John Legend is Creating Job Opportunities for People With Criminal Backgrounds

Grammy and Oscar winner—John Legend has never been afraid to change tunes and use his voice for important issues.

One of those issues has been around mass incarceration. Back in 2017, Legend launched Unlocked Futures, a 14-month accelerator program for social entrepreneurs who have been incarcerated. He has also urged business leaders to be more inclusive of job applicants with criminal backgrounds.

The program is now on its second cohort and its progress can be contributed to the philanthropic venture fund New Profit and Legend’s criminal justice reform initiative FreeAmerica, with financial support from Bank of America.

“We started this as a collaboration, saying, ‘Let’s not just tell folks to hire formerly incarcerated individuals, but to invest in their ideas,’” says Legend. “All of the members have business ideas that will help them feed their families, employ others, and strengthen our communities.”

Participants receive coaching on leadership skills such as board governance, fundraising, communications and talent strategy. They also undergo an assessment that gauges areas for improvement and team up with mentors from a network of organizations, including Bank of America, which provided $500,000 grants for both cohorts, a total $1 million commitment.

Applicants must have fully operational businesses to be permitted into the Unlocked Futures program.

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