MOD Pizza, headquartered in Seattle, started in 2008 as “a crazy social experiment,” cofounder Scott Svenson told PMQ in 2021. The goal was to “combine the best of a for-profit business with the heart of a nonprofit, whereby the more successful we were, the better and bigger social impact we would make.”
Key to MOD’s mission: creating employment opportunities for overlooked populations. Now the fast-casual pizza chain has launched a program connecting its stores with nonprofit organizations across the U.S. to give a boost to job seekers that might ordinarily get passed by.
The MOD Opportunity Network—or MOD O.N.—is dedicated to hiring and supporting people with barriers to employment, specifically justice-involved individuals and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Its nonprofit partners will consist of those organizations that “support the readiness, placement and retention of job seekers deserving of a second chance or a first start,” MOD Pizza said in a press release.
It’s a cause that has been integral to MOD’s social mission from the start. “We know first-hand the impact inclusive hiring can have on our Squad, our culture and the communities we serve,” MOD Cofounder Ally Svenson said. “As MOD grew, we needed a sustainable, nationwide approach to help scale our work in this area. Surprisingly, a solution did not exist. Our entrepreneurial mindset motivated us to address this challenge.”
Svenson said the MOD Opportunity Network will provide “a scalable, cost-effective solution that leverages the power of for-profit business working alongside nonprofit partners. Together, we will break down barriers, create more opportunities, and help contribute to a world that works for and includes everyone. We hope to provide some inspiration and learnings for other like-minded organizations and companies along the way.”
In an era of vexing labor problems for the restaurant industry, MOD notes that there’s a large pool of overlooked talent—people who are dedicated, loyal and ready to work if they’re just given a chance. MOD O.N. taps into this talent pool and is the industry’s first national program offering fair and equitable employment opportunities and the key support services to ensure job success.
This untapped pool of talent includes:
Justice-involved populations: Nearly 80 million adult Americans (1 in 3) are justice-involved, according to the Sentencing Project. Additionally, per the nonprofit, nonpartisan Prison Policy Initiative, the unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is five times higher than the unemployment rate for the general U.S. population. More than 60% of formerly incarcerated individuals are unemployed one year after being released. Studies show that pre- and post-release employment services are critical to reducing recidivism and helping justice-involved people quickly integrate back into society.
Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities: One in four adults in the U.S. (26 percent) live with some form of disability, the CDC reports. According to a National Core Indicators report, 85 percent don’t have a paid job in their community. Additionally, per Statista, 40% of Americans with a disability experience social isolation. Having a job not only provides a paycheck, but a sense of purpose and belonging.
MOD O.N. will launch in 11 states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. It will serve 29 cities, “activating national and regional organizations to help MOD scale its fair-chance hiring practice and create a model for other businesses,” the press release states. “While a job is a first step, barriers can extend beyond employment, from transportation to housing, technology to banking and more. Through MOD O.N., key partners will help provide critical wrap-around services to further provide stability and help to improve job success.”
Launch partner organizations include:
Goodwill Industries International: A leading workforce provider of job training and placement services for individuals who are impacted by the justice system.
FareStart: Provides job training and support services to individuals and consulting to employers who share a commitment to creating inclusive workplaces.
Hospitality Opportunities for People ReEntering Society (HOPES): A National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (NRAEF) program that partners with Departments of Corrections, community-based organizations, and state restaurant associations to connect justice-involved adults to career opportunities in the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry.
Best Buddies International: The Best Buddies Jobs Program connects employers and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to job opportunities and provides on-site job coaches and support throughout the duration of employment.
Meadowlark Employment Services: A key provider of employment training and support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Oregon and Idaho.
By the end of 2024, the goal is for MOD O.N. to expand into at least 21 states.
“MOD’s dedication to hiring individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities is truly exemplary, and our shared values of acceptance, inclusion and belonging empower people with IDD to flourish and lead fulfilling and productive lives,” said Anthony K. Shriver, founder, chairman and CEO of Best Buddies International. “Best Buddies Jobs candidates possess a diverse range of skills, abilities and qualifications that they bring to the workplace. Employing individuals with disabilities is a smart business decision for companies.”
“With the innovative approach of the MOD Opportunity Network, those impacted by the justice system can have the second chance they deserve,” added Martin Scaglione, chief mission officer for Goodwill Industries International. “Without the support of employers, the cycle of incarceration could potentially continue. It’s our hope that all businesses will consider the quality of an applicant rather than focusing on their past.”
The launch of MOD O.N. is part of the brand’s ongoing social impact strategy. In 2022, MOD was a founding member of the Workforce and Justice Alliance and introduced tuition-free college and career development programs to its Squad. In 2020, MOD signed—and exceeded—the goal of the Delivering Jobs pledge, the company says.
To learn more about MOD’s Social Impact, please visit: https://modpizza.com/our-purpose