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Cara President & CEO to Lead National Social Enterprise Organization

After more than 15 years are Cara, Maria Kim will join California-based REDF in new leadership role.

Cara and its Board of Directors announced today that Maria Kim, President & CEO, will be stepping down from the Chicago-based organization after more than 15 years of service. Ms. Kim has accepted the role of President of REDF, a national venture philanthropy that invests exclusively in social enterprises focusing on employing and empowering people overcoming barriers to work. She will lead the organization alongside longtime CEO Carla Javits.

This transition comes at an exciting inflection point for Cara. In 2021, the organization is celebrating 30 years as a premiere workforce development provider, while also leveraging three decades of insight to help employers and practitioners around the country build a more inclusive economy. Further, Cara has been able to continue its work amid the COVID-19 crisis, placing people into more than 800 jobs since the onset of the pandemic while projecting to exceed FY21 revenue targets.

“Maria has laid a solid foundation for the next 30 years of Cara, including diverse revenue sources, amazing board and staff leadership, and a growing, thriving mission with endless potential,” said Bill Conroy, Chair of Cara’s Board of Directors. “Now, she is moving on to a fantastic opportunity with a national organization and a longtime partner in our work, taking the lessons and practices learned over her 15 years at Cara and applying them to similar social enterprises all across the country. While we will miss her leadership and friendship, the Cara Board of Directors couldn’t be more proud of her.”

Kim first joined Cara in 2005 as Director of Development, and later Chief Operating Officer. In her last seven years as President & CEO, Kim led the organization to new heights – more than tripling the number of jobs placed annually; growing a diverse revenue portfolio (both through philanthropic gifts and through the organization’s social enterprises, Cleanslate and Cara Connects) to nearly $11M; and elevating the brand and reputation of Cara as a national leader in poverty alleviation, including through the launch of an expansion model, Cara Plus.

“Cara is as beautiful as it is, not because of one person, but because of a vibrant community that works together to make this mission sing. That community, led by our incredible participants on whose broad shoulders we stand, is the reason why this job has been the job of my lifetime. In the past 15 years, I have had infinite blessings to touch a mission that gives people their voice and vocation, while helping me profoundly to find mine,” said Maria Kim. “In my new role with REDF, I have the opportunity to take that insight and the lessons of powerful social enterprises like Cara and fuel social enterprises around the country.”

The Cara–REDF relationship spans more than a decade, starting with both organizations’ affiliation with the Social Innovation Fund. In 2016, Cara was honored to join REDF’s National Portfolio of Leading Social Enterprises, validating Cara’s work on a national level. Additionally, REDF’s $865K, multi-year investment became a key source of revenue and fueled Cara and Cleanslate’s growth as we exited the Great Recession.

“I am excited to welcome Maria Kim as REDF’s new President as we are gearing up to implement a new, groundbreaking 2021-2025 strategy,” said Javits. “As the leader of Cara, one of the nation’s premiere employment social enterprises, Maria brings a wealth of experience and expertise that will greatly benefit REDF as we double down on the impact, excellence, long-range stability, and continuity of our work at a time when REDF is accelerating growth and impact from coast to coast.”

Kim will remain in her role with Cara until June 1, 2021, to aide in the transition process. Cara’s Board of Directors has commenced a search to identify a successor with the assistance of executive search firm Koya Partners.

About Cara
Cara’s mission is to unlock the power and purpose within our communities and ourselves to create real and lasting success. Through its personal and professional development and access to employment opportunities, Cara serves as a leader in poverty alleviation in Chicago and beyond. Since 1991, more than 7,300 people have been placed into more than 11,500 jobs and started on their path to self-sufficiency. To learn more, please visit www.caracollective.org

About REDF
REDF (the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund) is a pioneering venture philanthropy accelerating a national movement of employment social enterprises – mission-driven, revenue-generating businesses that empower people striving to overcome employment barriers to get jobs, keep jobs, and build a better life. Independent research shows this approach works. It leads to greater economic security and mobility and a significant rate of return to society—$2.23 in benefits for every $1 invested. To learn more, please visit www.redf.org.