Economic Development

The Cobbler’s Children Have No Shoes and other posts from the Slice

September 28, 2023  • The Aspen Partnership for an Inclusive Economy

Workforce development professionals—some of whom the Slice counts among its readers—do incredible work connecting unemployed and underemployed workers with the opportunities and support they need to get better jobs. But thanks to the decentralized and historically undervalued nature of the work, workforce development workers often struggle in low-quality jobs themselves.

In a recent post on the Institute siteSheila Maguire and Dee Wallace—both senior fellows of the Economic Opportunities Program—explore the role of the workforce development field in ensuring adequate job quality for all workers, including within its own ranks.

Some data from a pre-pandemic survey:

  • Half of workforce professionals in New York City earned less than the city’s median wage.
  • More than a quarter indicated they did not earn enough to cover basic expenses. 
  • People of color made up 80% of the city’s workforce development staff, yet higher earners and organizational leaders were disproportionately white. 
What can be done:

“A locally based, field-wide talent development strategy is a promising solution,” the pair write. This would involve breaking down the silos between community-based organizations, local government agencies, community colleges, economic development entities, and industry associations to create spaces where trust and collaboration flourish.

What they are doing:

Maguire and Wallace lead the Institute’s Workforce Leadership Academies, which unite workforce leaders in a particular city or region to identify and address systems-based challenges. “The Academies—whose curricula are developed by EOP and implemented by local partners on the ground—offer space for Fellows to deepen their networks, strengthen systems change frameworks, and create a shared vision for change.”

Read the post here.








Why “Digital Equity” isn’t Simply Inclusion, Explained by Non-Profit Leaders

The world economy and global society could use a healthy dose of digital inclusion—but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that inclusion is enough. 

“Merely ‘including’ the people and communities historically marginalized has not—and will not—dramatically change the trajectory of those communities to achieve voice, power, and systemic change to reverse the wealth trajectories around the world,” writes Elizabeth Vivirito of the Digital Equity Accelerator in a recent post. Instead, we need to set a goal of “digital equity.” To understand the difference, Vivirito interviewed non-profit leaders from the Digital Equity Accelerator, a collaboration between HP Inc. and Aspen Digital that works to advance social and economic equality by investing in not-for-profit organizations and NGOs that are accelerating digital inclusion. 

The questions: 

  • Where do global leaders need to do more to improve digital inclusion? 
  • What are the things we get wrong in digital equity? 
  • How can digital equity interventions solve social and economic inequalities? 

The insightful answers come from six leaders in Malaysia, Mexico, and South Africa—and you can read them here









Latest From Our Gig Worker Learning Project

In partnership with The Workers Lab, the Institute’s Gig Worker Learning Project is taking on a massive task regarding “gig work”: figuring out “what we mean by it, what we know about it, and about the experiences of the workers who are engaging in it.”  

Adrian Haro and Shelly Steward write about the first year-plus of work in a recent post. In the first phase of research, the project analyzed more than 75 studies, and noted highly inconsistent findings—largely because of the hodgepodge of terms, language, and definitions used by researchers and others. 

To remedy that, the team hosted a dozen focus groups of gig workers. Most of these workers lack the rights, protections, and benefits afforded to workers in a standard employment relationship; other emerging themes include:

  • Financial Instability and Inadequacy
  • Struggles Connecting with Other Workers
  • Lack of Agency, Flexibility

In the coming months, the project will convene more focus groups, re-engage workers in participatory analysis, and work toward a national, worker-centered survey. 

Read the post, and learn more about the project here

This piece was originally published in APIE’s newsletter ‘The Weekly Slice’. Click here to subscribe