Steve Rothschild, founder and
chair of Twin Cities RISE!
empowerment key to training the disadvantaged for living-wage jobs
Civic Caucus Focus on Competitiveness Interview May
Dave Broden, Pat Davies, Paul Gilje (coordinator), Randy Johnson,
Sallie Kemper, Dan Loritz (chair), Paul Ostrow, Steve Rothschild, Dana
Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter. By phone: Janis Clay, Tim McDonald.
Summary of Discussion:
Steve Rothschild is founder and chair of Twin Cities RISE! (TCR!), an
antipoverty/job training organization that trains underemployed and
unemployed adults, primarily men from communities of color in the Twin
Cities area, for skilled jobs that pay a living wage. The program
serves 700 participants a year and works with 50 companies, mostly
medium and smaller ones. Rothschild believes that the personal
empowerment program developed by TCR! is the primary reason for its
success in placing graduates in jobs averaging $25,000 a year and the
high rate of retention of graduates in those jobs for one year (81
percent) and for two years (71 percent). Over half of the participants
in the program have a criminal history, but the three-year recidivism
rate for graduates is 16 percent, compared with 61 percent for all
Minnesota prisons. Rothschild says for change to endure, people must
transform themselves and stop feeling powerless and hopeless, so they
can become accountable for their own future. That requires a change in
the beliefs that affect the way individuals think, feel and behave,
which is the basis for the personal empowerment program. He believes
personal empowerment (a non-therapeutic approach to emotional
intelligence training and cognitive restructuring) should be taught to
students in district public schools, but says the district
bureaucracies have not been open to the idea. TCR! also developed a
unique Pay for Performance funding model, in which it is paid only for
successful graduates by the State of Minnesota.
The model has been successfully operating since 1997.
Steve Rothschild is founder (in 1994) and chair of Twin Cities RISE! (TCR!),
an organization that provides employers with skilled workers,
primarily men from communities of color in the Twin Cities area.
Serving 700 participants each year, TCR! trains underemployed and
unemployed adults for skilled jobs that pay a living wage.
November 2010, he founded Invest in Outcomes (IIO) and serves as its
president. IIO is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to pilot a
"Human Capital Performance Bond," an innovative financing vehicle to
both improve the productivity of state human-service spending and to
attract private investment capital for high-performing nonprofits.
Formerly, Rothschild was executive vice president of General Mills.
Earlier in his career at General Mills, he launched Yoplait, USA, a
yogurt company, and was its first president.
Rothschild earned an
M.B.A. degree from the WhartonSchool,
University of Pennsylvania, and an A.B. degree in Economics from
Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania. He is author of the
February 2012 book The Non Nonprofit: For-Profit Thinking for
Legislature and Congress are not dealing with the world of poverty.
Steve Rothschild, founder and chair of Twin Cities RISE! (TCR!),
pointed out that the poverty rate of people of color is three times
that of whites and that the disparity between African American and
white incomes in the Twin Cities metropolitan area is the largest in
We spend billions of dollars at the back end for subsidies, providing
low-income housing, welfare payments, corrections, childcare, and very
little at the front end on preventive programs. We
have an anti-welfare policy in our country not an anti-poverty policy.
Even in job training most of the money is going into retraining
dislocated workers. "We're not investing enough to really make a
difference in people's knowledge base to attain good jobs," he said.
We don't do a good job of investing in people in poverty."
Rothschild said there is a gap between jobs available and competent
people to take those jobs. "It's a mismatch between the needs of
employers and the ability of the people we have, particularly those
living in poverty," he said.
Founding of Twin Cities RISE!
In 1994,Rothschild founded Twin Cities RISE! (TCR!), a job training
program focused on black men getting to living wage jobs.
