ZION Development believes that every reasonably able-bodied adult and young person should be engaged in meaningful work. That work may be paid or unpaid. For those able to join in the competitive labor market, ZION encourages them, as needed, to do so. In many instances ZION has been able to work with its neighbors to help them find a job. Sometimes that means helping a person identify their marketable skills and sometimes that means simply helping the person connect with the right job opportunity. Our Case Manager at the Grand Apartments works particularly hard at this. In some instances the Case Manager works with residents there to help them sharpen their job application tools.
ZION Development has also created many jobs in MidTown. In fact, ZION's very first venture was to create a Workshop for unemployed people - many of them folks with disabilities or newly arrived immigrants especially from Southeast Asia. The Workshop began in 1982 and quickly grew to the point of employing 25 people full time and providing local fastener manufacturers with affordable quality control inspection to millions and millions of fasteners of all sizes and types. The Workshop gave ZION the funds to also start other businesses including Oriental Express, a catering business, a bridal gown business, an electronics repair business, a Laotian fabric art gallery, Pickerman's - a franchise soup and sandwich business, and, of course, Katie's Cup Coffee Bar and Bookstore. Furthermore, when paid positions come up within ZION Development, we look to our residents and neighbors first for candidates.
Not everyone is able to or needs to be paid for their work. ZION Development offers many volunteer opportunities to our neighbors to assist in the strengthening of the neighborhood. This is an area where ZION can certainly grow, but the potential for volunteer labor contribution is huge and we plan to keep learning how to do better at this. The idea is not to squeeze people into giving us free labor, but rather to invite our neighbors to contribute from their gifts and assets to the strengthening of the neighborhood.
ZION Development also likes to use the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) approach. Developed by Northwestern University's professors, John McKnight and John Kretzmann, ABCD has modules to help neighbors identify the gifts and assets in their neighborhood and in themselves. This is a very significant deviation from the traditional "Needs-Based" approach of researching the deficiencies in a community or individual and then focusing resources - nearly always outside resources - on those "needs." ZION has provided neighbors with a variety of trainings in ABCD all of which were received very well by both our neighbors and staff. A powerful aspect of ABCD is that it places the locus of power in the hands of the neighbors, not in the hands of outside professionals.