The Nerdery - Overnight Website Challenge

Chicago 2012, November 17-18

North Lawndale Employment Network

The North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) was founded in 1999 to serve North Lawndale residents’ employment needs. Typically, NLEN clients are West Side residents, 87% are African American and 6% are Latino, 63% have a high school credential or less education, and more than one-third have never held a job. They are all low income and many have criminal convictions. Job seekers with a criminal record are offered half as many positions as those without criminal records, and African American applicants receive two-thirds fewer offers. Yet without employment, 60% of released prisoners return to prison within three years.

Our programs address these employment barriers and provide services that help people get and keep jobs with living wages. These programs include U-Turn Permitted (four weeks of re-entry and employment services to the formerly incarcerated); Sweet Beginnings (90-day transitional jobs for U-Turn Permitted graduates); Resource Center (access to job search resources and assistance); Center for Working Families (financial literacy training and access to financial support); and Urban Weatherization Initiative (job training and certification as a building weatherization inspector by the Building Performance Institute).

Today, NLEN serves over 1,800 clients each year. Our Sweet Beginnings social enterprise currently employs 30 former offenders per year (260 to date) and their prison recidivism rate is only 4% (compared to 60% nationally). During fiscal year 2012, 110 clients graduated from U-Turn Permitted, with 83% (91) of those clients finding work through NLEN’s network of employers or on their own.

What new functionality we are looking for

We would like our website to look alive and current, with the ability to use newsfeeds or other features that show our material is up to date. It should be easy for users to navigate and include interactive and downloadable elements. It is also important that the technology used for set up is easy for people without IT experience to use, so we can update it easily internally.

How the new functionality will help

Our website is an important point of contact for potential donors and employers looking to hire our clients. It is important that the quality of our website reflects the quality of the services we provide. No less important, we wish to make the website user-friendly for our clients. We would like to use the website to facilitate some of our services, such as posting forms clients need to get identification cards, career matching tools, access to educational resources, etc. We will also use a more interactive, user-friendly website to engage our job-seeking clients with social media and online job search tools.

How our organization will use the technology

Who will use the technology

51 Messages from Supporters

2012-10-18 22:17:17 UTC
Ladon Brumfield

NLEN creates a community that works. It has been an awesome pleasure to observe the impactful work - the life changing work carried out by this dynamic organization. Their purpose driven work inspires hope and creates opportunity where others might create barriers. Keep up the awesome work.

2012-10-19 17:48:45 UTC
Martha Rashedi

It is an honor and privilege to be a part of an organization that serves its community and empowers its residents to succeed.

2012-10-19 17:55:47 UTC
Kenya Lee

Brenda and the NLEN family continue to show us what the Power of One can do. Whether it be teaching someOne, listening to someOne, or helping someOne. EveryOne can make a difference in their communities. It all adds up to something great that is truly making a positive impact.

2012-10-17 17:35:53 UTC
Brenda Palms Barber

It is my honor to work with the talented asnd dedicated staff of the North Lawndale Employment Network and interact with the men and women seeking employment and financial services from our westside community. I am always encourgaed and impressed by the will and dedication I witness daily, in our clients pursuit to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families. This grant will improve our organizations ability to provide cuting edge accrss to web-based workforce development tools to ensure they are equipped to compete on a level playing field.

2012-10-18 21:21:05 UTC
Kevin Sutton

I am very impressed with the wonderful mission and work of NLEN. Chicago's west-side is very fortunate to have this important resource available to residents. It is amazing how working with bees and learning basic work skills can transform the lives of so many. Hats off to Brenda - she is a fantastic advocate and leader.

It would be great to have the NLEN model replicated across the country.
This organization truly deserves financial support, promotion, contributions and all of the accolades possible.

Kind regards,

Kevin Sutton

2012-10-18 21:40:22 UTC
Jetta Bates

NLEN impacts the community in a big way. The dedication of Brenda Palm Barber and her team blows me away. This is a true example of making a society-changing impact one person at a time via innovation and hard work.

2012-10-18 22:48:21 UTC
Maasai Amewa

My experience working with the NLEN has been inspiring.
The struggle to employ and assist those of the North Lawndale
Community is often an emotional roller coaster. The Godsend are the
dedicated staff at the NLEN. In my time there I've gained professionally
and personally from not only the staff but also the clients, the life blood of what
we do. I've encountered people who persevere despite the odds, and have
at times learned discipline the hard way, but learned it none the less.
The people we serve remind me every day the importance of a second chance as well
as the impact positivity, nurturing, and direction can have in our lives, no matter
how small the gesture.

