In Charlotte, Improving Economic Mobility Through Technology

Posted January 22, 2020, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Charlotte, North Carolina

When Kei­th Clithero launched his Gig Con­nect­ed web plat­form in 2018, he had an ambi­tious goal in mind: improve eco­nom­ic mobil­i­ty in Char­lotte, North Carolina.

That’s no small feat in a city where chil­dren born in the bot­tom income quin­tile have the low­est chances in Amer­i­ca of ris­ing to the top quin­tile as an adult.

Char­lotte is a phe­nom­e­nal city, but it’s near­ly impos­si­ble for folks here to break the cycle of pover­ty,” says Clithero. And while there’s no easy fix, my hope is that Gig Con­nect­ed can begin to shift that tide by help­ing low-income job seek­ers plug into the region’s boom­ing con­struc­tion industry.”

Gig Con­nect­ed match­es busi­ness own­ers with work­ers by con­sid­er­ing the spe­cial skills involved and the project type. It also pro­vides a two-way rat­ing sys­tem to ver­i­fy appli­cant resumes and ensure that work­ers are kept safe, paid fair­ly and treat­ed with respect. Unlike oth­er online plat­forms, Gig Con­nect­ed can send job alerts by tex­ting or call­ing, which ben­e­fits indi­vid­u­als who may not have reg­u­lar access to a com­put­er or smartphone.

Tech­nol­o­gy isn’t being har­nessed near­ly enough in the con­struc­tion indus­try,” says Clithero. We sim­ply must fig­ure out how to bridge that dig­i­tal divide if we want to help employ­ers find the tal­ent they need and help work­ers move up the eco­nom­ic ladder.”

More than 80 employ­ers and 700 work­ers have signed up on the Gig Con­nect­ed plat­form in the two years since its launch. Clithero cred­its this suc­cess to the sup­port he’s received from gov­ern­ment and non­prof­it partners.

Hol­ly Eskridge, assis­tant eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment direc­tor with the City of Char­lotte, is among them. Since Clithero first pitched the con­cept to her team in 2017, she’s been work­ing with him to secure seed fund­ing, mar­ket the plat­form and recruit more work­ers and firms to sign up.

In addi­tion to her gov­ern­men­tal work, Eskridge rep­re­sents Char­lotte in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s South­ern Cities for Eco­nom­ic Inclu­sion ini­tia­tive. She and the oth­er 34 cohort mem­bers — who hail from Asheville and Char­lotte, North Car­oli­na; Atlanta; Mem­phis and Nashville, Ten­nessee; New Orleans; and Rich­mond, Vir­ginia — met through­out 2019 to share best prac­tices for expand­ing job oppor­tu­ni­ties, increas­ing wealth and boost­ing wages for peo­ple of color.

Engag­ing in true, authen­tic equi­ty and eco­nom­ic inclu­sion work in a way that shifts the cul­ture of a city and holds its employ­ees, poli­cies and pro­grams account­able is very com­plex,” says Eskridge. Hav­ing a group of peer cities acces­si­ble to share expe­ri­ences with, run ideas by and learn from, has sig­nif­i­cant­ly strength­ened the impact the City of Char­lotte team is hav­ing in this work.”

Clithero and Eskridge say they will con­tin­ue work­ing togeth­er in the months ahead to expand Gig Con­nect­ed. Ulti­mate­ly, they hope it will pave the way for a more equi­table dis­tri­b­u­tion of job and career oppor­tu­ni­ties for those who have tra­di­tion­al­ly been left behind.

Read more about Casey’s South­ern Inclu­sion Initiative

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