Mollie Dowling - OAI, Inc.
Our guest for episode 6 is Mollie Dowling, Executive Director of OAI, Inc. OAI is one of many workforce development nonprofit organizations across the country, which believes that building job skills and enabling access to good jobs can help lift people and communities out of poverty and improve quality of life for everyone. There are many examples of workforce development organizations launching social enterprises themselves to further help with employing the graduates of their training programs. In this episode, we dive into the day to day, year to year opportunities and challenges that workforce development organizations face in their own operations, and the two social enterprises that OAI has launched - High Bridge and Retention Plus - to employ some of the graduates of their training programs and help fund some of the nonprofit’s work.
The first social enterprise that Mollie founded at OAI was High Bridge, L3C. High Bridge employs OAI program graduates to build green infrastructure projects in communities that are often impacted by rainwater flooding due to poor drainage infrastructure. As a teaser, below are a couple pictures from one of High Bridge's finished projects in Blue Island, IL, a community just south of Chicago. These bioswales and rain gardens alleviate flooding and by redirecting rainwater runoff into these pockets of plants that contain and filter the water while it seeps into the ground and recharges groundwater. The result is beautiful greenery and less property damage for residents from flooding.
Mollie recommends a few great resources. One of them is a book called The Mission-Driven Venture: Business Solutions to the World's Most Vexing Social Problems, written by Mark Lane, a great read to dive into the potential of using business for good. If you live in the US, you can check out your regional chapter of the Social Enterprise Alliance, an organization made up of social enterprises, that organizes events and support for the social enterprise community. Other resources around the Chicago region include the Chicago Jobs Council, a collection of workforce development organizations; and the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management at North Park University, which organizes trainings, workshops, and consulting resources for nonprofits and social enterprises.
Mollie Dowling Bio: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mollie-dowling-b16a36/e
OAI, Inc: https://oaiinc.org
The Mission-Driven Venture: Business Solutions to the World's Most Vexing Social Problems (Book): https://www.marcjlane.com/the-mission-driven-venture
Social Enterprise Alliance: https://socialenterprise.us
Chicago Jobs Council: https://cjc.net
Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management: https://www.northpark.edu/centers/axelson-center-nonprofit-management/