"Black men have been notoriously underinvested in, except in prison,"
he said. He reported that the men participating in TCR! bring an
average competency of sixth to seventh grade. Some have graduated from
high school or gotten a General Educational Development (GED) degree,
which is equivalent to ninth grade competency. They have poor work
histories, drug and alcohol problems and, often, criminality. They are
seen as high risk and low yield.
program started with classroom work and one-on-one coaching,
Rothschild said. It had three components: remedial education, skills
training and soft skills development, i.e., dressing for success,
getting to work on time, not arguing with the boss. He said many
people dropped out of the program.
Poverty is a state of mind, as much as an economic circumstance.
"People who've grown up in the culture of generational poverty-two or
three generations in poverty-have learned how to live on the street,"
he said." Those are not good behaviors for the culture of working."
Those street behaviors include blaming others for your misfortune and
fighting or fleeing, but not negotiating.
change to endure," Rothschild said, "people must transform themselves.
People have to stop feeling powerless and hopeless. That requires a
belief-centered model. Beliefs affect how you think and the way you
think affects the way you feel and the way you feel directly affects
your behavior. If you only start with changing behavior, you're always
going to be at odds with what you really believe."
said that's why people have a hard time sustaining the soft skills
training they get in job training or other poverty programs. "It's
incongruent with what they believe," he said. "A belief-centered
program requires a set of cognitive and emotional skills, coupled with
a positive belief system."
based, Rothschild said, on cognitive restructuring from clinical
psychology and emotional behavioral therapy. It's taught mostly by
empowerment instructors, many of whom are graduates of the TCR!
believes empowerment increases a person's capacity to get control over
what they think. "The more you can regulate your state of mind, the
more internal power you possess, which leads to a greater
performance," he said.
empowerment program focuses on self-awareness issues, such as, what
emotional triggers set us off and how to be more intentional about our
relationships. "It's the kind of help middle-class people get when
they go to a clinical psychologist," he said.
program also teaches emotional regulatory skills and self-esteem. "We
teach that self-esteem is a choice you make and it's your birthright
to be a worthy person," Rothschild said. "Most people we deal with
received a different message at birth." They get negative messages
that they are not lovable, important or valuable. "While remedial
education and skills training are important to getting a job, it's the
emotional strength that allows someone to retain a job and have a
response to a question about what kind of training employers do,
Rothschild said employers want to see if a person is worth training
before they invest a lot in them. "They want people with a good
attitude," he said. "A good attitude means they're flexible and feel
accountable to themselves. Employers don't do that kind of training."
empowerment curriculum leads to better outcomes for the participants.
Rothschild explained the outcomes TCR! measures:
To what extent a participant's
income changes as a result of being in the program: The income of
participants averages $6,000 before the program and $25,000 at
placement, after about a year in the program.
Retention in the job one and two
years out of the program: At one year, the retention rate is 81
percent; at two years, it's 71 percent. The average one-year
retention rate for job training programs across the country is 56
percent. In programs across the country with 50 percent or more
felons (like TCR!) the one-year retention rate is 46 percent.
Recidivism after three years: The
recidivism rate of TCR! graduates with felonies is 16 percent after
three years versus 32 percent for TCR! early program dropouts. The
average rate for Minnesota prisons is 61 percent.
attribute our better numbers to the empowerment curriculum,"
Rothschild said. "Perseverance is much more important than
"Most social service organizations don't measure outcomes, but rather
measure outputs," he continued. "There's a big difference between
outcomes and outputs. In job training, an output is how many people
you place in a job. But that's not a reflection of long-term social
progress. Only outcomes that measure, for example, change in income
and retention in a job over time do that."
serves 700 people per year and it affects another 800 people
indirectly through its empowerment work.
The length of time participants are in the program varies: some
participate for six to nine months; some for two years. "We invest in
people as long as they're willing to invest in themselves to get a
living wage job," Rothschild said.
empowerment training has proved to be so powerful for us," he
continued, "that we've started to teach it to other organizations. We
train their own trainers and certify them." He said TCR! has worked
with the Jeremiah program, with charter schools, with special
education programs in the St.
schools to help mainstream kids, and with several universities.
