Q&A With Genevieve Martin, Vice President of Partnerships and Innovation

Meet TLM’s newest team member, Genevieve Martin! A co-founder of the Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation, as well as a founding partner of the Second Chance Business Coalition, Genevieve brings a wealth of experience in fair chance employment to TLM’s partnerships team. We sat down with Genevieve for a Q&A to learn more about her expertise and how her leadership will elevate the mission of The Last Mile in its newest chapter of growth. 

What brings you to The Last Mile? 

I’ve watched the growth and expansion of The Last Mile since its inception and have always been drawn to how they’ve been disruptive, but with such great intention, I find TLM’s approach exhilarating and energizing. For over a decade, I’ve led projects and teams focused solely on equipping employers to employ justice-impacted talent – I’ve been privileged to do this in corporate roles, nonprofit leadership, and in collaborative partnerships. I am excited to bring all of those pieces of experience together and join this organization that is so connected to direct service. One of the things I missed most about being in the corporate space was being able to work directly with the very people we serve and contributing to the redesign and implementation of processes and policies that serve all talent.  Joining TLM  feels a lot like coming home. This is an organization that is poised for growth and innovation and I couldn’t be happier to bring my talents to The Last Mile to build systems, programs and partnerships that will fuel us in the next chapter of our work.

Genevieve Headshot 3

What are you hoping to accomplish at The Last Mile?

While The Last Mile is no longer a startup, we are driven by innovators, disruptors, and entrepreneurial spirit, which is part of what makes it so powerful. What’s critical is to take an organization that has this groundswell of energy, innovation, and disruption, and ensure that it has the staying power that our field desperately needs. I’m committed to establishing operational excellence, holistic people practices, and innovative, principled approaches to the way we do our work.

TLM has all of the ingredients for that staying power, so I’m excited to think about what’s next. How do we plant that garden a bit deeper? How do we fertilize it and get the incredibly talented folks in and out of this organization the skills and tools that they need to thrive? I’ve been blown away by the people that I’ve had one-on-ones and team meetings with since I started. Next steps for me are about how we look at elevating their leadership, taking that raw talent and guiding it into something that they can use to propel themselves and the organization forward.  That’s a skill set that I bring and I’m honored to pour into this team to support their success and create succession plans for every role in the organization so that we can better meet the needs of more justice-impacted  people across the country.

With your experience in second chance/fair chance employment, what are some of the barriers you typically see companies face when talking about hiring formerly incarcerated people? 

When working with companies – and this is largely agnostic of geography, size or industry – common challenges in the beginning are a lack of understanding of what fair chance employment  is and how to do it. At the end of the day, individuals are making the decisions. It’s not the organization that’s making the decision. Once we address personal reservations we can move to the conversation of perceived risk versus actual risk. There is a perception that there’s far more risks when employing folks with records than there actually are. Being able to uncouple and unpack these perceptions and beliefs with your audience is critical. Overwhelmingly people want to do good work, when learning new things such as how best to employ talent with records they need support reimagining and believing what people are capable of. That redemption and transformation is possible. And better yet, inviting them to be a conduit of that redemption in the world.

I often refer to the posture we take in any given situation. An organization may take the posture of charity and altruism, they may take the posture of social justice warrior, or any number of others. None of these are perfect, what matters is what we can do together next. Part of our role is to be able to assess where an organization is in their journey and provide action steps that apply to them and their growth. My goal with any organization is to equip them with the necessary information, tools, and coaching to make better decisions. To focus on human centered employment practices, always. From there we can determine a course of action such as; leadership buyin, policy revisions, internal training, back pocket scripts, recruiting partnerships, etc. 

When you get a truly engaged organization, you can see everything shift – their word choice, the way they include people, the way they decide whether or not they’re going to participate in marketing and communications. And if they are participating in storytelling, they are specific and human-centered in their intention to make it about the individual’s story, not the organization’s. There is a comfort in sharing, but also a protection of the justice-impacted individual to say, “yes, we of course hire justice-impacted talent. They are rockstar employees, and if they want to share, we are happy to elevate them.” A principled fair chance employer will also do everything in their power to protect their team members’ story. This happens in two ways, one in providing media training to the team mate to help them understand that once their story is published, it lives on the internet forever – so be selective in what you choose to share publicly. And the second is to ensure that at no point is the story being told for the benefit of the organization or in an exploitative way; it’s told to amplify and support a larger social mission. An individual’s story is a mouthpiece for so much more possibility. 

What do you share with companies that don’t feel confident that fair chance employment  is right for their organization?  Are there any strategies or talking points that you share?

When working with an employer everything is case by case, however there are general approaches I use when they’re unsure that fair chance employment is right for their company. First I get a sense for the individual that I’m talking to. Because it’s really easy in our space to get caught up in the excitement and the self righteousness of saying , “This is the right thing to do. This is good work. This will change people’s lives. This will change families’ lives. This will have a ripple effect into the community that is nothing but positive, right?” It’s quite easy to stay in our bubble. When talking with a person, group, or an organization that’s presenting resistance, there’s usually a reason why. 

More often than not, it’s simply a lack of information. That lack of information leads to a certain level of ignorance that they may or may not be aware of. This must be kindly and practically challenged. In some cases, these are the audiences that require so much more care. This is why you must know your audience – blasting into a setting saying , “this is the best and most appropriate thing to do,” may immediately shut down all chances of discussion. We must be advocates for a multitude of individuals – both for those who have caused harm and those who are survivors of harm. Our audiences, our organizations, our communities are made of both experiences. When assessing who our audience is we must allow space for them to explore our position, understand how we’ve arrived at our conclusions and experiences and warmly invite them to our mission. When coming up with personal resistance, this is not the moment to barrage them with data that tells them that these policies are not a problem and it is the right thing to do. We have to be mentors and coaches in that moment. In those moments I share personal stories. I was not always a  public-facing cheerleader of the work. And it’s not because I didn’t believe in it, but it’s because I’ve had my own adverse experiences as a child. I grew up in an environment  that was not stable or safe, leading to harm. We must hold space and  respect that our audiences will sometimes be the survivors of the very things that the folks that we’re working with, and on behalf of, may have been a part of.

We have to give space and grace for them to be able to say, “Okay, can I suspend my judgment long enough for me to make a different decision?  Or do I need to pass this level of decision making to someone else because I am currently not in a position to be able to do that correctly, consciously and thoughtfully?”

If you could wave a magic wand, what would the employment for formerly incarcerated people look like five years from now? 

If I could wave a magic wand, five years from now, justice-impacted talent would have access to any career pathway that aligns with their skill sets, competencies, and interests, so that we may all thrive in community together on this side of the gate.