Tech advice adds value to HOPE

New York, 16 Jun 2016

When Steve Jaconetti put his hand up to help The HOPE Program in New York, he wanted to provide the most relevant assistance he could to the organisation.

“Non-profits like HOPE have so much need but we initially had to work out what skills we could offer that would get the best outcome,” says Jaconetti, who was part of a Macquarie Group team of three IT specialists (including Trevor Bechervaise and Leon Oosterwijk) who worked with HOPE on improvements to its technology.

“We wanted to come out at the end with something valuable and useful.”

HOPE works with New Yorkers living in poverty to help them achieve economic self-sufficiency. It combines training, adult education, industry certifications, work wellness services, internships and job placement with long-term support.

As a result, graduates’ job retention rates are in the top 10 per cent of workforce development organisations, according to the 2014 Workforce Benchmarking Networking results, largely due to its programs going well beyond interview techniques and resume preparation.

“We use motivational interviewing, long-term support beyond job placement, and innovative training programs, including a ‘work wellness’ and mindfulness curriculum,” says Jennifer Mitchell, Executive Director of HOPE.

“Our most recent cohorts achieved a rate of 72 per cent in job placements and 91 per cent in 90-day job retention. It’s an incredible result, given some of the graduates have been drug addicts for decades or have spent years in jail.”

Jaconetti supported HOPE as part of ‘Civic Edge’, the pro bono component of an internal leadership development program at Macquarie run in partnership with the Taproot Foundation.

Seven Macquarie staff across New York, Philadelphia and Houston participated in pro bono teams as part of the inaugural program to complete strategic projects with community partners.

Jaconetti and his team’s initial project activities included assessing HOPE’s current technology, followed by a quick win for the non-profit by increasing its office’s internet speed, which had been affecting staff productivity.

The Macquarie team also met with IT support vendors on behalf of HOPE, provided advice and resources for the team’s upcoming office move, introduced HOPE staff to relocation and real estate specialists within Macquarie, facilitated meetings to assist with data management, donated computers and monitors, and helped HOPE work through a grant proposal for technology support.

“We used our experience at Macquarie but applied it to HOPE. They are a team of 23 people so the little things that are second nature to us are a big thing to them as they operate in a world with limited resources,” says Jaconetti.

At the end of the ten-week program, the Civic Edge teams competed for a $US10,000 grant for their respective non-profit partners, which Jaconetti’s team won.

HOPE plans to use the grant to purchase a smartboard for one of its classrooms and an assessment software program, designed to help students choose their career path. Both items will be of great assistance to the teachers and students who currently work with whiteboards and printed handouts in lessons.

“The surprise was that the staff at HOPE are so busy, under-resourced and wearing multiple hats. We had to be mindful of where they were at and the important role they play in getting people back on their feet,” Jaconetti says.

The Civic Edge program will be run annually in partnership with the Taproot Foundation.

Image caption: A team of Macquarie staff provided pro bono tech advice to The HOPE Program in New York.