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Transformational Design and Disruption


"Because it proves that you don't need much to change the entire world for the better. You can start with the most ordinary ingredients. You can start with the world you've got.” - Catherine Ryan Hyde, Pay It Forward

We have the power to transform our communities, our nation and our world in a multitude of positive ways. As we continue our series about transformation, we are seeing companies across multiple industries, both private and non-profit, give back or pay it forward as they transform their communities and the lives of their clients and customers. Much of the transformation relies on creative design and disrupting the status quo.

The Empowerment Plan is a Detroit based nonprofit focused on permanently elevating families from the cycle of homelessness. They hire single parents from local shelters and provide them with training and full-time employment as textile artisans so that they can earn a stable income, find secure housing and regain their independence.

Veronika Scott, Founder and CEO of The Empowerment Plan, was inspired after a contentious confrontation with a homeless woman who stated that she didn’t need a coat but rather a job. This interaction led Ms. Scott to innovate and radically transform her business practices.

The Empowerment Plan produces an innovative coat designed to meet the needs of people living on the street. Their website states that the durable coat transforms into a sleeping bag at night or an over- the-shoulder bag when not in use. Since 2012, they have distributed over 25,000 coats to those in need across the world. Committed to growing their impact beyond Detroit, Scott believes her model should be replicated in other communities. “By scaling our Detroit program, we are creating a workforce from a population many overlook. Homelessness should not be a life sentence.”

Transformation is born from inspiration. Here is a “How To” to help guide your inspiration from practice to praxis. Ask yourself, what cause moves you to give back and help your local community?

1.) Find your “call to action” of what moves you to illicit positive change.

2.) Research within your local community who and what organizations are working towards your same passion. Reach out to them and see if you would like to align with their cause and if not, do some more research to find out where needs remain unmet within these local organizations and then meet those needs.

3.) Listen to the audience whom you want to help. For example, Ms. Scott realized that giving homeless people a coat was merely a Band-Aid solution. By listening deeply and courageously, she quickly realized the need was more than a coat. The woman speaking on behalf of herself and her homeless community desperately wanted to learn how to support themselves and work their way out of homelessness.

4.) Read about entrepreneurs and how they got started and create an action plan for how you can make a difference. If you want to try to raise some funds through fundraising or grant writing, research on-line how to create a 501(c)3 organization for your cause. Believe it or not, it is not that challenging. If that is too hefty of a goal, start small. Maybe sign up for that knitting class you were always curious about so that you can knit hats for people going through cancer treatments.

5.) Remember, helping your community not only serves to help those in need, but it can also be incredibly fulfilling for you, too!


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