2012-10-19 01:08:00 UTC
Redessa Harris

For 13 years, the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) has served as an important resource in this west side community that offers few opportunities for securing employment counseling, training, or liveable wage jobs. NLEN's well-trained employment counselors provide a superb level of coaching, compassion, and nurturing that helps clients to raise their self-esteem and become invested in their own success. The entire team works tirelessly to secure jobs for many adults who have a variety of barriers to employment such as previous incarcerations, lack of skills, and limited or no work history. This non-profit organization operates as a well-oiled machine and is a model for workforce development organizations nationwide. I wholeheartedly endorse NLEN for receipt of a redesigned website designed by creative and enthusiastic professional web developers donating their services as volunteers.

2012-10-19 03:27:48 UTC
Dennis Deer

North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) serves as a beacon of light and hope to the many residents of North Lawndale and to the many people that they serve. Lawndale is the community where I was born and raised in and continue to live in. The work that NLEN does to help ex-incarcerated men and women in my community makes me feel a little bit safer, knowing that people are learning to utilize there transferable skills to do good and to advance themselves. NLEN staff are absolute Gems and really, really care and are committed to the clientele that they serve. NLEN also has an awesome and fearless leader in Ms. Brenda Palms Barber who has continued to empower and grow the team of dedicated staff and volunteers!! As a resident and business owner of the great community of Lawndale I super fantastically endorse NLEN for receipt of the redesigned website designed by creative web developers donating their services as volunteers.

2012-10-19 11:27:31 UTC
Regina Williams

NLEN's U-Turn Permitted gave me a different outlook on myself and it gave me hope. It helped me to get myself together so I can get back to the working world. I’d advise people in similar circumstances to check out U-Turn Permitted. It might help them, too. Now I make wiser and better choices. I also worked for Sweet Beginnings. Working is exciting. I got to mingle with people, get them to sample products, and I felt like a success when they purchased a product.

2012-10-19 11:33:00 UTC
Paul Suggs

Attending U-Turn Permitted was the best move I’ve made since getting out of prison. The feel from U-Turn is so much more personal. They get involved and want to see you succeed. The instructors are compassionate, while still being strict around the program’s rules.

2012-10-19 11:38:05 UTC
Eddie Griffith

I have a job and work every day because of NLEN. I hope they can help more people like me.

2012-10-19 11:40:59 UTC
Tiffany Chin

One of the many things I liked about working for Sweet Beginnings is the environmental lessons. I learned that you want to be good to your body. We should recycle and take care of the earth. At U-Turn Permitted I learned to always be prepared and take responsibility for myself.

2012-10-19 11:42:47 UTC
Kim Isaacs

I used the resource room to search for a job. I am working now and the NLEN staff helped.

2012-10-19 12:35:24 UTC
Sarelle Caicedo

The work of The North Lawndale Employmeny Network is invaluable. It serves as an enormous resource in its community and I truly believe that it can serve as a pilot program for like minded organizations across the country. As an intern for Sweet Beginnings, I get to participate in production, marketing, and observe the diligent and passionate employees of the NLEN, which is perhaps the most beneficial part for me because I have learned first hand how dedicated every individual that works there is.
Assistance with the website would be a fantastic endevour so we can make it more aesthetically pleasing, have it be easier to navigate, and adding a newsfeed portion would be amazing!
Receving assistance from The Nerdery would create more sustainability for NLEN and its counterparts and I whole heartedly endorse the work they do.

2012-10-19 13:05:21 UTC
Richard McGinnis, CIO, Mindful Metropolis

Thank you for the work you do in the community. You are a hero and the epitome of the application of good sense + good will + good heart.

2012-10-19 13:05:58 UTC
Sweet Beginnings customer

Finding these products has been a real blessing. They speak to everything that my family believes in. Gifts that are good for the earth and for our bodies, sourced in such a beautiful way, and on top of it, nurture that part of us that has been so long forgotten in our culture.

2012-10-19 13:07:02 UTC
Kelvin Greenwood

You all at NLEN and Sweet Beginnings have given me a new look on life with the opportunities you have placed upon me. To this day, I still carry the necessary tools of life that I need to continue to progress in this world.

2012-10-19 13:11:05 UTC
Noah Jenkins

I have the honor of working for NLEN on occasional special projects. The work they do is incredibly important to social justice and the economic development of all our low income communities.

The people NLEN serves deserve a fair chance, and they do not get it in today's society. Did you know:

More than one in three young, black men without a high school diploma is currently behind bars.

