Roca CEO Speaks in Washington, D.C. about Organization

Molly Baldwin, founder and CEO of Chelsea-based Roca Inc. delivered a powerful talk Thursday, Feb. 9, at TEDxPennsylvaniaAvenue, sharing the story of Roca and how relentless outreach and data can help change the cycle of recidivism in our country.

Baldwin was one of 14 speakers invited to the Newseum in Washington D.C. to share their visions for what they and we can and should do together “Within 10 Years” to address our country’s and our world’s greatest challenges.

Just shy of 30 years, Baldwin founded Roca with the hope to break the cycle of violence and incarceration in Massachusetts. Her vision was to go out into the community and get to know the young people affected by gang violence and try to change their lives.

“We knew hundreds of gang members. They would come to Roca and hang out, take classes, feel good about themselves, and then go home and deal drugs and shoot people. This is not what we wanted,” she said.

So they put the brakes on Roca—temporarily. Baldwin and her team went back and looked closely at everything they had tried, and revised their strategy. They decided to target the young men with the highest risk—the ones most difficult to work with, and who are not willing or able to make a change in their lives.

Then Roca’s youth workers start knocking on doors. Over and over.

“What we do is called ‘relentless outreach,’ but really it’s stalking. We just can’t say that because it’s illegal,” Baldwin joked. “Only after knocking on doors 1 million times does something change.”

Roca offers its participants a space to learn and grow, and to understand the opportunities that they have if they step away from violence. Roca builds relationships with each and every man and woman that comes through their door, and helps them build a better future.

Sometimes, these men and women fall back, they relapse into their old habits, but Roca doesn’t give up. They keep reaching out, and get the men and women back on track.

“We’re also data nuts,” said Baldwin. “We track them and ourselves, figure out what we do. Our data suggest that we’re on to something. But our data is not just data—our numbers are real people.”

Baldwin said it was an honor to join the impressive list of speakers at the TedXPennsylvaniaAvenue event.

“Thirty years into our work and at this time in our country, Roca’s story of relentlessness – for itself and for the young people we are so lucky to serve – is an important one for people to hear,” said Baldwin.

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