The Collective rebrands with new name, expanded vision

The Collective — a Memphis nonprofit focused on educating, training and placing young adults in the workforce — is now The Collective Blueprint.

The organization introduced their new name, logo and expanded mission to their partners, volunteers and program participants on October 16 at a reception held at the National Civil Rights Museum.

The also unveiled a new tagline — 'Build the framework for an equitable future.'

Sarah Lockridge-Steckel and Sabrina Dawson launched The Collective in 2017 to create pathways to economic self-sufficiency for young adults, ages 18 to 30, in Memphis.

“We are targeting the 45,000 young adults who have been out of school and out of work in our city,” said Lockridge-Steckel.

The organization works with schools, nonprofits and employers to offer young adults, referred to as 'leaders,' a year-long leadership program. There they receive professional development and job placement in high-demand industries. The leaders develop professional skills from resume building to public speaking and networking. Near the end of the intensive, they apply for post-secondary education and employment that best fits their skills and interests.

The Collective Blueprint's newly expanded mission includes advocating for policy changes that remove systemic barriers to education and employment.

“We just found it’s incredibly difficult to navigate getting into school, figuring out what the right option is for you and then figuring out how to finance it,” said Lockridge-Steckel.

“We find that a lot of our young adults end up going into the wrong pathway for them but then also taking on astronomical amounts of debt," she continued.

The Collective Blueprint also announced plans to increase its employer pool and partner with organizations that pay at least $15 an hour. The organization is also looking to program changes to build towards an equitable future. 

“We’re building out internships," said Lockridge-Steckel. "We’re building out intensive coaching for our young adults once they’re on the employment side. We’re trying to think about how to have broader impact on the young adults we’re not working directly with.”

Attendees enjoyed hors d'oeuvres before the presentation to unveiled The Collective Blueprint's new name and expanded mission. (Brandi Hunter)

Collective Impact

Roughly 60 guests filled Hooks Hyde Hall on NCRM's second floor as The Collective Blueprint's team shared the organization’s expanded vision and mission, as well as outcomes for the leadership program's 2017 and 2018 cohorts.

According to Lockridge-Steckel, two-thirds of the 2017 cohort are certified in IT, healthcare and other skilled trades, and 79% were employed as of December 2018. Nearly half of the 2018 cohort is certified in skilled trades, and 85% are expected to be employed by December 2019.

David McCollough is in the current cohort and on track to finish October 2020.

“If it wasn’t for The Collective [Blueprint], I don’t know where I would be,” he said.

From the podium, the 28-year-old said his journey to The Collective Blueprint started 10 years ago at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

McCullough was a music education major attending on a full scholarship. The Hamilton High School graduate lost his scholarship during junior year due to lack of focus and low grades.

He returned home to Memphis in 2016. After two years of working various low-paying, unsatisfying jobs, McCullough’s mother told him about The Collective Blueprint. He applied, interviewed and got accepted into the 60-student class three weeks later.

To drive home the need for their expanded mission, the October 16 reception included an activity where guests were given real-life scenarios that often derail the education and employment plans of young adults like McCollough. What seem like small barriers for some can be insurmountable for others, especially young adults with few personal or familial resources to bounce back.

Examples included a vehicle breaking down, the financial aid office discovering a costly error and an employer switching an employee's schedule in the middle of the school semester. 

While hypothetical, the scenarios still reflected the experiences of many Memphians. Last year, Memphis was second in overall and child poverty among cities with populations above 500,000. Many of the city's young adults are those people with few resources and in need of support from The Collective Blueprint and organizations like it.

Read more articles by Brandi Hunter.

Brandi Hunter is a native Memphian and freelance content creator. She writes and podcasts about Memphis, faith and entrepreneurship for local and national publications, and leads a creative media assistance studio based in Memphis.
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