One in 9 African American children, 1 in 28 Hispanic children, and 1 in 57 white children have an incarcerated parent.

Serving time reduces hourly wages for men by approximately 11%, annual employment by 9 weeks, and annual earnings by 40%.

Job seekers with a criminal record are offered half as many positions as those without criminal records, and African American applicants receive two-thirds fewer offers.

A cost-benefit analysis of crime-reduction programs from across the United States over the past 25 years … found significant gains to taxpayers from several workforce programs in terms of both reduced recidivism and cost savings from reduced crime.

These are all from: The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2010. Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility. Washington, DC: The Pew Charitable Trusts.)

2012-10-19 13:13:11 UTC
Andre Nelson, Global Estates, LLC

I am an employer. I can count on NLEN to refer new hires who are qualified and ready to work.

2012-10-19 13:26:18 UTC
Bashir Muhammad

NLEN is a dynamic and innovative organization that has continued to provide effective workforce development services in the North Lawndale community of Chicago. Their programs and services should serve as a model and be replicated throughout the United States.

2012-10-19 13:50:25 UTC
Bral Spight, CEO UrbanPonics

NLEN has been instrumental in helping UrbanPonics accomplish our strategy to hire the traditionally hard-to-employ for our for-profit agricultural business. All three employees sourced so far have exceeded expectations and we are in the process of hiring more. We look forward to a sustained enduring relationship with an important strategic partner - NLEN.

2012-10-19 14:32:33 UTC
Emanuel Robsinson

Sweet Beginnings has gave me a brighter idea of how to remain employed in the future. I have learned about time management, task procedures, and team work. After my employment ends here, I am confident that these skills will serve me in future employment positions. I would suggest to anyone who has a background to visit the NLEN office because it has many resources and opportunities.

2012-10-19 15:14:48 UTC
Stacey Woods

NLEN is an amazing organization, I am grateful to be apart of the mission and vision. The services offered at NLEN are catered to the immediate needs of the North Lawndale community. We are devoted to removing the stigma attached to many returning citizens. We equip our participants with the knowledge and skills needed to sufficiently support their families. Second chances are not always given by our criminal justice system, so we stepped up to the plate. Improving our website will allow us to broaden our network of support and hope. As a society, we cannot afford to not provide these services.

2012-10-19 15:46:57 UTC
Tiffani McIntosh

NLEN provides resources, work and a positive outlook for the community. NLEN staff is dedicated to our mission. I am grateful to be part of this organization.

2012-10-19 15:50:36 UTC
Delregan Stevenson

As a graduate of the U-Turn Permitted Program, I obtained a lot of knowledge and wisdom to better assist me with returning to the workforce. The program helped me to understand the mistakes I made in the past. I was able to come to terms with where I am now, and where I would like to be in the future. As a Sweet Beginnings employee, I developed skills in inventory, marketing, sales, delivery, bee keeping, and customer service. This opportunity has also reinforced the importance of being punctual. In addition, I was also able to receive help with re-building my credit and setting financial goals. Overall, this experience has helped me tremendously. Thank you NLEN for giving me another chance to better myself and my family.

2012-10-19 16:14:36 UTC
Sheryl Morris

I have the pleasure and honor of working with the North Lawndale Employment Network team on varying levels. I have learned a great deal from Pauline Sylvain-Lewis (Center for Working Families-Director. She is an amazing resource and wealth of information. She is a humble spirit and has a zeal for information sharing. I have worked with Regina as a partner to Fathers, Families and Healthy Communities, and each individual has proven to have a true passion and commitment to getting their clients the service and training needed to make a difference in their lives.

2012-10-19 16:26:27 UTC
Terry Soto

I have worked as a consultant to NLEN for three years and I am inspired and motivated by the staff who work with the U-Turn Permitted program participants and alumni and Sweet Beginnings employees with dedication, enthusiasm and toughness. The results are that the participants and employees master skills and knowledge that advance their employment options. I cannot think of a worthier candidate for web design development. The impact of such work will reach a community beyond the program participants that will greatly benefit from the improvements.

2012-10-19 16:48:41 UTC
Bobby Clark

I appreciate NLEN for giving me the opportunity to be a part of a great organizaion. Their mission to put ex-felons in the job field is what they strive for. I was a part of the U-Turn Permitted in Jan. 2011. It was so much that I have learned that has been a benefit to me. NLEN has been a great impact on so many people. It's a comfortable environment and everyone feels like family. NLEN will have your back. They help you strive for the best and they have proven that!

