Penn Restorative Entrepreneurship Program

In the spring of 2015, Dr. Charlotte Ren launched and served as founding faculty director of a new program: Penn Restorative Entrepreneurship Program (PREP), which was geared towards helping formerly incarcerated individuals to become entrepreneurs, participate in civic engagement, and advocate for social justice.

Currently led by Dr. Chao Guo, PREP offers a small group of previously incarcerated people 10 weeks of intensive training on how to start and run a small business. This intensive curriculum training is included as part of a Special Topics course (SWRK 7980) entitled “The Social Entrepreneurial Approach to Community Reintegration.” Participants are chosen based on survey and interview results and are taught by select students from various schools at Penn who are enrolled in the course. After the curriculum training, PREP provides a support system, including consulting, registration help, possible funding opportunities, and civic engagement and policy advocacy activities, to help budding entrepreneurs turn business ideas into reality.

Valuable as they are, most of the existing reintegration programs have focused on job placement as the main route, but these reintegration efforts have not lived up to our expectations. Through PREP, we hope to develop and demonstrate a sustainable and replicable model to effectively transition formerly incarcerated individuals back to the community.

The launch of PREP is made possible with strong and persistent support from the Penn School of Social Policy and Practice (SP2). It also benefits tremendously from its field partners—Rescue Mission of Trenton and the Supervision to Aid Re-entry (STAR)—and several partners at Penn, including the SP2 Goldring Reentry Initiative (GRI) and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative. The Rescue Mission of Trenton, a 107-year-old public charity located in Trenton, New Jersey, provides a variety of support services to formerly and currently incarcerated individuals. STAR is a program founded in 2007 by Federal Judges Felipe Restrepo and Tim Rice and is supported by the US attorneys’ Office which aims to reduce recidivism and aid successful reentry by offering an array of social programs and supports to returning citizens.

For more information about this program, please watch this short video.

THE problem

The Problem

our model

Our Model

our team

Our Team

Professor Charlotte Ren, PhD
Founding and Former Faculty Director, PREP

Charlotte Ren is Professor of Practice in Strategy and Innovation and Faculty Director of Global Master of Public Administration in the School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania. She’s also Senior Fellow at Wharton’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management. Dr. Ren earned a PhD in management and an MA in economics from UCLA, a bachelor’s degree in international politics and a minor degree in law from Peking University (China).

Professor Chao Guo, PhD
Faculty Director, PREP

Chao Guo is Professor of Nonprofit Management in the School of Social Policy and Practice, and Associate Faculty Director of Fox Leadership International in the School of Arts and Sciences, both at the University of Pennsylvania. He has served as Editor-in-Chief of Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Quarterly, the premier journal in the field. He has a Ph.D. in Public Administration from the University of Southern California, and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Renmin University of China.

Chao’s interests are in nonprofit governance, collaboration within and across sectors, technology and nonprofit advocacy, and social entrepreneurship. His award-winning research includes the 2014 text, Social Entrepreneurship: An Evidence-Based Approach to Creating Social Value (Wiley; co-authored with Wolfgang Bielefeld), and the 2020 book, The Quest for Attention: Nonprofit Advocacy in a Social Media Age (Stanford University Press; co-authored with Gregory D. Saxton).

Tom Duffin, PhD
Executive Director, PREP

Thomas Duffin Headshot

Tom is a social worker (LSW) and most passionate about addressing the problem of mass incarceration. As the Executive Director of the Penn Restorative Entrepreneurship Program (PREP), Tom conducts a class entitled Social Impact Entrepreneurship Meets Mass Incarceration, which provides a group of formerly incarcerated individuals intensive training on how to start a new business. Tom also teaches courses at SP2 on Research Methods and the History and Philosophy of Social Work. In addition, Tom teaches for Villanova University at classes held in SCI Phoenix, a maximum-security men’s prison. Tom completed his PhD and Master of Law and Social Policy degrees at Bryn Mawr College where he taught Social Policy and Social Theory. His dissertation topic was on the social construction of sexual identity, entitled, The Lowdown on the Down Low: Why Some Bisexually Active Men Identify as Straight. He also completed Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology at Villanova University.

Tom recently retired from a long career in financial services industry where he served as First Vice President at Wells Fargo Advisors. He has taught courses in the summer university program at the Copenhagen Business School on Social Impact Finance and Investments. Tom also serves on the advisory council of the Social Justice Initiative at Bryn Mawr College wherein they advocate for community-based alternatives to youth incarceration. Tom and his wife, Janice, are the proud parents of two fine young men, Tommy and Sean.

Tessa Mellin
Director of Development, PREP

Prep Tessa Pic

Tessa began working with the Penn Restorative Entrepreneurship Program (PREP) in 2021 as a master’s student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice. As Director of Development, Tessa oversees PREP’s fundraising efforts and fosters meaningful partnerships to advance the program’s work.

Her PREP work aside, Tessa currently serves as the Assistant Director of Institutional Philanthropy at Action for the Climate Emergency (ACE), where she supports the development and implementation of ACE’s institutional fundraising program to advance the global climate movement. Before joining ACE, Tessa worked as a Director at Elevate, a nonprofit development consulting firm based in Washington, DC. She holds a Master of Science in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice and a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainable Development and Sociology from Columbia University.

Michael Butler
Creative Director, Consultant

Michael Headshot 2

Michael created and facilitated programs for the Institute for Community Justice that serve returning citizens across Philadelphia. Immediately out of the gates of SCI Phoenix, Michael dove in head first to create opportunities for others in his position. He proactively seeks out partnerships to serve every minute need for people including clothing, food, tutoring, animal care, housing, employment. Michael is well-connected and a great support for returning citizens in our city.

Michael is currently serves as the Reentry Manager, where he is currently providing resources for individuals impacted by Mass Incarceration in Camden County. He also sits on the advisory board for The Petey Green program, which supports the academic goals of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people through high-quality volunteer tutoring programs, while educating volunteers on the injustice manifest in our car real system. Michael is currently seeking a Bachelor’s of Sociology.