NLEN Program Model

North Lawndale Employment Network and Sweet Beginnings operate an award-winning model of success, providing returning citizens and other hard-to-employ job seekers with the tools and training they need to thrive in the workplace and achieve economic security. Our unique program model bundles employment training, financial counseling and income supports as well as hands-on employment and management experience through our social enterprise, Sweet Beginnings. Click here to review our full Theory of Change or browse each of our programs below:

Program Flow Chart

Flow chart of NLEN's program model, depicting the integration of its Workforce Development and Financial Opportunity programming.

Community Focused

NLEN is committed to adapting its program model to best provide for the needs of clients and developing innovative, cross-sector approaches to workforce development. Our model uniquely addresses the needs of the North Lawndale community, which has been deeply impacted by mass incarceration, deindustrialization and systemic racism. Our operation is based on the following core beliefs:

  • Neighborhood-focused employment initiatives are fundamental to improving the quality of life for neighborhood residents and can influence policy by serving as a model for change
  • Connections to education and employment can positively impact individuals’ economic advancement and the goal of improving clients’ quality of life
  • Creating an environment that enables people to transform themselves because, most of the time, people make good decisions if given the right information and opportunities
  • Transitional employment is an essential strategy in the effort to control criminal recidivism by integrating former offenders into working life
  • Work values can be learned

Our Vision

NLEN envisions a world in which people facing significant barriers to employment (including returning citizens) are given a fair and just second chance to achieve self-sufficiency through gainful employment. This will ultimately build more stable families, safer communities, and a more informed and compassionate society as a whole. We are committed to executing effective, research-based programming to meet the needs of our clients while also utilizing our innovation and creativity to excel beyond industry standards. It is our vision that the unemployment rate in North Lawndale be equal to that of the City of Chicago overall.

Click on the infographic below to see how our unique programming helps fictional client “Angela” transform her life.