Rothschild explained that TCR!'s
goal is to share the know-how the program has in pay-for-performance
economic contracting and personal empowerment training, so other
organizations can integrate it into what they're already doing.
Graduates of TCR!
work at places like Wells Fargo, US Bank, law firms and in jobs such
as warehousing, customer service and administrative assistant.
Responding to a question, Rothschild said the program works with 50
companies at any one time. "That mix has changed over the years from
larger companies to medium and smaller companies," he said, "because
we're working with more people with criminal records than when we
began. The average starting salary for graduates is $25,000 and the
aim is to provide graduates with the skills they need to grow once
they start a full-time job."
recession and 9/11 have affected TCR!
In response to a question, Rothschild responded that the recession did
because there were fewer jobs. For the first time the two-year job
retention level dropped below 70 percent. "A lot of that was layoffs,"
he said. "It's coming back now."
Following 9/11, he said, many companies wanted to lower their risk by
not interviewing people with criminal records. Larger companies tend
to focus away from people with criminal records, but smaller companies
are more willing.
"Running a nonprofit is a lot like running a business," he said. "The
market is always changing; the model you might start with isn't the
model that's going to work as the world changes. And the world
continues to change dramatically. The needs of our customers, who are
employers in our case, change. We have to change with them."
big opportunity TCR! hasn't been able to address is the district
Rothschild noted that
graduates only 50 percent of the students it enrolls. And only 38
percent of the kids of color graduate. Two-thirds of kids in district
public schools are kids of color and two-thirds are on free lunch.
like to put TCR!
out of business," he stated. "One way to do that is to work to attack
these problems earlier. The place that has critical mass is the public
school system, especially in big cities like
Minneapolis and St. Paul."
Rothschild said there is a lot of new research into adverse childhood
experiences (ACE), toxic stresses kids develop by living in households
with violence, alcohol, drugs, abuse and neglect. He said these often
occur in households with generational poverty. They lead to serious,
lifelong issues: limitations on emotional and cognitive development
and significant health risks, such as greater risk of disease and
must empower the kids and their parents," he said. "We must get
serious about dealing with psychological issues and lifestyle issues
or we won't make a serious attempt at reducing poverty. Many of these
kids come to school and they don't know why they're there. They don't
even want to be there. Many have mentally dropped out by the time
they're in third grade. They feel hopeless; they feel powerless. They
don't see anyone around them who's benefitted from school."
have to give them a reason for being in school," he continued. "And
you don't do that by just teaching them math and science and taking
them to gym. Like all human beings, they have to develop a sense of
themselves. It's even more important for them to learn these
empowerment skills." He said it's more powerful if a program works
with both parents and kids. Rothschild explained that teachers are not
trained to deal with these issues, which leads to emotional and
behavioral problems in classrooms.
also said that over 40 percent of the people who come to TCR! are
tactile or kinesthetic learners, people who learn by touching and
feeling. Many kids act out and then drop out because they aren't being
taught according to their primary learning style. They feel stupid,
but they are not; they just learn differently. Traditional schools
teach only by auditory and visual means.
should use all the tools that work to give people the chance to be
successful," Rothschild said. "We ought to integrate empowerment
programs into the public schools. We ought to teach using all learning
styles. That would improve outcomes for kids dramatically."
local foundation has tried unsuccessfully to get the Minneapolis
school district to consider this, Rothschild said. "The bureaucracy is
resistant to change.
is behind some other communities who are doing this."
Investing at the front end, rather than the back end, would be more
productive for kids.
An interviewer who visits kids at the juvenile detention center and
visits people in prison commented, "What I see is a court system
that's trying to intervene. The kids are survivors of chaos. They make
the bad decision to pick up a gun. The courts intervene and send them
to psychologists, give them medications and send them to a juvenile
detention center that will 'change you as a person.'" Ten years ago,
he said, there were 110 kids at the center on a typical Sunday; now
there are about 35, because the courts have diverted a lot of kids out
of juvenile detention centers. "But I don't sense that their lives
have been changed. They're back with their families."
