Getting Systems in Sync: Leveraging Collective Impact Strategies to Connect People With Jobs

Posted May 14, 2016, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Improving job opportunities on a broad scale for youth and adults facing obstacles to employment is not just about good programs. It requires public education, employment and human service systems to identify specific, common goals; to make and coordinate investments to support those goals; and to track their progress toward achieving them.

The challenge in the workforce development world is that there is no one system but a myriad of public, private and nonprofit organizations and agencies focused on preparing low-income individuals for, and connecting them with, jobs. Each may serve different groups of people, pursue different strategies, define different results and collect different types of data. These realities have contributed to the workforce development field’s struggle to help address the persistent inequities in unemployment, wages or economic mobility for people of color and others with limited access to opportunity.

But this complicated landscape could be ripe for employing collective impact strategies — multisector, collaborative efforts that produce better results and solve specific social problems by aligning agendas, investments and measures of success. A new Foundation paper, Collective Impact in Workforce Development, explores this idea, drawing from interviews with workforce development experts to highlight areas where collective impact strategies can be helpful and where they run up against challenges. The paper offers examples of multisector collaborations and recommendations for implementing such strategies for funders, policymakers and organizations focused on employment and training — along with a good dose of realism about the potential for bringing workforce system players together.

The paper could provide a good starting point for the workforce development field to strategize about how to better align programs, resources and knowledge to achieve greater and better results for young people and adults striving to gain a solid foothold in our country’s workforce.