2012-10-19 16:55:24 UTC
Rhonda Jenkins

I was first introduced to the program about 8 years ago through a family member. The facility and the staff are great. They are very nice, helpful, and informative. You can always come in and get questions answered regarding job, and other opportunities. The facility is great work area and always clean. I am so thankful to have a support system like NLEN in my community, and every time I have the opportunity I share the information with other.

2012-10-19 16:57:38 UTC
Marlon McClinton, President & CEO of Utilivate Technologies

NLEN is a fantastic organization. It's an organization that consistently provides training skills and opportunity for advancement in the community. It's an absolute pleasure to be associated with NLEN. Utilivate Technologies whole heartily sanctions any opportunity that will support, and advance all the services that NLEN provides.

2012-10-19 16:57:38 UTC
Pauline Sylvain-Lewis

I enjoy being a part of this GREAT organization.

2012-10-19 16:59:29 UTC
Rose M Lenoir

I give praise to this facility for the support it bring to the community with job search and even helping people that have been to jail and working on getting their life together . They have helped me in so many areas. With job search computer support resume and they have helped me with my light and gas. Thank God for the support I pray that there are more facitlty like this put in different neighborhood. They also helped me when i wanted to go back to school with expense and bus fare. This is God send for the people. >

2012-10-19 17:05:36 UTC
Joseph Smith

NLEN really means what it says(about U-Turn) because this program gave me a chance and now I hold new outlook on life -and trust me I'm here working hard everyday so the proof is in the pudding- if thats not a u- trun what is? Thanks alot to NLEN.

2012-10-19 18:29:42 UTC
Patricia O'Brien

I volunteer as a board member of the North Lawndale Employment Network because I believe in their mission and I know they walk the walk with many of our community's most vulnerable citizens toward hope and restoration. Having a powerful presence on the web can only enhance our transformative work and provide opportunities for partnership and service.

2012-10-19 18:51:51 UTC
Connie Capone

I'm a Board member and am constantly inpressed by the dedication, creativity and hard work of this team! If you want to work with a company that is growing, innovative, *green* and supports a social mission around incarcerated individuals (a growing problem in our country), this is the place for you!

2012-10-19 18:54:39 UTC
Raymond Irizarry

North Lawndale Employment Network provides transformation to the lives of the participants of the programs. They expand opportunities to the community for which they serve. Their impact gives hope for future generations of residents of the North Lawndale community. The leadership and partnership in the community is invaluable for the sustainability of the community.

2012-10-19 18:55:36 UTC
Michael McAfee

Please join us in building a community full of opportunity in North Lawndale. It’s an honor to serve as the President of the Board of Directors for the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN). The board and staff are committed to improving the earnings potential of the community through innovative employment initiatives that lead to economic advancement and an improved quality of life. To date, we’ve assisted more than 1,000 residents with obtaining living-wage employment; and for those with criminal records, our recidivism rate is below 4 percent! NLEN is achieving powerful results because the board and staff have an unremitting focus on results and a commitment to empowering the residents of North Lawndale to be the masters of their own destiny! Your support will enable the NLEN team to have a web site that is a gateway to opportunity for the children and families we’re privileged to serve.

2012-10-19 19:28:23 UTC
Nicole Norfles

We have all had second chances - some more difficult than others. NLEN is an organization that ensures, while all the financial and social challenges abound, that the community and its members are not forgotten and get that second chance. NLEN is also at the forefront of innovation and idea creation for its clients, members, supporters and broader Chicago community. A website for NLEN would provide an opportunity to communicate on that broader level. Congratulations to NLEN on continuing your great work!

2012-10-19 19:30:50 UTC
Paula Yanosy

NLEN is an anchor for not only the North Lawndale community for but those in need of assistance across the city. As an intern for the past two month, I have seen first hand the impact NLEN has on its clients. I am truly honored to be a part of helping this organization move forward.

2012-10-19 19:31:07 UTC
Michele Archibald

I am currently employed at NLEN and am in awe of the scope of work that they do. When I get home in the evening I tell my family of my day and they are surprised, my mother who is very Socially active has never heard of NLEN...(I wonder how many more are out there like her).
They provide a warm atomsphere to learn and develop your skills. The staff is educated and deciated.
The leader is a awesome woman to watch....
My hats off to the staff and the employees of the NLEN.

2012-10-19 19:56:36 UTC
Jose M. Wilson

I have worked for NLEN for six plus years. I often tell the clients that it's amazing to get paid to do some of the work I've been called to do. Over the years, I have received tons of positive testimonies on how lives have been transformed, jobs obtained, relationships/families healed, homes purchased, credit scores improved, hope gained, marriages, and a true sense of "U-Turn Permitted" internalized because of this great work!

