Can you imagine a local nonprofit organization that turns former felons into entrepreneurs? Well five months ago the eBay Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers launched an global online competition to find the world’s most innovative market-based solutions that create economic opportunity and generate employment for disadvantaged populations. And an expert panel of judges ultimately selected Houston’s own Prison Entrepreneur Project (PEP) as one of 10 organizations worthy of recognition for its work.
PEP engages the nation’s top business and academic talent to constructively redirect inmates’ ambitions by equipping them with values-based entrepreneurial training —enabling them to productively re-enter society. The program puts participants through a 5-month Business Plan Competition where they produce a full, venture capital-worthy business plan and presentation. After release from prison, PEP helps graduates find jobs, secure housing and provides a community of support through a network of executives, community partners and faith communities. When a graduate is ready, PEP then helps to launch their business, providing office space, bookkeeping help and a network of customers. For every 150 graduates of the program taxpayers save $5 million in future costs. And the program boasts a recidivism rate of less than 10%.
Although not one of the final prize winning organizations of the competition, the recognition for PEP as one of only 5 global finalists (and the only one identified in the United States) should guarantee it further opportunities to work with the eBay Foundation and garner it further local recognition and national notice as a model for replication.
Learn more by watching the video below and see the original online competition proposal to get better acquainted with their nonprofit business-model.