Working Up: A Dialogue for Action to Increase Economic Mobility
There is striking consensus across the ideological spectrum that economic mobility in America is not what it should be. The promise of equal opportunity for anyone who is willing to work for it feels out of reach for too many hard-working Americans. While there is a growing consensus that this presents significant challenges for our country, people are articulating differing analyses of the problem and proposing different solutions. A failure to communicate and connect proponents of these varied approaches fuels partisan gridlock in Congress, stifles the creation of new solutions, and limits chances for collaboration leading to impact.
The Convergence Process
In response to this challenge, Convergence created Working Up: A Dialogue for Action to Increase Economic Mobility to bring people together to catalyze meaningful policy, programmatic, and private sector changes to help more people experience upward economic mobility through work. We will be examining concrete solutions to drive impact in the short-term as well as pushing for transformational ideas that might involve new approaches in response to the changing nature of work.
Thirty influential leaders from across sectors including employers, worker advocates, workforce development experts, higher education leaders, faith leaders, dynamic community practitioners, and key left- and right-leaning voices began the dialogue in summer 2016. The group will continue to meet over 12-18 months to build trust, develop a common understanding of the issues, and craft a shared action agenda. Additionally, we will continue engaging thought partners from a diverse range of backgrounds as advisors to the project and will be authentically including the voices of low-income Americans in a number of ways.
Topics for Exploration
Through research, interviews, and round-table discussions, Convergence identified potential issues to be addressed. These areas of focus will continue to be refined and evolve:
- Re-imagining systems to more effectively build ladders of opportunity for low-income Americans.
- Increasing skills among low-wage workers and the unemployed/underemployed to match with quality jobs in a changing economy.
- Increasing the availability of jobs and the returns from work.
- Reducing barriers to meaningful employment.
- Providing stability and economic security to more people currently at the bottom of the income distribution and understanding this work as a shared responsibility by individuals, employers, government, and the community.
As work progresses, participants will continue to shape the issues over time.
Finding Consensus and Taking Action
We believe that the consensus action agenda that emerges from this process will be able to garner support from a wide range of actors and lead to meaningful policy, programmatic, and private sector changes to address one of the most significant issues of our time. We are eager to uncover innovative ideas and models, to think creatively about solutions, to re-draw the lines of what is possible, and to respond to a changing economy that demands 21st century approaches.
This project is made possible thanks to primary support from the Ford, Annie E. Casey, and JPB Foundations and additional support from the Collegiate Church, Hellman, and Arthur M. Blank Family Foundations.