JFF’s Workforce Communities of Action: Transforming Ideas Into Action
JFF’s Workforce Communities of Action: Transforming Ideas Into Action
March 24, 2023
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Across the country, local economies are feeling the impacts of supply chain shortages, inflation, labor market fluctuations, the ongoing pandemic, continued racial injustice, and climate change. As workforce development boards and American Job Centers look to support their communities’ efforts to rebound and recover, they face a variety of complex challenges—predominantly the challenge of being constrained by policies and funding mechanisms that have failed to keep pace with evolving worker, learner, and market needs. Jobs for the Future (JFF) is asking organizations to bring their expansive vision and out-of-the-box thinking to life through a unique initiative whose goal is to develop community-centered and equity-driven solutions to address some of the nation’s most pervasive workforce challenges.
JFF, with support from JPMorgan Chase Foundation, selected 20 state and local workforce development boards across the country to participate in an opportunity make meaningful, lasting change in their communities by devising innovative solutions to challenges that impact regional economies.
The workforce boards selected to take part in this experience are known as Workforce Communities of Action. They will engage in a strategically designed and facilitated process for collaboratively thinking about and solving problems through a variety of critical lenses.
The Workforce Communities of Action model aims to strengthen workforce professionals’ ability to identify and solve complex urgent issues. With support from CivicMakers—a strategic consultancy offering community-driven solution design and delivery services—along with JFF and a team of nationally recognized workforce advisors, participants will thoroughly explore and communicate their problems in a structured environment and then identify viable action plans that are tied to measurable impacts defined with their community partners.
The Workforce Communities of Action
We are pleased to announce the 2023 Workforce Communities of Action Pilot Cohort:
- Willamette Workforce Partnership, Salem, Oregon
- Cuyahoga County Jobs & Families Services, Cleveland, Ohio
- SCPa Works, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- Region III Workforce Development Board of Kanawha County, Charleston, West Virginia
- Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity, Phoenix, State of Arizona
- Workforce Development Board of Ventura County / County of Ventura, Oxnard, California
- Workforce Solutions of the Coastal Bend, Corpus Christi, Texas
- Workforce Development Board of Solano County, Fairfield, California
- Workforce Solutions Borderplex, El Paso, Texas
- Lake County Workforce Development Board, Waukegan, Illinois
- Alliance for Strategic Growth d/b/a Eastern Indiana Works, Muncie, Indiana
- Santa Barbara County Workforce Development Board, Santa Barbara, California
- Hampton Roads Workforce Council, Hampton Roads, Virginia
- Mississippi Valley Workforce Development Board, West Burlington, Iowa
- Colorado Workforce Development Center/Colorado Department of Labor, Denver, Colorado
- County of Los Angeles Department of Economic Opportunity, Los Angeles, California
- Southern Indiana Works Workforce Development Board, New Albany, Indiana
- Nevadaworks – Northern Nevada’s Workforce Development Board, Reno, Northern Nevada
- Philadelphia Works, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Central Florida Regional Workforce Development Board, Orlando, Florida
Activities and Timeline
The three phases of Workforce Communities of Action include:
Local and state workforce development boards were invited to apply for Workforce Communities of Action in late April 2023. They were asked to identify a complex workforce challenge impacting their community and respond to a series of questions identifying their readiness and ability to participate in the WCA experience. They were also asked to identify which of the following future-focused behaviors they felt would be most impactful in addressing their challenge:
These four behaviors have helped shape JFF’s Workforce Transformation Strategy. Through extensive research conducted from 2018 to 2020, these behaviors were found to be shared across many of the nation’s leading workforce development boards.
After careful review of all applications, 20 communities were selected to advance to the next phase: Ideation.
Over the course of six months, the communities will spend roughly 16 hours participating in a series of virtual discovery and design sessions with their peers. Each participant’s experience will be thoughtfully curated by JFF and CivicMakers based on information submitted through the application process to ensure a valuable and productive experience for all selected organizations.
Participants will closely analyze their challenge and develop a detailed problem statement that examines the “who,” “what,” and “why,” of their challenge and provides supporting evidence, discusses its potential impact, and introduces a hypothesis and a proposed plan to test this hypothesis. These questions will be explored through a focused and collaborative process facilitated by CivicMakers. Along the way, teams will have the opportunity to learn from consultants and advisors who can lend insight to design best practices, implementation models, and cutting-edge approaches being explored across the country. These experts will be carefully selected by JFF based on alignment of their knowledge and background to the needs of participating communities.
This process is intended to provide workforce professionals with the mindset, strategies, processes, and tools needed to thoughtfully and thoroughly examine localized issues while applying an equity lens and human-centered design principles.
At the close of the design and discovery sessions, JFF and our team of workforce advisors will identify four communities to receive $10,000 to advance their action plans from concept to proposal as part of Phase 3: Activation.
Teams selected for the Activation phase will have successfully developed an action plan that demonstrates the following:
- A creative, bold, and equitable approach to identifying or addressing the participant’s challenge
- Identifies key stakeholders and critical partners necessary to further investigating or addressing the challenge and the roles these stakeholder and partners must play
- A clear plan for engaging with and centering the community in future investigative or implementation activities.
- Identifies necessary resources, assets, and capacities needed for taking the next step in investigating or addressing the challenge
- A clear set of goals objectives for the next stage of the participant’s work
Four selected communities will receive $10,000 in seed funding and will work closely with JFF and workforce advisors to continue identifying critical next steps that lead to action and change. Next steps may include additional required research, capacity building, planning, or in some cases, implementation of a fully developed concept proposal.
Prior to the conclusion of the project period, JFF will work with finalists to identify a list of potential philanthropic funders that may be interested in supporting the project. It is JFF’s hope that the $10,000 in seed funding will be used to support ongoing efforts to secure additional funding needed to implement new ideas, innovative approaches, and bold ideas—though specific plans for taking those steps won’t be a requirement for receiving the seed funding.
Benefits of Participation
Participants in the Workforce Communities of Action initiative will . . .
- Have an opportunity to engage in collaborative problem-solving and knowledge-sharing with other future-focused workforce boards across the country;
- Gain access to a no-cost professional development opportunity for workforce board leaders and staff members;
- Gain insights and learn about tools for approaching collaborative problem-solving utilizing human-centered design and equity principles;
- Work closely with JFF and nationally recognized advisors to address a high-priority, complex problem in their region;
- Use this opportunity to inform and support other broad-scale initiatives such as the Good Jobs Challenge or Job Quality Academy; and
- Leverage JFF’s funding expertise and relationships to potentially identify a funder for a pilot concept to address a regional need.
For questions about Workforce Communities of Action or the WREP Consultancy opportunity and how to apply, please contact Genna Petrolla. To learn more about JFF’s work to create a future-focused public workforce system, please visit Co-Creating a Future-Focused Workforce System on JFF.org.