Friday, October 17, 2008

Guest Spot- A Quick Q &A with Allison Kelly

Allison Kelly is the Statewide Director for Employee Onramp Initiatives at Pacific Community Ventures based in San Francisco. We asked a few pointed questions of Allison recently about her sector switching, why she works in the social change movement and the results her program is having in the workplace.


We understand you recently left the for profit world to enter the nonprofit world. Please describe your path to getting here and what motivated you to do change sectors?

I started my career with a tour in the Peace Corps. I served in Mauritania, West Africa from 1996-1998. When I was there, I realized that if I could figure out how to equip people with assets, the power to make their own decisions about health care, education, food choices, etc., that would be the most meaningful work I could do. So I returned from the Peace Corps and worked in the private sector for 2 ½ years to get the necessary experience to get into business school. I graduated from Thunderbird in 2002 and took a job back in the non-profit sector with Population Services International (PSI). This was my first foray into health, by way of marketing. At PSI, we did social marketing for public health products in developing economies all over the world. The behavior change communication we were involved with was really impactful and interesting. I ultimately decided to move back to the West Coast, however, to be closer to family. Upon my move back to San Francisco, I took a job back in the private sector doing product marketing for a biotech company in South San Francisco that had a product which did HIV resistance testing. I ultimately stayed in pharmaceuticals and biotech for about 4 years doing product marketing and strategic planning. Although I enjoyed the work and my colleagues, I felt I had more to give and wanted to get involved in a social enterprise. When Pacific Community Ventures called me to see if I’d be interested in taking on the leadership of our Employee OnRamp initiatives, I couldn’t refuse. This is a very smart, driven and innovative organization and I couldn’t be happier to me here.

Describe the products/services you are working at PCV. How are they helping to change the workplace?

My responsibilities at Pacific Community Ventures include overseeing our health policy work, our economic self-sufficiency initiatives and launching VidaCard, our first healthcare product. PCVs work in health policy is to help engage the companies in our network in the policy debate. There are many organizations advocating for companies larger than the ones we serve, and many for smaller sole proprietorships, but our networks’ voice has been under represented. We hope to bring our perspective to the policy debate and contribute towards favorable policy for our network of companies. With regards to economic self-sufficiency, we engage our companies to offer financial literacy trainings at their work place during business hours. Additionally, we partner with sister organizations (such as TaxAID) to help promote the services available to the low/moderate income workforce that we aim to serve. Finally, our work launching the VidaCard has been really exciting! We have a health care product that operates like and HRA whereby an employer who can’t afford to insure their workers, or can’t insure part-time workers can offer a health benefit in the VidaCard. VidaCard can be used anywhere MasterCard is accepted to access health care. Additionally, we have a partnership with the only licensed discount dental network in the state of California to offer reduced rates for dental care. We are in the pilot phase of our roll out right now but will be launching to the market Jan 1, 2009. It’s a very exciting time.

How do you measure success within your organization for your particular area of focus?

We measure success in a variety of different ways. There are very quantifiable measures that we track as a company such as annual budget and headcount. Then we have more specific measurements for each of our lines of business. For example, for our Social Evaluation Consulting arm, we measure # of clients and earned income. For my line of business, Employee OnRamp, we measure # of employees accessed and # of VidaCards sold, for example. From a qualitative perspective, we measure levels of engagement at events that we host. We keep track of testimonials that we get from folks who benefit from our products and services. For example, I was at Farmacia Remedios in the Mission District a couple of weeks ago as they received their VidaCards and the gratitude and pride that was demonstrated both from the employees receiving the health benefit and the employers who were able to give it to them, was an incredible measure of success.

What are you looking forward to in this field?

I’m looking forward to continue to track and contribute to the innovation that’s going on within a lot of organizations right now to help bring economic self-sufficiency, of which I see healthcare being a big part, to low/moderate income people. I think the industry is getting smarter and more efficient about our work and it’s really rewarding to be part of it.

What do you do when you are not working to change the world?

Lately I haven’t done much but work! However, I am a member of Net Impact, which is a great organization of business leaders who want to use business to change the world. I have volunteered for their Service Corps program which provides pro bono consulting to non-profits in our community. I’ve found my involvement in that to be quite rewarding. I also try to ride my bike to work whenever possible!