Setting our network – and its people – up for success

By Adina Young 07/29/2021
Setting our network – and its people – up for success

SourceAmerica® network nonprofits are sharing employment practices and ideas that can help hundreds – maybe thousands – of people with disabilities every day.  

Developed by the SourceAmerica® Workforce Development team, the ever-growing Quality Workforce Environment (QWE) database is an online place for nonprofit agencies to share their successes. This includes examples of practices for continuous improvement of employing people with disabilities.  

Since the launch of the database in March 2021, SourceAmerica has added more than 20 new sample employer practices from network nonprofits and other organizations.  

How is the database being used? 

Eastern Carolina Vocational Center (ECVC) Vice President of Workforce Operations Darone Dancy started using the database to see what other nonprofits were doing and get some ideas to potentially implement at ECVC. In doing so, he decided to share some of the things they were doing. 

One practice that ECVC recently shared in the database was a plan to increase productivity through the creation of an environment where employees can build their skills and grow professionally.  

“Our production progression plan is a merit-based plan that is really meant to skill-up employees so that they can move to higher-skilled positions, while simultaneously allowing them to make more money,” said Dancy.  

Dancy credits the funding he received from SourceAmerica’s Quality Workforce Environment (QWE) Program with ECVC’s ability to launch its production progression plan, saying it was “a temporary funding source so that we could launch this program and absorb that cost next year and in the future.” 

ECVC also developed and shared an apprenticeship program in the database. That program helps employees progress further in their careers, even if it is not at ECVC.  

How the QWE Program helps nonprofits reach their goals 

Facilitated on behalf of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission®, the QWE program provides network nonprofit agencies with a continuous improvement framework for NPA staff and employees with disabilities so they can set their own standard for success. QWE assessments and planning are tailored to fit the needs of each NPA to best support the success of its mission for employing people with disabilities. The implementation of new practices may be supported by grant funding which can help NPAs start their continuous improvement journeys.  

When Gateway Industries, Inc. in West Virginia wanted to create upward workplace mobility by training people with disabilities,

Gateway Industries, Inc.'s 'Jardin by the river.'
Gateway Industries, Inc.'s 'Jardin by the river.'

SourceAmerica was there to help. The “Garden Operation” was a chance for Gateway Industries to create a new line of business. All the organization needed was funds to help revamp a torn-down pool complex. When the agency was awarded the $7,500 QWE grant, the money was used to revamp the structure, irrigation, create training hours, and more. While the project is still getting off the ground, the future looks bright for this new training ground that will support the employment of people with disabilities. They also plan to send in a proposal for another year of funding for what they call the “Jardin by the river.” 

To date, about 267 network nonprofits have participated in the QWE program. The QWE grants received by ECVC and Gateway Industries received helped the organizations bring their visions to life. This funding is available to all nonprofits in the SourceAmerica network who participate in QWE by working with SourceAmerica staff to complete an assessment and submit goals to SourceAmerica. 

What’s next with the database and program? 

SourceAmerica continues to update the QWE database and program based on the needs of nonprofit agencies, new practices, and technology enhancements. 

“Recent program improvements - including making information more accessible - has helped the QWE program grow, and we have been able to reach more people and get information into the right hands,” said Kasey Kahmann, senior program manager of Quality Work Environment at SourceAmerica. 

The QWE database is available to the public, and users can search for information based on practice, topic area and QWE program guidelines. The database can be accessed at

Organizations that would like to share employment practices for people with disabilities can contact the SourceAmerica QWE team at To learn more about employing people with disabilities, contact