Dear Opportunity Junction Community,
Recently, I was invited to speak to the board of our largest funder, Tipping Point Community, about Opportunity Junction’s experience during periods of economic uncertainty. One of my key qualifications was that I’ve been leading the organization since before the Great Recession in 2008. How did we approach it then? How would we approach it now?
The short answer is that 2008 financial crisis helped make us the organization we are today. With the award of funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), we were able to build out the classrooms and offices that support our life-changing programs and enabled us to expand. We were lucky, sure, and we found opportunity in uncertainty.
It started with an increase in applications to our programs. From 2006 to 2009, annual demand for the Administrative Careers Training program doubled. In early 2008, with the recession looming, we began planning for an increase in services. In October 2008 we signed a lease renewal with our landlord that included $60,000 toward the improvements we needed. Then, as new construction projects ground to a halt, pieces started falling into place for us: an architecture firm donated pro bono services to design our new office layout; they recruited an engineering firm to do the mechanical blueprints pro bono; and in spring 2009, Contra Costa County and Antioch Community Development Block Grant programs awarded us infrastructure funding for our “shovel-ready” project. By the end of September, we had essentially
the office you know and love.
The lesson I take from this is that uncertainty and crisis can be vehicles for growth. I’m speculating, but I think some of our job seekers might agree. The key to our success in 2008 and 2009 was that we were able to evaluate our situation and determine what was needed. After that, the opportunities found us. On a personal level, as we go about our work training admins and CNAs and connecting job seekers with jobs, I’m very confident in the process the Board Executive Transition Task Force is following to select my successor. The search firm they’ve hired will soon begin the discovery process (engaging staff, board, and possibly some of you) to evaluate our situation and determine what is needed. That’s how we’ll find opportunity in uncertainty. We will keep you posted!
Alissa Friedman, President and CEO