The seven site teams in Living Cities' Integration Initiative convened in Washington, DC to explore how they can get dramatically better results for low-income people TOGETHER.

Yesterday, we kicked off the first day of our Integration Initiative Learning Community, Achieving Change: Just Do It TOGETHER. Teams gathered in Washington, DC to learn from each other and share challenges, using employment as a focus. As Day 2 gets started, we wanted to share our rapid reflections from this first day of work together.

How can you work together to get people into good jobs?

We began the day discussing how to prepare people for employment and connect them to good jobs. Our Director of Collective Impact, Tynesia Boyea-Robinson moderated a panel with Sara Lawrence, Senior Manager at RTI International; Vivienne Lee, Regional Director at REDF; Brad Missal, Director of IT at Intersections; and Jason-Perkins-Cohen, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development at the City of Baltimore. The panelists discussed a wide range of strategies for workforce development, including policy changes (like “Ban the Box”) and overcoming institutionalized cultural biases that some employers have.

TII Employment Panel - March 2016

A Panel at the March 2016 Integration Initiative Learning Community discusses strategies to improve local workforce and employment outcomes.

Then, the sites were able to learn from each other in a “World Cafe”-like session, in which they shared common factors and challenges for creating systems change in the area of employment. This was a session designed to respond to the recent feedback Living Cities has received about creating more intentional peer-to-peer sharing opportunities.

The day closed out with an exciting panel and “shark tank” exercise. Our Director of Capital Innovation Eileen Neely moderated a panel on capital investment strategies with Brian Beachkofski, Senior Director of Third Sector Capital Partners; Brad Frost, Director of the Detroit Program for Capital Impact Partners; Ryan Gillette, Assistant Director of the Harvard Government Performance Lab; and Don Jones, Senior Program Office of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

TII Shark Panel TII Shark Invests in King County

The Panel of ‘Shark Investors’ decides where to put their money.

After the panel, the panelists turned into “sharks” for the Living Cities Shark Tank. The sites each created a short pitch to try and get $11 million in investment (in Monopoly money) to scale up their employment strategies. All sites received some funding, but the big winners were Albuquerque and Seattle/King County with the most amounts of funding.

Throughout these sessions, our site partners learned alongside one another, surfaced common themes and challenges, and brainstormed solutions. A few key takeaways rose to the top:

Key Takeaways

  • Everyone is still learning about the best ways to change systems, especially with respect to the challenge of employment. There are so many different strategies out there–from policy solutions to Pay for Success to small business approaches–that identifying promising practices requires intentional ongoing learning like what’s happening at our Learning Community.

  • At the Learning Community, equity has a dual meaning: equity with respect to a type of capital investment, and equity in terms of equitable outcomes for the people we serve. Those two meanings came together at Day 1 when we talked about the importance of an equitable approach to investing capital. Without this equitable focus, it’s unlikely we can deploy capital in a way that gets the results we seek for low-income people.

  • Making the business case is critical. Employers are hungry for talent in specific areas and if you can make the case for why your people have the competencies employers need, you can secure job placements. But, the real challenge is when potential employees have the capacities employers want but can’t get into jobs because of non-skill barriers.

We will share more takeaways soon, including video from the event, but if you attended and have any to add, please share your thoughts in the comment section and keep the conversation going!