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Pearls: Lessons Learned on Our 30 Year Journey

Throughout the year, this blog series will be featuring lessons we’ve learned as an organization along our 30 year journey. These “pearls,” as we call them, illuminate how we’ve survived and thrived for three decades. They will also highlight how we continue to inspire and be inspired by the women in our program while they are working with us and long after they’ve launched.

And yet, even as we are thrilled to celebrate this 30-year milestone, I find myself hoping that in 30 more years Women’s Bean Project will be unnecessary. That through all of the lessons learned over the prior years and our impact on the community, we will finally be able to say we’ve solved the problem we set out to address: to help women with multiple, significant barriers to employment learn to stand tall, find their purpose and break the cycle of poverty.

Pearl #1: The Tremendous Power of Women Helping Women

At Women’s Bean Project we believe all women have the power to transform their lives through employment. Yet, we recognize believing and doing can be different things. For us women tap this power through the support of a safe environment and culture where there is no room for degrading, minimizing or diminishing. Read more

Pearl #2: The Dignity of Work

A couple of years ago I had an experience that taught me a lesson which has stayed with me. We had just hired a large group of women and our team was helping several of them address their basic needs, such as access to healthcare, transportation and housing. As the women were adjusting to their new routines and taking care of their immediate challenges, one woman, Gracilee, stood out. Read More

Pearl #3: Why is What Matters

At Women’s Bean Project, we believe all women have the power to transform their lives through employment. We know that when a woman changes her life, she changes her family’s life. This is the true purpose of our work. And yet, in the day to day, it can be easy for us to default to merely communicating what we do.  Read More

Pearl #4: We Must Strive Daily to Find a Balance

At Women’s Bean Project, we provide stepping stones to self-sufficiency through social enterprise. Our social enterprise model creates a tension between the business and the mission that is in turn interesting, challenging and inspiring. Read More

Pearl #5: Potential is Unlimited. Opportunity is Not.

You might be familiar with a book called The Other Wes Moore – One name, two fates. The book tells the story of two kids with the same name who grew up in the same rough neighborhood. One went on to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison. Read More

Pearl #6: We Are in the Change Business

Change is funny in that when you’re in the midst of it, it is rarely much fun. As I reflect on those early days of my tenure, it’s incredible to think of all the changes we made in a relatively short amount of time. What I learned in that process is that it’s a lot easier to be an agent of change when staying the same isn’t a choice. If we hadn’t made so many changes to our operations, we certainly would not have survived, much less made it to our 30th anniversary! Read More

Pearl #7: We Are Also in the Hope Business

What constitutes hope? What changes it? In its simplest sense, hope is a feeling of expectation or desire for something to happen. Hope is inherently optimistic and outward facing, rather than internally focused. It is the belief that my life could be better. Hope is the difference between trying one more time to improve one’s life and giving up in futility. Read More

Pearl #8: Start with the End in Mind

In my tenure as leader of the Bean Project I have learned more things than I can count. One thing I’ve learned and reference nearly every day is this lesson: Start with the end in mind.  Read More

Pearl#9: Your Past Doesn’t Define You

Past experiences leave each of us with history, baggage, and knowledge. Unfortunately, for the women we serve, the history, baggage and knowledge often lead them to be held back by their pasts. Read More

Pearl #10: Relapse is a Part of Recovery

As an organization we’ve recently had to challenge our drug and alcohol policy, and along with that, our organization’s attitude toward relapse. The experience has been humbling, scary, and illuminating in turns. Read More

Pearl #11: Our Actions Aren’t About Making Our Own Lives Easier

At the Bean Project it seems like we rarely make easy decisions. There are always at least two ways to look at something or multiple opinions about what’s best. Over time I’ve learned that we often advocate for decisions that are best for each of us individually. I suppose it’s human nature. At our core humans are essentially selfish in that we each desire to do what’s easiest.  Read More

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