Rothschild responded, "It'd be a lot more productive if we invested at
the front end rather than the back end. We're waiting for them to get
into trouble and then we add all this stuff. It's not as helpful as it
would be if we did it up front."
is funded in part by a Pay for Performance statute. In
1995, Rothschild went to then-Governor Arne Carlson and the
Legislature and worked with Art Rolnick, an economist with the Federal
Reserve System. He said state economists determined that a change in
income from less than $10,000 to an income of at least $20,000 is
worth an average of $3,800 in cash to the state every year in
increased taxes, saved incarceration expense and lower public
subsidies. The state calculated the present
those savings to be $31,000. TCR!
has had a contract with the Minnesota Department of Employment and
Economic Development (DEED) since as a result of this research a Pay
for Performance statute went into effect in 1997.
receives $9,000 from the state if it's able to increase a graduate's
income by at least $10,000 a year to a job paying at least $20,000.
The organization gets another $9,000 if the graduate is still in that
job after one year."We take all the risk," Rothschild said. Since
1997, as a result of this Pay for Perfomance funding, the state has
invested approximately $6 million in TCR!
Over the same time, the state has benefitted by approximately $39
million through its investment.
pointed out that as the rising cost of health care continues to eat
into state and federal budgets, there's less discretionary money to
invest in things like poverty programs and workforce development
programs and all the other things the state does. "Even though the
state has almost a seven-to-one return, they're investing less in it,"
State appropriation bonds could attract private investors.
Rothschild said that convinced him that TCR!, and other nonprofits,
needed to go beyond state appropriations to entice private investors.
"Why would a private investor be interested in investing in a social
program?" he asked."For the same reason they'd be interested in
investing in anything. They get a return on investment that is
competitive with other investment alternatives." It could be used for
nonprofits in the state providing services such as health care, job
training or supportive housing, whose interventions create savings to
the state. The savings would be sufficient to pay investors an
interest rate, to amortize their investment and pay for the
administrative costs to the state, he said. "The little-known fact is
that there are nonprofits that already create sufficient economic
value through their preventive interventions to attract private
investment. We need to measure it, capture it and reward it."
started another nonprofit called Invest in Outcomes (IIO).
developed a model called the Human Capital Performance Bond (HUCAP),
which is a state-issued annual appropriation bond. It's like any other
bond the state sells. Investor risk is the underlying credit
worthiness of the state, not the relationship of the state to the
said HUCAPs, a form of social impact investing, provide two benefits:
(1) an incremental investment, beyond what taxes can pay for; and (2)
only the highest social-return organizations will qualify for the
money. "It'll be the first time we will have an objective, transparent
and generally accepted measurement of outcomes used to provide support
for social programs," he pointed out.
"This is the first time this type of bond will be used for a purpose
other than a physical structure like a bridge, road or stadium," he
said. "It'll be used to invest in social purpose organizations, whose
preventive interventions not only create social value, but economic
value that will pay for and attract market-rate investors. The law
passed in 2011, approving up to $10 million in bonding authority. A
lawsuit against another annual appropriation bond held up work on it
for over one year. It was assigned to the Department of Management and
Budget (MMB) to implement, but it has not been high priority for them.
Workforce development and supportive housing will be the first two
areas piloted. He noted that in the last few months, the
responsibility has been shifted to DEED and the state Housing Finance
Agency, with MMB in charge of selling the bonds.
worked with economists and evaluators and has provided the state with
underlying economic analysis and an evaluation plan necessary to move
forward. "We are hopeful that the pilot will commence this year,"
response to a question, Rothschild said there is a lot of interest
around the country in social impact investing. Most of the activity is
in New York, Massachusetts, California, and Cleveland. "Minnesota was
ahead of everyone at first, but we have lost that lead," he said.
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