Welfare Reform Liaison Project Entrepreneurial Self-Sufficiency Model
The following pages contain a brief overview of a model used by Welfare Reform
Liaison Project (WRLP) that leads to self-sufficiency by utilizing entrepreneurial
principles on two levels, an individual level and an organizational level. Prior to
specifically addressing the project overview and specific activities that relate to the
model, it is important to note the organizational strengths that support success. The
model can be successful because it combines three areas – organizational strength,
individual entrepreneurial activities and an institutional environment and culture that lead
to organizational entrepreneurial efforts. While the model has been tested and early
results have been successful, several of the model’s aspects are in the early
The starting point for any organizational activity should be a mission or vision. The
mission of Welfare Reform Liaison Project Community Action Agency (WRLP) is to
provide services that will enable economically disadvantaged individuals and families to
move toward self-sufficiency. The mission statement of WRLP recognizes that these
efforts must be based on collaboration and recognizes a special relationship with the faith
community. WRLP recognizes that, to be successful, it must address the needs of
individuals, families, partner organizations, and the communities in its sphere through
innovative and effective services. The basis for activity can be summarized in the motto
“a hand up, not a hand out.”
In order to be effective and accomplish its mission, WRLP maintain specific
organizational strengths. These include:
A Responsible & Diverse Board
Relationships with the Faith Community
Networks throughout the community
Accomplishments measured by data
While many organizations may claim similar strengths, it is the combination of these
factors that is important to WRLP’s success. This will be apparent when the
organizational entrepreneurial direction is discussed.
Individual Entrepreneurial Activities
WRLP’s self-sufficiency activities focusing on individuals consist of two phases. The
first is a preparatory phase in which individuals learn or better understand new or
different skills and behaviors that can lead to greater self-sufficiency. The second phase
Welfare Reform Liaison Project
provides individuals with opportunities to practice these skills and behaviors, and
incorporate entrepreneurial opportunities within this practice.
WRLP provides two services directed at students who are in the preparatory phase.
1. Personal Development Training Courses provide personal and job related skill
training through formal coursework. The personal skill courses focus on
employability skills, personal development and financial literacy. Academic and
technical skill courses include academic upgrade, such as GED, Introduction to
Computer, Microsoft Word/Excel, and management-related courses.
2. Case Management Services provides guidance and support through a one-on-one
relationship with a case manager. Transitional assistance, specific to the situation,
may be offered when necessary.
While providing the services offered during the preparatory phase “in house” is not a
requirement of successfully implementing an entrepreneurial approach, it does have some
advantages. It ensures that specific cultural norms and expectations, such as
reinforcement of the concept of a “hand up, not a hand out”, are ingrained in program
participants. It is easier to determine whether participants can work to solve their own
problems, rather than expect outside assistance. It also provides a testing ground that
routine expectations, such as regular attendance, are met. A partner that provides quality
preparatory services and maintains a high standard of expectations and compliance is an
A “package” of services has been developed to support an individual who is interested in
developing a business. An entrepreneurial track is very important to a number of WRLP
program participants who may have a past that generally limits their ability to secure
employment. This background may include a poor record of academic achievement, a
period of incarceration or an unsatisfactory work history. While it is difficult to
overcome past mistakes, an entrepreneurial alternative provides some hope that current
performance can mitigate past history. A business person develops their own record,
based on their own performance.
The package of services developed to address entrepreneurial interests have several
elements. These elements include:
1. Skill related classes that lend themself to small business enterprises. These
classes, either conducted or planned, include personal computer repair, graphic
design and skills related to videography.
2. Management courses through an American Management Association Certification
3. Economic Development Technical Assistance through a project in partnership
with the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce. This partnership enables
perspective entrepreneurs to utilize Chamber networking opportunities, technical
assistance and capital development opportunities.
Welfare Reform Liaison Project
Organizational Entrepreneurial Activities
WRLP’s organizational entrepreneurial activities are based on a number of factors.
These factors are:
1. The existence of a simulated job training setting for participants in the Personal
Development Training Program that reinforces newly learned or developed skills
and behaviors. An entrepreneurial organization consciously relates these
activities with an interest in generating additional revenues.
2. The identification of small business related skills that are in demand that can also
be used to identify entrepreneurial opportunities for organizations. For WRLP,
some of these skills are job specific, such as computer repair and videography.
Other skills are transferable from one job to another. To be successful,
enterprises should be launched based on the strengths found in the potential
3. Using existing organizational relationships as a starting point in identifying
entrepreneurial opportunities. This approach can jump-start the marketing of
products and services and lead to additional revenue.
Two examples will make an integrated entrepreneurial model clearer. Each of these
examples is based on a business plan that generates revenue that not only supports the
project, but also enables the agency to fund a portion of overhead costs.
1. WRLP operates a warehouse in which new products, donated by corporations, are
distributed to faith community institutions, non-profit organizations and public
institutions. WRLP program participants work in the warehouse and receive a
stipend for their services. During their simulated job experience, students learn
and practice skills related to customer service, marketing, inventory, shipping,
receiving and repackaging of items.
Through this activity, WRLP has identified a number of revenue streams. These
include warehouse membership fees for organizations receiving merchandise
from the center (similar to Sam’s Club) and administrative fees for items
distributed through the warehouse. Even without a specific marketing effort, the
warehouse has become virtually self-supporting. Recently, several marketing
efforts have been initiated, increasing activity and revenue. These marketing
efforts also identified the benefit of adding sales and marketing activities to the
training program developed for the students. Practicing the skills learned in these
courses can benefit the product distribution system, as well as the student.
Other revenue streams have been identified that are based on the type of activities
that occur in the warehouse. Work is being done to secure outsourcing contracts
in such areas as repackaging and item assembly. The possibility of developing a
temporary service, related to activities such as inventory, is being explored.
Additional revenue can be generated from the corporations that benefit from the
Welfare Reform Liaison Project
trained employees that they can secure through WRLP. Because the simulated
job training is “real world”, corporations that utilize similar skills are requesting
that WRLP train entry-level management personnel. Payment for this service is
currently being discussed.
2. WRLP is developing the capacity to design, film, edit and duplicate in areas that
include printed material and video. Faith-based institutions and nonprofit
agencies, the customer base for the product distribution program, have identified
needs around this new product line. Many of these organizations cannot afford
market rates. A number of program participants have an interest in this area, but
the efforts are being pursued because it matches WRLP’s organizational
relationships and networks. The model allows students to build up their
portfolios, while professional supervision and technical assistance ensures a
quality end product. This model also allows students to have an opportunity to
practice skills learned through the management program. These skills, which
include topics such as time management, supervision, developing of marketing
plans and human resource management, will enable students to practice business
skills that can then be practiced in their own enterprises. At the same time,
practicing these skills benefits the organization’s entrepreneurial enterprise.
Self-sufficiency, for the individual and for the organization, requires a combination of
factors: clear direction, organizational strength that can nimbly take advantage of market
opportunities without jeopardizing institutional integrity, staff and students that
understand entrepreneurial principles and are interested in success, and quality product
and service that meets a market need. While the journey is not complete, Welfare
Reform Liaison Project has been able to utilize an entrepreneurial model that has the
potential to develop self-sufficiency for participants as well as provide organizational
Welfare Reform Liaison Project