As PBMR grows, we require more support from funders and grants. Grants and foundations demand that we demonstrate our effectiveness. We do what we do because it is the right thing to do, but, I did go to a meeting where I was hoping to get some ideas on how we could build out more solidly our workforce development project – it needs some funding.
The person who met with us was someone who has some knowledge of PBMR and I would say cares for us. He truly wanted to help. He asked me from the start, “can I speak directly without offending you?” I assured him that was the purpose of our visit and would welcome some unvarnished truth.
He responded to the fact that we are mission driven and live within the community with, “so what?” He wasn’t being disrespectful, but driving home the point that we need data to demonstrate our effectiveness.
I appreciated his direct talk and was comforted with the fact that we were doing just that. We are committed to better telling our story through real measurements and outcomes.
Later that same day, I got a call from a social worker from Northwestern University. She was working with a young man who was just released from prison after his case was overturned on a wrongful conviction appeal. He was falsely accused and put in prison at the age of fifteen for 10 years. It is part of Northwestern University’s “Innocence Project”. She asked if they could stop by for a quick visit.
You can only imagine what it would be like to be held in prison for ten years at that vulnerable age for something you didn’t do. To make matters worse, when he came home to Detroit, Michigan, he was shot. Apparently, where his mother lives is pretty rough and he was a stranger in his own community.
Because of all that was happening, he decided to move to Chicago to get a fresh start. He came to Chicago because the only people who really supported him during that time of incarceration was the social workers at Northwestern University’s “Innocence Project”.
He was staying at a halfway house on the south side of Chicago, which provided him housing, but little else. Due to the status of funding for Northwestern, they have little capacity to help with support outside the lawyers and social workers.
I met them when they arrived and spent about 2 hours talking and, after, gave them a “tour” of PBMR. As we sat back down, Traquan said that “I really like it here; this place has good vibes”. He went on to share how much he felt comfortable with all the pictures and people at PBMR. It was a place where people could understand where he was coming from; a place where he was not judged. He said many people, even after they know I was innocently put in prison, think that I got out due to a technicality. “I get tired of trying to explain to people that even though I was in prison for 10 years, that I am not a bad person.” He then asked, “Can I come back? You think I can get involved here?” Of course, I said yes.
We are definitely going to work on our “values proposition”. But the real measurement of value for PBMR is that we “have good vibes” for those who feel alone or disconnected. I am not sure how we measure “good vibes”, but we’re gonna give it a shot. In the meantime, I thank Traquan for his seal of approval.