Chrysalis literally embodies the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly.  Chrysalis Enterprises could not be better named.  Chrysalis started as a traditional non-profit based in Los Angeles dedicated to retaining the homeless for real jobs in today’s workplace.  The problem was few employers would take a chance on people with questionable backgrounds.  The result—lots of training, few jobs.

A gutsy director decided to transform the non-profit into a hybrid enterprise that actually provides maintenance, labor, and temporary staff to businesses and government on contract.  This change caused Chrysalis to boom.  It now offers professional street cleaning, maintenance, and contract labor for scores of businesses.  Chrysalis recycling services collects recyclables from office buildings and schools.  The purpose of these business services is to transform homeless into fully employable workers with a relevant work history with new personal and professional skills.

It works.  Thousands have gone through their job training programs to become self-sufficient and 52 percent of Chrysalis’ operating budget comes from income earned by providing workers.  Hybrid Enterprise integrates the mission of a non-profit, the discipline of a business and the agility of a start-up to create a stream of new value.  The average cost of their program is $2,000 per client/year (a fraction of the cost of similar government-sponsored employment programs).

So who’s winning at Chrysalis?  Everyone!  Here are some highlights from 2009 alone:

  • Chrysalis assisted over 3,000 individuals through their employment programs and services.
  • Over 40% more people sought their services since the economic downturn.
  • 400 clients a day received services at one of their three centers.
  • Over 1,500 clients were successfully employed.
  • $2.5 million in wages was earned by clients working through Chrysalis Enterprises.
  • Chrysalis Enterprises created 220,000 hours of employment.
  • Chrysalis Enterprises cleans the streets of over 100 of the busiest blocks in Los Angeles each month.

In 2009, Chrysalis launched a nine-week empowerment program aimed at helping women rejoin the workforce.

The Chrysalis Women’s Empowerment Program paired students with female mentors to provide social support and practical preparation for the job market. The course culminated in a makeover night at Studio DNA and a graduation ceremony at Shutters on the Beach. Participants agreed that the program builds self-esteem and motivation, especially those women coming from places where few people have taken the time to listen to their dreams and goals.

No company is perfect.  It’s true.  And the negative impact of thoughtless acts, unintended consequences and willful greed of business enterprise can be immense.  But over the past five years I have seen genuine change in many corporations.  Today there is a growing commitment by leaders to step up to creating a future that is better for everyone.  No, these effects don’t repair past mistakes or make up for current compromises.  But as Chip and Dan Heath report in Switch, we get people’s attention by protesting, but we get people to change through the good example of successful new strategies put into action.  We all need something to “switch to,” not just be reminded about what we must “switch from.”  Giving is Winning is a “switch to” message.  Good things are growing.  It’s time to recognize them, reward them and insist on more.  Our future depends on it.