In recognition of Black History Month, this February the National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN) will produce a series of blogs related to Black Male Achievement. To kick off our blog series, we talked with Carl Chadband, Chief Operating Officer of KISRA (the Kanawha Institute for Social Research & Action, Inc.) and a member of our B.MORE Initiative’s Community of Practice. Located in Dunbar, West Virginia, KISRA operates education, employment, economic empowerment, and behavioral health programming for low- and moderate-income individuals and families in several West Virginia counties.
NTJN: What strategies do you feel are most promising, or have been proven to be the most effective, in addressing poverty and unemployment among black men?
Carl Chadband: Promoting entrepreneurship among black men, and supporting those entrepreneurs so that they can actually keep their businesses’ doors open, is an effective way to address poverty and unemployment for this population. Entrepreneurship provides an individual with a job, income, and a sense of power and control over his life. If you’re working with a black male coming out of incarceration who doesn’t want to work 9-to-5 and wants to be his own boss, he feels empowered as an entrepreneur. Members of his community become his customers, and his community becomes safer because he’s no longer engaging in illegal activity to make money. KISRA promotes entrepreneurship so that when a client says, “No one will hire me,” that’s no longer an excuse—hire yourself, be your own boss.
NTJN: Can you tell us how KISRA promotes and supports entrepreneurship?
Carl Chadband: We have a few different ways of doing this. We offerIndividual Development Accounts (IDAs), and we match $8 for every $1 that a person saves through an IDA. In six months, someone can save $500 and KISRA will match that with $4,000. So that’s $4,500 that someone can put toward their education, a down payment on a house, or starting a business. KISRA is also a Small Business Administration (SBA) micro-lender—we can lend up to $50,000 to someone who’s looking to start a small business, even if that person has a criminal record. We also help individuals with business planning, credit counseling, and social services as needed. Finally, through our Growing Jobs Project, individuals can learn how to become a local grower; become certified in kitchen skills and move into the food industry; and, by working from our mobile food truck, learn to become vendors and discover if they’d like to become their own boss one day.