Dallas Wilson

Ashoka Fellow
Charleston, South Carolina, United States
Fellow Since 2002


This profile was prepared when Dallas Wilson was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
Brother Dallas reunites noncustodial fathers with their children, while rebuilding the skill base of those fathers to support their families and their communities. His idea is based on research that shows that noncustodial fathers are on the fringes of labor markets and have rarely been the target of employment program outreach; that joblessness is often so shameful for men that it leads them to withdraw from their children; and that many noncustodial fathers have criminal records–making it extremely difficult for them to obtain employment other than day labor. By combining job-skills training with fatherhood and life-skills training, Brother Dallas enables noncustodial men to become successful members of their families and their communities. Upon completing a three-month training program, the men can participate in a seven-month apprenticeship program where they use their new skill. At that point, they can become part owners of a construction company, or with support they can start their own subcontracting business. The men continue to receive necessary holistic fatherhood and life-skills training to help ensure their successful reintegration into the lives of their children and into society as a whole.

A unique aspect of Dallas's effort is the provision of ownership opportunities that enable these men–many of whom are former hustlers or drug dealers–to channel their energy into ownership of an established minority-controlled construction company. The potential for ownership and profit–based on their own constructive efforts–offers them a long-term, sustainable incentive to pay child support, reengage with their children, and stay out of jail. As successful business owners and fathers, these former criminals, who would otherwise have had few options, can become productive members of society. Brother Dallas's idea helps solve a number of systemic problems: nonpayment of child support, welfare dependency, crime and community degradation, fragmented families, and lack of opportunity for personal economic and social development.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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