetime of experience to fill crucial staffing gaps at affordable rates. 

More than that, ReServe representatives are teaching the nonprofits to think differently. ReServists, as they are called, are not intended to replace full-time market job positions. Rather, the nonprofit is encouraged to assess its needs for critical guidance.

ReServe’s growth since 2005 demonstrates the need for partnering the professionals and nonprofits. 
  • 2007 - ReServe partnered with New York City’s Department for the Aging (DFTA) and since then has expanded to two dozen city agencies
  • 2008 - ReServe launched its online Opportunity Board.
  • 2009 - ReServe received a grant from the Atlantic Philanthropies to expand its model and impact to other localities
  • 2012 - ReServe became a subsidiary of Fedcap (www.fedcap.org)
Over the past seven years, 3,000 individuals have held ReServe assignments at more than 350 organizations, providing nearly 1,000,000 hours of service. ReServe is now working with stakeholders in Boston, Chicago, Denver and Seattle to bring ReServe to their localities.

First Impressions Seminar

Back to the conference room to hear how some of the attendees introduce themselves and talk about their hopes for the future. 
  • What is your professional background?
  • What are you looking to do in the future?

Barbara Barbara came from a city college system and has worked in higher education her entire career and usually with freshmen as they make a transition into college life. She would "love" to continue working with students or work with people who are working with students.

Ann produced documentaries and educational films for museums and public television and recently has been making documentaries that supplement the education curriculum for adults.  She is open to new possibilities: writing newsletters, brochures and marketing material for nonprofits. "Most important," she said, "is using one or more of her skills to serve an organization I believe is doing good work."

Howard Howard  worked as an attorney for 27 years as an in-house counsel in the technology sector and has been looking for transition to the nonprofit sector in a non-legal role. He is excited about the possibility of a substantive learning experience through ReServe. The volunteer positions he has held recently, he says, have not worked out because the organizations are not invested in volunteers. He believes that ReServe will be different because the organizations are vested in the ReServist.

Fred Fred  has had an eclectic career as a boatbuilder, a housebuilder and a commercial lender.  He is also active in historic preservation as a volunteer basis. But what interests him at this time is the new food movement and helping to set up food centers. While he is currently serving on one board, he is interested in exploring even more this avenue through a ReServe opportunity.

Lorraine Lorraine  started her own company and that was pretty successful.  Right now what she would really like to do is be in a position of helping folks negotiate legal problems because "I am particularly good at ferreting out who one needs to talk to get a problem resolved."  She added:  "That's what I enjoy doing."

Connecting the Talent to the Needs

Meeting coordinator Carol Greenfield was passionate herself in expressing enthusiasm for the program.  "I am not the only one in this room who is amazed at the amount of talent present. There must be a way of connecting the talent to the needs. If there isn't, what a tragedy.  Our goal," she said, "is to make sure this doesn't happen. Our goal is to provide a framework, a structure that enables people, like every single one of us in this room, to realize their passions.  Doing so promotes healthy aging, and fills the tremendous void that exists in the nonprofit and public sectors."

She also emphasized the Greater Boston Reserve's responsibility in assisting the nonprofit and public sectors to think a differently.  "Whenever we apply for funding," she said, "we always think in standard staffing terms – full and part-time equivalents.  How many are needed for the function?" 

What a dramatic change would occur in the overall effectiveness of the nonprofit if they were to change their mindset ever so slightly, asking a different question. "What critical organizational need could be filled using the ReServe model rather than a market rate model?"

At the close of the session, attendees had learned how the program works.  ReServists work for ReServe and contract out to the partner nonprofit organizations who pay $15 per hour.  Employees get a stipend of $10/hour with the remaining $5 split between the payroll function and the ReServe nonprofit function ($2.40/$2.60).  Not nearly sufficient to fund the ReServe nonprofit program, ReServe affiliates seek funding from other organizations as well. 

For example, JVS Boston is working in conjunction with "Discovering What's Next" in Newton and they have received a three year grant from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation as well as support from private donors and JVS to establish a fully functioning and effective program for the greater Boston area. 

JVS is actively promoting this initiative and welcomes your inquiries.

For more information, contact:

Judy Bottkol
Coordinator, ReServe Greater Boston

Posted: November 2, 2012     Nancy J Conrad

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