Pizza Boxes Deliver Feedback to a Social-Enterprise Funder


Sometimes the answers can be found in a pizza box.

That’s what REDF learned when it asked its grantees — social-enterprise businesses focused on employment — to have their employees create vision boards about what the “good life” means to them.

Motivated by its participation in Listen4Good, REDF was looking for additional ways to hear directly from the people its funding supports. It incorporated some of the L4G survey questions into a multi-year study being conducted by an outside research group evaluating the effectiveness of its job-preparation interventions. And it embarked on the pizza-box project.

“We were inspired to better understand who is being served and what their hopes and dreams are, rather than making assumptions,” says Carla Javits, REDF’s president and CEO.

REDF sent pizza boxes full of arts-and-crafts supplies to about 20 organizations, which then brought the resulting works to an annual grantee retreat. The posters were hung gallery style and were toured and discussed by participants.

Going into the project, Carla says, she and her colleagues would have guessed that issues of upward mobility and income levels would be top of mind for employees describing what they wanted from life. Instead, she says, the vision boards were much more likely to reflect themes around family, community, health, and peace.

“It doesn’t mean we don’t care anymore about wages and mobility,” Carla says, “it’s just now we understand how much people are concerned about and motivated by their ability to have more stable, peaceful, connected lives.”

One response so far: REDF is working with grantees to provide employees with more opportunities to volunteer in their communities.

That ought to please at least one vision-board creator. Right at the center of the board, which is full of words like “Balance” and “Happiness” cut out from magazines, is the phrase “Helping others,” with a big red heart drawn in the center of the letter ‘O.’