Leveraging Philanthropy in a Systems-Change Initiative
Jackson, Angela Denise
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CitationJackson, Angela Denise. 2019. Leveraging Philanthropy in a Systems-Change Initiative. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractI served as a resident at New Profit, a national nonprofit venture-philanthropy fund whose mission is to break down the barriers that stand between people and opportunity in America. New Profit serves as an intermediary between traditional funders and entrepreneurs seeking risk capital to make social impact; it creates impact by providing financial resources to organizations that offer solutions aligned with its mission. New Profit pools these funds to address the areas of early learning, PK–12 learning, and postsecondary success.
In 2016, New Profit’s fund for postsecondary success, the Learn to Earn Fund, engaged more than 180 thought leaders from the business, education, and technology sectors in discussions centered around the future of work. This group agreed that, in order to succeed, future entrants into the workforce would need to demonstrate soft skills (e.g., capacity to interact effectively with others). With the support of philanthropic partners Walmart, Lumina Foundation, Joyce Foundation, and ECMC Foundation, New Profit partnered with XPRIZE Foundation to design a Future of Work XPRIZE (FOW XP). FOW XP is a market-based approach that incentivizes entrepreneurs and innovators with a multimillion-dollar prize to develop technical solutions that help low-wage employees to develop soft skills. I was brought in to New Profit’s Learn to Earn Fund to lead a cross-sector alignment of the FOW XP initiative, enlisting employers, researchers, innovators, and funders to coalesce around a common strategy, language, definitions, and assessment for validating soft skills based on employee performance.
This capstone examines my work to create an ecosystem that aligned support across disciplines involved in the initiative to launch and scale the FOW XP. I have found that, although the journey started with the technical challenges of raising the money to fund the prize, the real work began with the adaptive challenge of aligning a cross-sector group of employers, technologists, and philanthropists around a common agenda and a goal-impacting systems-change strategy to scale soft skills. To understand this work, we must understand power structures, diversity, equity, inclusion, shared value, and the collective decision-making surrounding workforce development.
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