Research Development Associates embeds social mission through employee ownership

Project Equity and the Employee Ownership Catalyst Fund supported RDA Consulting’s transition to an Employee Ownership Trust in December 2022.

Amalia Egri Freedman, CEO

Charlene Taylor, PhD: VP, Consulting Services

John Cervetto, MSW: COO

RDA Consulting, Resource Development Associates, Inc, is a mission-driven consulting firm, now organized as an Employee Ownership Trust. Majority women-managed and headquartered in Oakland, CA, they partner with diverse stakeholders to address barriers to individual, organizational and community well-being. 

Transforming governmental agencies through deep understanding 

RDA sets themselves apart by their deep understanding of local and state systems ranging from criminal and juvenile justice to workforce development and transportation. Their mission of working toward a just and equitable society is always top of mind in their work.

Embed values into a business

Former CEO Patricia Marrone Bennett, PhD, and her late husband Robert Bennett led the company for more than two decades. When the prospect of retirement and succession planning came into the picture, she thought it was a great time to embed their values into the ownership and governance structure with employees.

“For small businesses, it can be easy to feel like family. However, it can be less easy to feel the benefits. Patricia saw employee ownership as an opportunity to secure that commitment to employees.” – Amalia Egri Freedman, CEO

Project Equity first met Patricia Bennett at a Social Venture Circle conference, and started a conversation about her succession planning. Our client services team worked with Patricia on a feasibility analysis, then when she decided she was ready to make the transition real, partnered with Patricia and six employees to plan the full transition. 

Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs), a type of Perpetual Purpose Trust, offer an option that safeguards employee ownership over the long term by using a trust structure that can incorporate democratic governance qualities found in worker-owned cooperatives.

Employees were a key element in designing the future business structure. Two governing bodies were formed as part of this process: one to steward the trust itself (the Trust Stewardship Committee, or TSC) and one to govern the business (the Corporate Board). Bennett, the sole selling owner, will hold a seat on the Trust Stewardship Committee.  Employees will join the Board of Directors as well as the TSC to participate in strategic direction and ensure the Trust is stewarded in accordance with its stated Purpose. The Company’s CEO, Amalia Freedman, is currently serving as the EOT’s Trust Protector.   

Employees will also receive profit sharing as company profitability allows. The intention to share profits with employees as a primary purpose of the business was written into the company’s Trust Agreement during the transition process, and RDA will participate in Project Equity’s post-transaction support program to further define this profit sharing program as well as define and implement EOT-related policies within the company.

Entrusting Project Equity and the EO Catalyst Fund

The Employee Ownership Catalyst Fund provided a loan to help make RDA’s transition to employee ownership possible. The fund was designed to provide flexible capital to businesses transitioning to employee ownership – whether before, during or after the transition – to ensure that capital access is not a barrier to becoming employee-owned. 

“We were thrilled to be able to finance RDA’s transition to an EOT. One of the things that makes the EO Catalyst Fund unique is that we support all forms of broad-based employee ownership, whether EOTs, ESOPs or worker cooperatives. RDA was one of the first EOTs that we financed, and we are so pleased to be able to support their transition in this way.”

Interested in transitioning to employee ownership?