By: Charles Eaton
When our foundation first entered the workforce development space, we knew there was a lot we didn’t know. We spent about a year traveling the country to see workforce programs in action and reading the latest trends and success stories.
Yet no matter how much time we spend tracking developments around the country, there are always more organizations and programs popping up in cities large and small. Since there are few incentives for non-profits to merge or for funders to collaborate with each other on programs, every effort to solve a social problem is met with dozens, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of isolated efforts, each one clawing for attention and funding among a sea of other organizations. Even when you have hard data proving your program works and great stories of success, it’s difficult to break through the fog. Two of the biggest challenges in trying to solve social problems in the U.S. are coordination and resources.
Enter the Clinton Foundation with their Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). It’s a pretty simple concept that President Bill Clinton arrived at after attending numerous summits in which there was a lot of talk but little action: can there be a forum in which all the parties trying to solve social problems come together to meet, share and ultimately, commit to a course of action to which they are held accountable. You can learn more about the history of the Clinton Foundation and CGI from this Washington Post article published a few weeks ago.
For the first time, the Creating IT Futures Foundation was invited to participate at CGI America last week in Denver. Topics of focus at the event ranged from infrastructure for cities to workforce development to STEM education efforts. Organizations are invited to make formal commitments at the event. With our non-profit partner Per Scholas, we committed to expanding our IT-Ready training program through the creation of a national network of non-profits and employers and placing 4,000 more people into IT jobs by 2018. (We’ve already placed almost 1,000 people between us and Per Scholas since 2012.)
You can read more about our commitment and visit our new website for the IT-Ready Network. Plus, we received a mention on the big stage from President Clinton. He selected us as one of the two commitments out of 79 choices to highlight in his closing address. That’s hard to beat!
I want to commend the staff of CGI for putting together an outstanding event and working so closely with us to craft our commitment and connect with potential partners. Our team made dozens of good connections that we wouldn’t have made had we not been at the event. While our commitment was in workforce development, I spent most of my time in the STEM education working group as we prepare for more work in the K-12 education space in the coming months.
From conversations with individuals as varied as a Hollywood producer or the marketer behind the wildly popular Goldie Blox viral video to a long discussion with the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s leading voice for Latinos, almost every moment of the event was spent learning something new or finding a connection with what other organizations are doing.
CGI America was just the start for us. There’s hard work ahead to cement the connections we made, get companies and foundations interested in funding our work to expand IT-Ready, and develop new non-profit partners to deliver our training model. You’ll be hearing more about our progress through this blog, and we look forward to sharing good news with you as it happens.