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Overdue Ideas: Sustainable Workforce Development Opportunities and New Approaches with those with Behavioral Health Needs

Rodney North May 28, 2021

Over the decades impact investors, social entrepreneurs and others have gradually expanded their concept of what is feasible and what is needed. We’ve now observed repeated cycles of this phenomenon. As public awareness of chronic bias and even overt discrimination has grown these investors and entrepreneurs have consistently discovered untapped potential in people, markets, and ideas. Unfortunately, these welcome discoveries have also been consistently overdue and only adopted slowly.

This session will discuss one such ongoing example – the lingering blind spot around those with behavioral health needs. In this regard hiring and workplace practices are comparable to where gender and racial diversity were in the 1960s or 70s. Untold amounts of individual talent and drive are squandered and billions in public dollars are spent annually to assist people who can work and want to work, but are not allowed the opportunity.

The conversation will revolve around four pillars:

▪ The scale of the situation – the millions of individuals and families who are affected and how that impacts ripples through communities and society

▪ Examples of social enterprises that are challenging preconceptions and demonstrating viable workforce development opportunities

▪ The application of universal design and employee ownership models to create workplaces that work for everyone

▪ The potential roles for impact investment

Special focus will be upon the example of SpringForward™, a nonprofit start-up in Baltimore, Maryland, that will operate commercially competitive hydroponic greenhouses and eventually convert into an employee-owned for-profit business.

The SpringForward™ approach is centered upon lessons learned at the PHILLIPS Programs, which has been providing services and programming to individuals with behavioral needs, and their families, in the Baltimore-Washington DC area since 1967. That direct experience and expertise includes career and technical education which has convinced PHILLIPS that opportunities to create well-paid, stable jobs are being missed. SpringForward™ is also incorporating a universal design methodology that will create a better workplace for all employees – both those with and without behavioral health needs.


Fireside Chat

Meta Themes

  • Equity & Inclusion

  • Social Entrepreneurship


Workforce development, innovation, universal design, employee ownership, urban agriculture, asset building

Purpose and Desired Outcome

To communicate to entrepreneurs, allocators, and others the unrecognized potential to create steady jobs, integrated workplaces, and to build social enterprises around, and with, those with behavioral health needs. To share lessons learned from the PHILLIPS Programs ongoing work to launch such an enterprise that incorporates universal design, employee ownership, and controlled environment agriculture (CEA).


  • Allocators (Family Offices, HNW Individuals, Foundations)

  • Asset Managers

  • Corporate & SME

  • Entrepreneurs

  • Accelerators & Incubators

  • Government


  • NamePiper Phillips Caswell
  • TitlePresident and CEO
  • OrganizationPHILLIPS Programs
  • StatusConfirmed
  • NameShane Kanady
  • TitleVice President, Workforce Development
  • OrganizationSourceAmerica
  • StatusInvited
  • NameDan Fireside
  • TitleFounder
  • OrganizationUncommon Capital Solutions
  • StatusConfirmed
  • NamePHILLIPS Programs graduate
  • Titleto be named later
  • OrganizationPHILLIPS Programs
  • StatusInvited
  • NameRodney North (moderator)
  • TitleManagement consultant, SpringForward Launch Coordinator
  • OrganizationSpringForward™
  • StatusConfirmed
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