Interviews with purpose-driven leaders who are dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact in the world.
June 22, 2022
Andre Peart | ConConnect
TELL US, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
My name is Andre Peart and I’m the founder and CEO of ConConnect. We’re a company that helps incarcerated people connect with service providers and employers through professional networking technology.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
I grew up in New York State and in my 20s I ended up going to prison for five and a half years. What was harder than being in prison was coming home from prison and trying to get connected with services. New York State gave me $40 and a bus ticket when I was released, telling me to just find my way. That journey was pretty rough. I was broke and living in a shelter and I ended up going back to jail because the journey was so challenging. The term they use is “reentry” and it was a really ugly and hard journey and so I wanted to build something that can streamline what it looks like for people who come home from prison.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY IS THIS WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Our whole goal and what we stand for is to reduce recidivism nationwide. We’re doing it through technology, which hasn’t been done before. A lot of nonprofit organizations are doing great work, but the way they find and help these people has been through email, fax, phone, and other traditional methods. With our technology, we want to streamline that work and those services and get them to the 600,000 people who are coming home from prison each year. We want to use our technology to lower the 60% rate of people who go back to prison by helping them find services and resources. It’s really important to me because I lived through the problem, I went through this really, really tough, bad journey. I’m just one person, but I can imagine how many of the 600,000 people who are released are facing the same challenges I did. I had to do something that doesn’t just help my community, but it really helps all communities.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
I define impact by making sure we’re able to connect people that would have never been connected otherwise. Incarcerated people getting out of prison in the states where we operate are now able to connect with service providers, build their reentry plans, get health care, get legal help, find mentors and find professional skills that can get them higher-paying jobs. The alternative and what it looks like now to most people is just a tough journey of walking around their city looking for these types of services and spending what little money they have to find them. The impact for us is being able to say we’re lowering the recidivism rate in every state where we operate or every market we enter. We lower recidivism through our technology, which is strictly connecting people to things they would have never had access to otherwise.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
Initially, I would say that I inspired myself to do this. I was in a shelter and one day got a phone call from a mentor who told me to check out LinkedIn.I realized what a great network it is and that’s different than Facebook or Instagram. This was a way to get connected, become a professional, and find professional people who could help me. I thought, who needs connections more than formerly incarcerated people? LinkedIn initially inspired me, but what really inspires me now are all the people who are coming home from prison. I’ve worked in this field for a couple of years so I’m learning the numbers of people who are getting released and how many are going back. These are people that inspire me now, so we build and we continuously build for them.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
ConConnect’s overall vision and dream is to lower recidivism by 30% by 2030.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
The challenge is trying to get more employers on board. It’s not that we’re having a problem getting employers on board, it’s having more diverse employer options. We need more professional jobs, jobs that are not just blue-collar jobs or manual labor jobs, we need jobs that people can be proud of. There are men and women who have a college education both earned from in prison and after coming out of prison. We want them to have a decent place to start and not have to start from the bottom when they already have a really extensive education. Our challenge is making sure we can secure these better-paying jobs and we’re not just placing people in jobs because it’s a job. We really want to make an impact on people’s lives and that has to do with how much they’re getting paid.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR CAUSE AND/OR THE WORK YOU’RE DOING?
ConConnect is a new platform. We are the first of our kind and we’re open to any justice-impacted person in the entire U.S. We want people to know that this technology was built to help nonprofits streamline their services and work. Employers that are considered “Second Chance Employers” are already doing this work but they can do this on ConConnect more efficiently and seamlessly. It’s a great place for employers who haven’t done it to learn what it is and how easy it is to hire these employees.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE OR WORDS OF INSPIRATION TO SHARE?
I always tell people I’m formerly incarcerated, I’ve only been out of prison three years, and operate the nation’s largest reentry service provider. We raised $1 million and have more than 700 partnerships. I just tell people don’t stop. If you have something you want to do, just do it. Just keep on going.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
You can support us by telling everybody about ConConnect. They say there’s a large number of people who know formerly incarcerated people, or who know someone who knows someone who is incarcerated. If you’re that person, we want you to tell people about ConConnect. When you tell somebody about us you give them an opportunity. We’d love nonprofits to be able to know more about us. We welcome nonprofits, employers, and government agencies, and want people to spread the word about what we’re doing. We’re in a lot of places but we would like to be in a lot more places, and really want to be helping a lot more people.
At Orapin, we believe those who are working for the greater good should be known, supported, and celebrated. We give purpose-driven organizations the resources and support they need to increase awareness and elevate their reputation so they can maximize their impact. If would like to be featured in INSPIRED IMPACT™, reach out to email@example.com.