• Andrea Glispie

Dallas Economic Opportunity Leadership Academy Presents New Strategies to Support Economic Mobility

Twenty leaders from business, civic, education and nonprofit sectors concluded their year-long learning experience in the Dallas Economic Opportunity Leadership Academy by presenting innovative approaches to expand economic mobility for more Dallas residents.

The Dallas Economic Opportunity Leadership Academy, a 12-month fellowship developed through a partnership with the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program and Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, is designed to strengthen the local network of non-profit, government, academic, and business leaders through a series of retreats and workshops that introduce the participating Fellows to new tools and strategies for strengthening local economic opportunity systems such as education, workforce and public benefits. This Academy is the latest in a series of several Workforce Leadership Academies hosted in communities across the United States and Canada.

At the Academy’s close, Fellows presented collaborative learning projects to key corporate, philanthropic, and public sector stakeholders to gain their interest in championing their ideas. The collaborative projects are designed to surface the Fellows’ collective intelligence around needed systems changes to improve programs and services and give them an opportunity to work together to produce recommendations focused on a specific issue in a time bound process to further develop their collaborate leadership skills.

Final collaborative projects included:

Fostering Greater Alignment in the Workforce System through Journey Mapping: Fellows explored how the human-centered design technique of journey mapping could uncover strengths and gaps in the local workforce system. Journey mapping is the process of cataloging jobseekers’ experiences, emotions and tools used as they interacted with workforce programs and services. It can help answer questions like – How do we serve more youth? How can we connect communities of color to existing training opportunities? In the small sample of jobseekers followed, they unearthed the need for greater data sharing between workforce programs and deeper navigation to help jobseekers identify training opportunities. The recommendation going forward from the Fellows that engaged in this work is to document more journeys through higher education institutions, community-based training programs and income support services.

Connecting Opportunity Youth with Healthcare Apprenticeships: Dallas College recently received a substantial grant from the US Department of Labor to work with healthcare employers and create apprenticeship programs for a variety of allied health occupations. The college system has since partnered with nine health systems and create up to 800 apprenticeship slots. Fellows sensed that this is a key opportunity to enroll older youth who are no longer engaged in the K-12 education pipeline (ages 18 to 24) into these paid work-based learning programs. Fellows developed an action plan for how the Dallas community can rally around this population and spark their interest in healthcare careers.

Making Investments in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) owned small businesses a Priority in Our Economic Recovery: The COVID-19 pandemic hit just four months into the Academy experience. Fellows saw firsthand how the unprecedented health crisis closed or severely curtailed BIPOC owned small businesses and sensed an opportunity to develop recommendations for prioritizing investments in stabilizing and growing these enterprises as a key strategy in rebuilding the local economy. Their approaches focused on providing funding to BIPOC Chambers of Commerce so that these organizations can gather data on business development and provide technical assistance to help entrepreneurs through the Minority Owned Business Certification process.

Deeping Equity Efforts through the creation of the Center for Equity: During the Academy, many cities around the country erupted in public protests over the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement. These demonstrations forced a national dialogue on the impacts of systemic racism. Fellows used this critical moment to think through how racial equity efforts on the ground could be catalyzed by creating a new organization – the Center for Equity. Fellows envisioned that this organization would play a critical role in collecting equity indicators and benchmarking local community equity efforts against this data to document progress, providing technical assistance to nonprofit and corporate stakeholders who are developing internal and external equity initiatives and building community collaborations to achieve equitable outcomes in a variety of issue areas.

For more information on these projects, you can access presentations compiled by the Fellows here and watch this video which includes several Fellows reflections on their time in the Academy. Pathways to Work plans to launch a second cohort in late 2021.

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