This has been an exciting month for the Funder Alliance. We saw our partners launch the first Chicagoland Workforce Leadership Academy , we announced a new $3.2 million initiative to scale high-quality apprenticeship – Apprenticeship 2020, and we are (finally) unveiling our new website. This all comes at somewhat of a professional and personal milestone for me. It was almost exactly six years ago today that we convened the Funder Alliance’s first major planning meeting, where we convened all sorts of different stakeholders to gather their feedback on what our brand new funder collaborative should do. I always know how long it’s been since we launched CWFA, because my daughter, now in Kindergarten, was born at the same time. So for me this month has been a time to look back on where we’ve been, on how far we’ve come and to try and think critically about where we need to go.

A lot has changed since the winter of 2012: the labor market has gone from one of the slowest to recover from a recession to one of the tightest, state and national government leadership have made numerous dramatic shifts, and in our own world of Chicagoland workforce development and philanthropy many of our closest partners have turned over their leadership and shifted their institutional strategies. But while I marvel (or cringe) at the amount of change we have gone through, it also strikes me, particularly with the work we do with the Funder Alliance, how much has stayed the same. The same tenets and core beliefs on which CWFA was founded still hold true today, for me there are four:

  1.  Workforce development has a critical role to play in all our society’s greatest challenges.
  2.  To play that critical role our workforce must include everyone, which in turn requires reparation of past and present exclusion.
  3. The most promising workforce solutions on the pathway to inclusivity require going beyond employer participation to employer leadership.
  4.  Philanthropy can do so much more when no one worries who gets the credit.

These are the beliefs that have guided the Funder Alliance to the things I am proudest of: employers leading workforce partnerships in multiple sectors, a movement of worker centers raising the floor of job quality, innovative approaches to empowering employers to re-design jobs and internal career pathways, and tables where multiple funders can learn together and co-invest in systems change.

I also hope they will continue to guide us. As more and more foundations and other funders become interested in workforce development, we must convince them to work together. As a fleeting tight labor market compels more and more companies to invest and lead on workforce, we must empower them and make the most of this moment. And as seemingly everyone talks more and more about racial equity, we must continue to stand up for what equity means to us (link to our statement).

I am so excited to see where this work takes us in 2019-2020, and I hear 1stgrade is even better than Kindergarten.