At the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program, and for our many colleagues and partners, the ongoing and intertwined health, economic, and racial justice crises bring new urgency to our work to improve access to quality jobs, options to participate in business ownership, and the freedom to pursue economic opportunity. Below we share our monthly newsletter with highlights of recent work. As always, we welcome your feedback, thoughts, and partnership in advancing inclusive opportunity and an economy in which we all can thrive. Click here to subscribe.
News and Updates
Toward Universal Work-Related Benefits
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the important role benefits play in workers’ lives. Paid leave, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and retirement plans cushion life events and equip workers to live safe and dignified lives. Our current system of benefits, though, leaves behind millions of workers. This event by the Future of Work Initiative explored how to make work-related benefits accessible to more people, including public and private sector approaches to portable and universal benefits. Speakers include Lise Anderson (Writers Guild of America West), Anmol Chaddha (Omidyar Network), Palak Shah (National Domestic Workers Alliance), and more. Watch for the Future of Work Initiative’s upcoming report, Portable Benefits in Action, and click here to see a recording of the event.
Essential Jobs, Inequality, and “Dirty Work”: A Book Talk with Eyal Press
The pandemic has heightened many organizations’ focus on job quality: now is the time to shift focus from fixing workers to fixing work. Companies are under more pressure to improve factors that contribute to job quality including wages, benefits, workplace safety, racial and gender equity, and opportunities to learn and grow. But often overlooked is the content of the work—how does what we do align with who we think we are? In his new book, “Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America,” Eyal Press explores the toll of moral injuries at work, highlighting the working conditions of jobs that typically go unseen and raising disquieting questions about our society and its dependence on these jobs. For anyone concerned about job quality, “Dirty Work” is essential reading. On October 20, we sat for a conversation with the author. Click here to watch the recording and learn more.
Greater Phoenix Workforce Leadership Academy Fellows examine systemic racism within the workforce system and explore evidence-based practices for change
This month, the Greater Phoenix Workforce Leadership Academy Fellows continued working in their collaborative project (CoLab) teams to design workforce systems change strategies. During their October meeting, Fellows heard from Reimagine Retail partner Sarah Burns, Director of Learning at the San Diego Workforce Partnership, who shared employer engagement approaches to strengthen job quality and racial equity, and Linda Dworak, Director of the Baltimore Funders Collaborative, who shared lessons about ensuring collaboration in the planning and delivery of workforce services and making the workforce system easier for workers and employers to navigate. Clair Minson, Workforce Leadership Academy alum and Founder & Principal Consultant for Sandra Grace Counseling & Consulting Services, helped Fellows examine how systemic racism shows up in the workforce ecosystem and employer practices, allowing them to reflect on implications for their CoLab work. Please stay tuned for next month’s updates on CoLab projects and our November sessions.
Global Inclusive Growth Summit
On October 14, purpose-driven leaders gathered for the Global Inclusive Growth Summit, presented in partnership with the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. The Summit brought together leaders from across sectors to catalyze new partnerships and shine a spotlight on solutions that advance inclusive and sustainable economies around the world. Business Ownership Initiative Director Joyce Klein facilitated a breakout session on Realizing the Potential of Digitization for Small Businesses. She was joined in conversation by Timothy Ogden (Managing Director, Financial Access Initiative), Chris Locke (Founder, Caribou Digital), Juan Navarette (VP, Business & Partnerships Development, Fundación Capital), and Barbara Magnoni (President, EA Consultants; Co-Founder, Noahui Soluciones). Click here to learn more.
Employment Equity Learning and Action Collaborative – October 2021 Convening
On October 21, the University of Michigan School of Social Work’s Employment Equity Learning and Action Collaborative held their monthly convening, which brings together workforce and economic development leaders focused on strengthening racial and economic equity in Detroit. Workforce Strategies Initiative Associate Director Jenny Weissbourd and Research Associate Yoorie Chang joined Christi Taylor from the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, and a dynamic panel of workers who spoke about their experiences and priorities. The panel and presentations focused on the importance of frontline worker voice, and practical approaches to improve job quality, including using tools featured in our Job Quality Tools Library.
