Meet the Innovators: Bridget and Emily at PIVOT

Emily Thompson (left) and Bridget Nistico (right) run PIVOT, a new program supporting women in re-entry.

Bridget and Emily of PIVOT are members of the Social Innovation Lab’s 2017–2018 cohort. To learn more about SIL and the cohort, click here. To hear from them at our Impact+Innovation Forum on April 24, register here!

SIL: Tell us about your project. What are you trying to do?

PIVOT: PIVOT provides a pathway for women from prison to purpose. We help women break the cycle of incarceration and rebuild their lives and their families. Through a community-centered program followed by an ongoing mentorship commitment, women gain the support, tools, relationships and resources to find stability, employment and long term economic independence.

SIL: Why did you decide to start this? Where did the idea come from?

PIVOT: PIVOT was born through our chance meeting at a Johns Hopkins Social Innovation Lab (SIL) event in late 2017.

Bridget, a 9-year veteran of AA, had been working for nearly a decade mentoring and coaching other women through AA, many with some kind of criminal background. Emily had been working as the director of a small job readiness program under My Sister’s Place Women’s Center. For both of us, helping women find jobs, housing, and to face the myriad challenges of re-entry demonstrated how difficult it was to find adequate resources and support.

When we realized we were both applying to the Social Innovation Lab with such a similar idea, we became fast friends and decided to join forces. We have been incredibly fortunate to find an ideal partnership in values, skills, vision and personal commitment to the women we serve.

SIL: What would you consider success for your work, and how would the world be different when if you’re successful?

PIVOT: Success means a world where a woman’s past doesn’t determine her future; where prison is a place of rehabilitation and 70% re-offense rates are unimaginable; where children grow up with their parents; and where the nearly $39 billion per year used to keep people incarcerated is instead invested in preventative programs. In the meantime, we’re focusing on completing our pilot program to focus on reduced recidivism in Baltimore through stable employment, health, and housing for our participants.

SIL: What have you accomplished so far?

PIVOT: We have come a very long way in just a few months! We started with SIL by conducting over 100 stakeholder interviews with returning citizens, nonprofits, government agencies, advocates, funders and potential employers. Through this process we gained a deeper and more complete understanding of the problem, current gaps in services and resources, and how we can meet a unique need for women in reentry.

With the help of our advisory board of returning citizens and nonprofit leaders, we identified a service model that would best address the needs identified and a phased approach to getting there. We’ve conducted a couple pilot workshops and will will start the full PIVOT curriculum in June with a 12-week pilot program serving a cohort of 10 women referred by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

SIL: What are you most looking forward to getting out of your time with SIL?

PIVOT: We are most looking forward to the mentorship and relationship-building opportunities provided by SIL between our fellow SIL participants, alumni, cohort mentors, Hopkins partners and more. We also look forward to the opportunity to refine and receive meaningful feedback on our program and pitch.

SIL: What’s your favorite place or thing to do in Baltimore?

PIVOT: We both live near Patterson Park and love the concert series there in the summer — though Bridget is there year-round walking her dog Arie!

SIL: What advice do you have for would-be social entrepreneurs or other students thinking about starting a venture?

PIVOT: Other than attend the SIL bootcamp? In all seriousness — starting a venture seems so daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! You do not have to quit your job or raise all kinds of money to start something. PIVOT was started from an idea and refined by honing in on the problem that wasn’t being addressed. Talk to as many people as possible who are affected by or in some way related to that problem. This process will help you identify if there really is an unmet need that your venture can fill, and it can help you build the relationships, support, data and confidence you need to determine if/when/how to take the next step with your idea.

Check out PIVOT’s new fundraiser on their website and hear from them at our upcoming Impact+Innovation Forum on April 24th!