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Dave and Liane Phillips

Cincinnati Works
Purpose Prize Fellow 2010

To address chronic unemployment, the Phillipses created an award-winning job training and placement program in the third poorest U.S. city of its size.

In 1994, as Dave Phillips approached retirement as the managing director of a large accounting firm, he and his wife, Liane, explored possibilities for work they could do together. Liane Phillips, a former teacher, conducted research, finding that 18 percent of the adult population in their hometown of Cincinnati was living in poverty.

After writing a business plan, she and her husband launched Cincinnati Works, a nonprofit, in 1996. Program participants, many of whom have faced chronic unemployment, must be at least 18 and take a weeklong job readiness course before gaining access to job counselors.

The organization also offers a trendsetting legal advocacy program, behavioral counseling, courses for those seeking on-the-job advancement, child care and transportation. Since inception, Cincinnati Works has assisted with almost 6,000 employments, including approximately 500 in 2009 – during the recession. The job retention rate is approximately 80 percent after one year, compared with the 15 to 20 percent rate for participants in government programs. Clients’ average hourly wage, now $9.32, exceeds Ohio’s minimum wage of $7.30.

Liane Phillips fondly recalls the inspiration for Cincinnati Works: “One Sunday when we were in church, Dave felt that God was telling him to take early retirement (age 56) and get started on the project. The only problem was that we didn’t know what the project was. … One day when we were in Cleveland looking at a jobs program we looked at each other and said, ‘This is it.’”