NationSwell is kicking off 2020 with a series that looks back on our biggest moments of impact from 2019. In our second installment, we’re delighted to celebrate a first-of-its-kind project that empowered an at-risk population right here in our city. 

After attending a NationSwell Council (NSC) Strategic Advisory Group in 2017, NSC member Joe Esposito (managing director at Jennison Associates) became deeply involved with Restore NYC, an organization seeking to end sex trafficking in New York and restore the well-being and independence of foreign-national survivors. Below, Joe shares how the NSC community supported Restore in creating what might be the nation’s first entrepreneurship program tailored for survivors of sex trafficking.

NationSwell: Thanks for taking the time to speak, Joe. We know a little bit about how Restore helps women who have survived human trafficking find financial independence. Could you share the origins of the innovative solutions you all have piloted?

Joe Esposito: Restore is an extremely mission-driven with a very healthy culture and an extraordinary impact relative to the resources that go into that organization. At the end of 2016, and I went to their executive director with an idea for an online jobs platform to reduce the friction involved with their clients finding jobs. At that time, I also learned about an organization in London that was running a successful entrepreneurship program for survivors that we wanted to replicate here. We knew it would have massive transformational potential. We saw a lot of synergy between these two programs and we wanted to bring it to New York City – a place with financial resources and immense human capital.

NS: How did the NationSwell Council help support this innovative program?

JE: The NationSwell Council had a critical role here.  I first turned to my community manager who helped me connect with fellow NSC members in educational institutions, [including Gabe Brodbar, the then executive director of the social entrepreneurship program at NYU.]  We connected and quickly realized we could host this program out of NYU. Had it not been for my community manager’s efforts and connections, this program quite literally would have never happened.

Furthermore, part of the program includes connecting the women with mentors, and we have a very specific set of criteria for these mentors, given the sensitive nature of the program. I again reached out to my community manager, and she connected me with more folks in the community. Several NSC members ended up being mentors.

NS: Incredibly powerful. What’s next?!

JE: We completed the first two-week program and supported 28 women who came from 20 countries. It was a massive success. We’re planning to measure success of the program by tracking outcomes at the 6-month mark, 12-month mark, etc. We’re also planning the second cohort for 2020. I don’t say this lightly, but I believe we are in the early innings of revolutionizing economic empowerment for this population. And then I expect we can move on to at least one other population of at-risk people in the U.S. I see a long, steady upward trajectory for NationSwell to be at ground zero of this change that has the potential to impact hundreds if not thousands of women over the next decade. And I think it’s a very unique opportunity for people to invest time and energy into. I hope NationSwell continues to be a partner because your organization has so much in terms of capabilities, so much in terms of its diverse, rich community. I think NationSwell can play a unique role here.

NationSwell is always trying to learn more about how we’ve supported our Council members in their efforts to make the world a better place. If we helped you, we’d love to hear more about it. Let us know.