Adult Employment Support

About Southwest Partnership

The Southwest Partnership (SWP) is a collaboration of Common WealthDevelopment, Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ (ORUCC), and Joining Forces for Families (JFF). This partnership came together in 2012 to address chronic poverty, mobility, and associated concerns in the Meadowood neighborhood on Madison’s southwest side. Subsequently, we have expanded into neighboring areas, forging new place-based partnerships along the way.

At the outset, SWP hired an organizer focused on family stability. Hundreds of interviews and conversations were hosted in order to frame our work within the context of the day-to-day realities, challenges, and opportunities encountered by area residents. We learned that families are often besieged by the cumulative effects of poverty, crisis, instability, and burdensome child care costs. We witnessed many residents struggle to find and maintain employment, partly due to a mismatch in the labor market between employer needs and job-seeker skills and job readiness. We observed a complex and expanding matrix of family and community needs quickly overwhelm assistance available locally. — Poverty underlies instability in families and neighborhoods – contributing to issues in housing, health, education, and public safety among others.

The community based engaging, learning, and organizing paid off with a clear message from area residents: Neighbors implored us to do more and better work connecting local residents to tangible jobs: many saying “Just give me a chance to work and take care of my family”.
STEP was imagined with this community message in mind.  With the help of area job-seekers, this collaborative program was engineered to maximize success with local families who desperately needed stable income, and who often teetered on the precipice of homelessness.


  • STEP is designed to efficiently connect motivated neighbors to a short-term paid employment experience, individualized support, and connections to SWP volunteers. Eligible participants are hired by Common Wealth Development and paid a living wage while working temporary STEP positions designed specifically with the participants employment goals in mind.
  • Simultaneously, Common Wealth Development’s Employment Continuum Coordinator provides case management to each participant based on their own goals, experiences, and skills they bring to the table. Part of this casework includes resume development, weekly tailored job leads, and connection to area employers that have partnered with our efforts.
  • Case management is augmented by individual volunteer efforts from Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ and others. These volunteer opportunities are uniquely tailored to STEP participants and their real experiences and needs.
  • Cumulatively, participants are afforded the opportunity to earn money while working at a STEP placement, add more work history for a resume, develop several references, utilize individualized connections to volunteers, and gain a work reference based on the individual’s demonstrated performance working a STEP placement through Common Wealth Development.
  • STEP was successfully piloted in 2014 through a grant from the City of Madison’s Emerging Opportunities Program paying for stipends. Additional support is provided by Madison Community Foundation and Dane County.

Directions to Job Shop

Job Shop is held every Wednesday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm at Meadowood Neighborhood Center.

For more information

To learn more about the Southwest Partnership and adult employment development, contact John Wroten at 608.516.5332

Email John Wroten