Charlottesville Works: Harnessing Social Networks to Promote Employment and Fight Poverty

Ridge Schuyler believed that social networks were a unique and innovative way to fight poverty through sustainable employment opportunities. This case study describes how Ridge scaled up Charlottesville Works locally around a formalized social network model that connects unemployed individuals living under the federal poverty line to promising jobs through word-of-mouth, at little cost. The central decision point presented to students is how Ridge should scale Charlottesville Works, and the organizational changes that must be made. This case encourages students to critically examine alternative forms of social interventions and explore how informal processes can be formalized by an organization to fill information gaps in the job market and operational shortfalls in the social service sector. It also invites students to consider issues and obstacles that smaller social service providers face when confronted with both external growth and internal expansion.