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JFF Announces New Executives in Residence Program for Education and Future of Work Pioneers

JFFLabs EIRs will explore the use of data to promote a more equitable and inclusive economic recovery.

February 18, 2021

At a Glance

JFFLabs EIRs will explore the use of data to promote a more equitable and inclusive economic recovery.

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BOSTON (February 18, 2021) — JFF, a national nonprofit that drives transformation in the American workforce and education systems, today announced the launch of a new class of Executives-in-Residence managed by JFFLabs, a team within JFF that designs and scales new technology-enabled approaches to promoting economic advancement. The JFFLabs EIRs are (in alphabetical order):

Shelly Bell, founder and CEO of Black Girl Ventures, will conduct research to uncover the skills required to build and sustain entrepreneurship as a career pathway in communities of color, determine how those skills are and should be measured, and explore new ways to standardize these skills through a digital credential.

Michael Lawrence Collins, Vice President at JFF, joins the group in his capacity as an Innovation Fellow@JFF, generously supported by a grant from IBM. He will research pathways that can dramatically increase the number and proportion of Black learners and workers in high-wage, high-growth industries such as Information technology and healthcare.

Alex Hernandez, Dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at the University of Virginia, is partnering with JFFLabs to launch UVA Edge, a one-year, online program, that combines the human skills needed for career advancement—like communications, data analysis and ethics—with in-demand digital skills. UVA Edge is a new pathway to invest in the success of the 75 million adults without college degrees.

Sharon Leu, Former Senior Policy Advisor, Higher Education at the U.S. Department of Education, will investigate national credential networks and the technology and policy infrastructure needed for creating economic opportunity. She will make recommendations on the partnerships, technology, and investments necessary to build a U.S. national credentials network.

It is imperative to reimagine new ways to reach and serve individuals who have faced structural barriers to social and economic mobility—this includes exploring the critical role technology serves to increase access to educational and workforce opportunity. This extraordinary group of entrepreneurs and leaders—and the issues they have chosen to focus on as EIRs—can help us to solve defining challenges for our time—promoting true upward mobility and a more equitable economy.

Kristina Francis, executive director of JFFLabs

Selected from a diverse group of entrepreneurs and industry leaders, the current cohort of executives will each focus on high-profile issues related to the use of data to improve equity in education and workforce outcomes, incubating programs that can either be launched within JFF or spunoff and led by their own organizations. Each EIR will author and publish original publications about the impact from their research on the challenge that they want to solve, contributing to the field’s understanding of complex topics at the intersection of policy, practice, and private sector innovation.

Each EIR will receive funding to support their work as well as staff support from the JFFLabs team, who will help them to produce market scans, incubate products and services, and develop a go-to-market strategy. They will also benefit from collaboration with JFF’s team of 100+ subject matter experts and project leads, spanning specific issue areas from apprenticeship and work-based learning to postsecondary learning and corporate learning.

The gravity of the country’s economic and social challenges requires us to take an equally bold approach that marshals the best of private sector innovation, public policy expertise, and the perspectives of educators and practitioners on the ground. This work represents a key part of our dual transformation strategy: accelerating reform within incumbent education and workforce systems as they exist today, while catalyzing innovation among entrepreneurs who can help us envision something even better.

Maria Flynn, president and CEO, JFF

Over the next two years, JFFLabs will select up to three cohorts of EIRs annually with each cohort having up to five EIRs participating. JFF plans to review requests to join the EIR program on a rolling basis. For more information, email

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