Economic mobility: the core of the American Dream.  It is the foundational promise of the nation: through effort and moxie, anyone can prosper. Thanks to a wide array of excellent publications and research during the past 20 years (links to resources are below), workforce development professionals know that Americans’ probability of economic advancement can vary dramatically based on family, neighborhood, race, gender, class and other factors. These intersectional identities have an immense impact on the availability and equitability of access to the means of achieving prosperity.

Adding to the complexity, and often undue hardship, faced by many opportunity seekers, are federal, state, and local institutions that were intentionally or unintentionally designed to isolate, divert, over ask, and undercut opportunity and mobility for some of the aforementioned identities more than others, especially among Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and other people of color. This legacy of structural racism continues to be the often-unseen catalyst of many of the inequities visible in society, including in the unequally distributed traumas inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As COVID-19 ravaged our national and local economy and racial justice became a central American dialogue, the team at Workforce SW Washington (WSW) knew that a new, bold vision was needed to address the myriad threats to economic equity and security. WSW developed enhanced connections with partners to reach Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) and created new organizational standards for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In response to the pandemic, WSW invested substantially in recovery efforts for laid-off workers, developed innovative strategies for virtual jobs training, and worked alongside businesses to create a “Quality Jobs Initiative” to prime the post-pandemic economy.

With the knowledge that WSW can – and must – do better in addressing social determinants of prosperity, WSW’s Board of Directors developed a new organizational Strategic Plan with input from the community. The 2021-2023 Workforce SW Washington Strategic Plan will serve as our guidepost for the next three years, as we work to create a more equitable, just, and prosperous Southwest Washington economy.

In the plan, WSW strives to focus first and foremost on the individuals, families, and communities that currently live in SW Washington—they have and will continue to be the foundational resource for our local economy. In expressing our value and strategic goal of equity, we will especially emphasize those who have been marginalized or excluded in past investments and research.

While this work will be at the core of all three goals of our Strategic Plan, Economic Mobility will augment our investment policies to measure and ensure that workforce system programs meet the needs of BIPOC communities. Over the last few months, the WSW team focused on developing an Equitable Talent Development Investment Plan to meaningfully and intentionally prioritize the communities most impacted by COVID-19. One key component of this plan is to focus on developing our future workforce by increasing inclusion in our existing programs and building new and intentional programming for our growing Latinx and other communities of color.

WSW is also committing to developing and implementing a Programmatic Evaluation Strategy to ensure this approach leads to tangible and impactful outcomes. The team will strive to shine a light on historical and contextual dynamics that create and sustain oppression and implement solutions that can shift the “rules of the game” so Southwest Washington families have what they need for social stability and economic security. We want to ensure that individuals and communities have access to the knowledge, wealth, and resources of society and also contribute to the creation of those elements.

Engagement with BIPOC communities throughout Southwest Washington in conversation, listening, and participation is essential to the success of this work, as together we build trusting, strategic, measured and meaningful partnerships, as considered under “Goal 3 Systems Change” in our Strategic Plan. WSW recently released and closed a request for proposals for allies to guide this endeavor and action plan over the next year. Coined the Alliance for Economic Prosperity, the network will unlock expertise and resources across partner organizations to provide their common customers a coordinated progression of services that leads to self-sufficiency and economic opportunity.

The team at WSW envisions a region where economic prosperity and growth exist for every person. Further, we acknowledge that no one organization can build, provide programs and services, and sustain economic opportunity alone. We hope you will join us on this journey to build a more inclusive and prosperous Southwest Washington.

For more information contact Miriam Halliday, Director of Programs at mhalliday@workforcesw.org.

Resources + Research

https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/11_blackwhite_isaacs.pdf

https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-inheritance-of-black-poverty-its-all-about-the-men/

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/reports/2019/04/22/468799/equity-oriented-workforce-strategies-progressive-infrastructure-plan/

https://www.ed.gov/diversity-opportunity

https://cep.org/the-time-is-now-to-embed-equity-in-evaluation-practices/

https://www.huduser.gov/portal/pdredge/pdr_edge_featd_article_071414.html

https://inequality.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/SOTU_2015_economic-mobility.pdf

https://equitablegrowth.org/race-and-the-lack-of-intergenerational-economic-mobility-in-the-united-states/

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