2012-10-19 20:33:54 UTC
Nicole Johnson-Scales

Under Brenda's leadership, NLEN is a thriving, innovative organization that is addressing a very real issue in Chicago. NLEN provides hope and a second chance to residents who want to change their lives. Fifth Third Bank is proud to support the work and invite others to become a partner too!

2012-10-19 21:37:05 UTC
David Robbins

The North Lawndale Employment Network and Sweet Beginnings believe that the quality work that goes into our people, products and place are wonderful enough to sell themselves. As stated by many herein our impact on recidivism, employment, sustainabbility/the environment to our line of honey and skin care products is sublime. Not to mention, the extraordinary buzz created by our urban apiaries located from O'Hare Intl. Airport, to Wright College to the Cook County Jail, and of course North Lawndale!

Where the above is entirely believeable (to Us). We understand that in the realm of ecommerce no product is truly good enough to sell it'self. As we are seeking to expand our "virtual" presence, the opportunity that The Nerdery presents will allow us to address our website design shortcomings.


With the completion of the nerdathon in Chicago you may strike the name of one darn good nonprofit from your list!

We expect to address interaction design, social media, usability, search engine optimization, tracking and analysis, content and (oh yes) even the footer.

We look to continue the momentum of your work through our association with the "Code for America Brigade" (CFA), with whom we are coordinating a "Listening Event" which will ferret out opportunities for partnership with the Brigade, and other "civic hackers" like Open Gov. Chicago. Through the CFA, we are also hopeful that we might gain partnership with a local org. which will be able to carry your 24 hr. project/effort into a comprehensive program.

We look forward to working with you NOVEMBER 17 - 18 2012


2012-10-19 21:46:53 UTC
Felicia Griffin

I have worked with NLEN for over 10 years has part of their network that works with ex-offenders. I have now been employed by NLEN for two years. I love the atmosphere here from both the staff members and the participants that come through our doors. Working with NLEN, you know that you are making a difference. You are helping to change an individual, who will help to change his/her family, which will have a positive change on their community. This funding will help NLEN to spread the word about hope, change and self-sufficiency to many ex-offenders in the Chicagoland area.

2012-10-19 21:50:39 UTC
Deanna Jackson

Good work North Lawndale. I have a brother that spent 10 years in prison. 12 months after his release he could not find employment. Last year he went to a meeting at North Lawndale and enrolled in thier U-Turn Permitted program. He has now been working for 10 months and he loves his job. Thank you to everyone at NLEN for helping to see the good in my brother.

2012-10-19 22:24:39 UTC
wynton fargo

nlen is a great service they helped me out alot with my life and helping find jobs they've made a huge impact in my life..

2012-10-20 13:00:01 UTC
Randy Eyder

I have had a ten year association with NLEN. During that time I have been impressed with the openness and accessibility of the staff even the management and executive staff. Under the brilliant leadership of Ms.Brenda Palms-Barber they have the most innovative, comprehensive program for returning citizens (commonly called ex-offenders)in the city of Chicago.

2012-10-20 13:03:19 UTC
Randy Ryder

I have had a ten year association with NLEN. During that time I have been impressed with the openness and accessibility of the staff even the management and executive staff. Under the brilliant leadership of Ms.Brenda Palms-Barber they have the most innovative, comprehensive program for returning citizens (commonly called ex-offenders)in the city of Chicago.

2012-10-21 21:55:09 UTC
Cosette Yisrael

I have been a supporter of NLEN and its mission to make a difference for ex-felons for nearly 7 years. Under the leadership of Brenda Palms-Barber, the organization has remained at the forefront of innovation with their Sweet Beginnings initiative and have provided hundreds of opportunities for this population. In addition to developing a successful product for Whole Foods this green project has become a model for social entrepreneurship and provides needed funding for the NLEN programs which expands their ability to make a difference.

2012-10-23 17:00:03 UTC
Valerie Beck

I'm proud to be on the Sweet Beginnings board because Sweet Beginnings is everything a social enterprise should be: it enriches the lives of those who work there, giving them a second chance at success. It provides first-class products to customers. It creates local jobs and helps revitalize the community. And it gives hope, something that nourishes the whole world.

Our Mission

Our mission is to improve the earnings potential of North Lawndale and surrounding communities through innovative employment initiatives that lead to economic advancement and an improved quality of life. The North Lawndale Employment Network believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to work! More importantly, we also believe that our community flourishes when good jobs give residents both paychecks and self-worth.