Aspen Institute Awards Six Grants to Explore Economic Opportunities in Retail Sector

April 27, 2017

Local partners to participate in Reimagine Retail to investigate strategies for collaborating with employers on job quality and worker advancement

Contact: Claire Daviss
Communications Manager
Economic Opportunities Program, The Aspen Institute
202-736-3578 |

Contact: Tricia Moriarty
1-800-331-0085 |

Washington, DC, April 27, 2017 – The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program announced today that it is awarding grants of up to $200,000 to six organizations to take part in Reimagine Retail, a project made possible through a $5.5 million grant awarded by the Walmart Foundation to the Aspen Institute in 2016. Over a two-year period, the local partners will engage retail employers and explore a range of strategies to improve job quality and support advancement for retail workers.

Workforce development organizations, retail businesses, and other partners have potential to collaborate to improve the quality of jobs for workers in entry-level positions, create pathways for advancement in retail and related sectors, and increase employee engagement, productivity, and retention. To explore open questions about how to expand opportunities for working people, leaders in these fields will need to build capacity, experiment with new and innovative strategies, and learn from their experiences.

Through Reimagine Retail, the Economic Opportunities Program (EOP) and six local partners will investigate approaches that aim to improve job quality and worker advancement opportunities in retail and related sectors. The six local partners represent a wide range of organizations interested in this exploration and include community development financial institutions, funder alliances, nonprofit workforce agencies, community development organizations, and workforce development boards. The six local partners are:

  1. Allegheny Conference on Community Development – Pittsburgh, Penn.
  2. Center for the Future of Arizona – Phoenix, Ariz.
  3. Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance – Chicago, Ill.
  4. Pacific Community Ventures – San Francisco, Calif.
  5. Philadelphia Youth Network on behalf of the Generation Work Philadelphia partnership – Philadelphia, Penn.
  6. San Diego Workforce Partnership – San Diego, Calif.

Over a two-year period, EOP will offer local partners opportunities to build strengths, learn from their peers, and participate in research activities to explore the outcomes of their work. EOP will share findings from partners’ work broadly to advance promising practices for expanding economic opportunities for workers in retail and adjacent sectors.

“We have found that learning and evaluation methods that engage program leaders and other stakeholders in the process have been critical to developing a practical understanding of why and how specific initiatives achieve their outcomes, building practical knowledge about efforts that address complex economic and social challenges,” said Maureen Conway, vice president for policy programs and executive director of the Economic Opportunities Program at the Aspen Institute. “We are excited about bringing this engagement approach to Reimagine Retail so that the lessons we learn about this emerging area of practice can be applied and adapted in other communities.”

Reimagine Retail is one of several interrelated projects supported by a $5.5 million grant provided by the Walmart Foundation to the Aspen Institute. The grant from the Walmart Foundation also supports the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions’ 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, and two additional programs led by the Economic Opportunities Program: the Working in America event series and UpSkill America. The grant was awarded to the Institute as part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s Opportunity initiative, a five-year, $100 million sector-wide effort aimed at strengthening the transferability of skills of the US retail workforce and developing ways to make it easier for front-line workers to advance their careers.

“Through our collaboration with the Aspen Institute, we aim to further strengthen the retail workforce ecosystem by creating greater opportunities for workers to build long-lasting careers,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability officer for Walmart. “By engaging six local partners in communities around the country, our work together will help ensure that frontline workers have access to the training and tools needed to achieve upward mobility.”

More information about Reimagine Retail and each of the six local partners is available online at:

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

The Economic Opportunities Program (EOP) advances promising strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income Americans connect to and thrive in a changing economy. Over its 25 years of work, EOP has focused on expanding individuals’ opportunities to connect to quality work, to start businesses, and to build assets and economic stability.

About Philanthropy at Walmart
By using our strengths to help others, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation create opportunities for people to live better every day. Walmart has stores in 28 countries, employing more than 2.3 million associates and doing business with thousands of suppliers who, in turn, employ millions of people. Last year, in addition to business initiatives investing in people and businesses in supply chains, the company surpassed over $1.4 billion in giving worldwide, including $1 billion of food donations.  Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are helping people live better by accelerating upward job mobility for the retail workforce; addressing hunger and making healthier, more sustainably-grown food a reality; and building strong communities where we operate.  We are not only working to tackle key social issues, we are also collaborating with others to inspire solutions for long-lasting systemic change. To learn more about Walmart’s giving, visit

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