About Southwest Partnership
The Southwest Partnership (SWP) is a collaboration of Common Wealth Development, Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ (ORUCC), and Joining Forces for Families (JFF). This partnership came together in 2012 to address chronic poverty, mobility, and associated concerns in the Meadowood neighborhood on Madison’s southwest side. Subsequently, we have expanded into neighboring areas, forging new place-based partnerships along the way.
At the outset, SWP hired an organizer focused on family stability. Hundreds of interviews and conversations were hosted in order to frame our work within the context of the day-to-day realities, challenges, and opportunities encountered by area residents. We learned that families are often besieged by the cumulative effects of poverty, crisis, instability, and burdensome child care costs. We witnessed many residents struggle to find and maintain employment, partly due to a mismatch in the labor market between employer needs and job-seeker skills and job readiness. We observed a complex and expanding matrix of family and community needs quickly overwhelm assistance available locally. — Poverty underlies instability in families and neighborhoods — contributing to issues in housing, health, education, and public safety among others.
The community based engaging, learning, and organizing paid off with a clear message from area residents: Neighbors implored us to do more and better work connecting local residents to tangible jobs: many saying “Just give me a chance to work and take care of my family”.
Southwest Transitional Employment Project (STEP)
STEP was imagined with this community message in mind. With the help of area job-seekers, this collaborative program was engineered to maximize success with local families who desperately needed stable income, and who often teetered on the precipice of homelessness.
- STEP is designed to efficiently connect motivated neighbors to a short-term paid employment experience, individualized support, and connections to SWP volunteers. Eligible participants are hired by Common Wealth Development and paid a living wage while working temporary STEP positions designed specifically with the participants employment goals in mind.
- Simultaneously, Common Wealth Development’s Employment Continuum Coordinator provides case management to each participant based on their own goals, experiences, and skills they bring to the table. Part of this casework includes resume development, weekly tailored job leads, and connection to area employers that have partnered with our efforts.
- Case management is augmented by individual volunteer efforts from Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ and others. These volunteer opportunities are uniquely tailored to STEP participants and their real experiences and needs.
- Cumulatively, participants are afforded the opportunity to earn money while working at a STEP placement, add more work history for a resume, develop several references, utilize individualized connections to volunteers, and gain a work reference based on the individual’s demonstrated performance working a STEP placement through Common Wealth Development.
- STEP was successfully piloted in 2014 through a grant from the City of Madison’s Emerging Opportunities Program paying for stipends. Additional support is provided by Madison Community Foundation and Dane County.
Job Shop & Directions
Job Shop is the central hub of SWP’s employment continuum. Neighbors, volunteers, job seekers, students, social service professionals, and neighborhood center staff come together every week to meet area residents and work together.
- Job Shop happens every Wednesday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and is located at the Meadowood Neighborhood Center. Any job seekers are welcome to attend and receive individualized support towards their employment goals. Additionally, resume development is provided by the UW Writing Lab, weekly job leads are available, online application support is offered, and assistance applying for public benefits and programs is on site. Joining Forces for Families attends and offers additional support and resource referral on a wide range of issues that affect job seekers and their families.
- Our Employment Continuum Coordinator is on hand every Wednesday to connect directly with individuals, volunteers, and other community stakeholders.
- Job Shop is a voluntary service center where social work professionals and committed volunteers offer face-to-face, one-to-one, hands on help for people trying to find work. It is a “front door” to a caring environment and to other help beyond the employment-seeking help offered immediately that morning. Many people come to take advantage of specific help and others choose to connect with us more deeply – and all of that is fine and up to them.
Directions to Job Shop
Job Shop is held every Wednesday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm at Meadowood Neighborhood Center.