Webinar: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation convened a webinar on “Capital and Technical Assistance Strategies to Support Minority Small Businesses in the Central Valley” on October 28. Minority small businesses have limited options accessing flexible micro-business loans – a critical need when wealth is limited – and technical assistance that facilitate their formation, development, and growth. This webinar encouraged the development of new loan products and partnerships with CDFIs and CBOs to expand micro-business credit and business consulting services for minority small businesses in the Central Valley. Business Ownership Initiative Director Joyce Klein joined the presenters to share BOI’s lessons regarding the needs of and successful strategies for reaching minority businesses, and the work that the Entrepreneur Backed Assets Fund is doing to help CDFI microlenders to scale.
Good Jobs Good Business Tools: How Employee-Focused Employers Can Drive Better Business Results
On September 30, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment hosted a webinar entitled, “Good Jobs = Good Business: How Job Quality Drives Better Business Results,” featuring Workforce Strategies Initiative Associate Director Jenny Weissbourd, Senior Research Associate Mohona Siddique, Research Associate Yoorie Chang, and our partners Tom Woelfel and Sanjana Seth from Pacific Community Ventures. Speakers discussed tools and techniques aimed at small businesses for improving job quality and driving business performance, including resources from EOP’s Job Quality Tools Library and PCV’s Good Jobs Good Business Toolkit.
The Future of Building Wealth: Brief Essays on the Best Ideas to Build Wealth—for Everyone
Business Ownership Initiative Director Joyce Klein contributed a chapter on small business and wealth building to the new book, “The Future of Building Wealth: Brief Essays on the Best Ideas to Build Wealth—for Everyone,” produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program. The book provides policymakers and financial leaders with the tools, resources, and innovative ideas to pave the way for economic growth and prosperity for all American families. Klein’s chapter, “Building Wealth Inclusively Through Business Ownership,” focuses on an inclusive path to building wealth, with a focus on strengthening business ownership among people of color. You can find the chapter here.
Catching Up to the Future of Work: State Commissions Address an Evolving Labor Force
The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have shown that the future of work is here, and its challenges are far more expansive than advancing automation or equipping workers with digital skills. Camryn Banks, research associate for the Future of Work Initiative, writes about the state commissions being established across the country to address the needs of workers. As they aim to build the blueprint for a brighter future, we recognize that their research and recommendations have the potential to shape decisions and improve the future of work for Americans across the country. Read more from Camryn here.
WBEZ: Reset Podcast with Sasha-Ann Simons
Why is it so hard to find a job right now? Shelly Steward, director of the Future of Work Initiative, joined Reset with Sasha-Ann Simons to talk about the problem with today’s labor market. “The job trends we’re seeing right now… are building on decades of declining job quality and weakening worker power, across sectors,” she explains. “The jobs that are out there are just not good jobs.” Listen to the podcast here.
Jenny Weissbourd, Associate Director of the Workforce Strategies Initiative at EOP, is presenting at the Mid-America Restaurant Expo on November 1. The Mid-America Restaurant Expo is expecting over 4,000 experts, exhibitors and operators from throughout the Midwest to discuss the latest trends and topics affecting the restaurant industry. Jenny joins them for a panel on “Understanding the New Workforce” alongside Erin Patinkin and Emily Fabiano, which explores employee wellness in the food industry. Learn more and register to join here.
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We’re proud to have been part of the launch of a new #jobquality initiative by the @commercegov! Helping ensure employers can provide high quality jobs to America’s workers is essential to the mission of a more equitable and productive workforce..
-Workforce Strategies Initiative @AspenWorkforce
.@Aspen_BOI Director Joyce Klein was invited to contribute to the book“The Future of Building Wealth” from our colleagues @AspenFSP and @stlouisfed. Take a look at her essay, “Building Wealth Inclusively through Business Ownership.”
-Business Ownership Initiative @Aspen_BOI
“It is encouraging to see companies like @Walmart stepping up and creating pathways for working adults to further their education [and] put them on a path to a meaningful and productive career.” @Jaimen8r @upskillamerica #upskilling
-UpSkill America @upskillamerica
-Future of Work Initiative @AspenFutureWork
The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program (EOP) advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. We recognize that race, gender, and place intersect with and intensify the challenge of economic inequality and we address these dynamics by advancing an inclusive vision of economic justice. For over 25 years, EOP has focused on expanding individuals’ opportunities to connect to quality work, start businesses, and build economic stability that provides the freedom to pursue opportunity. For more information, visit as.pn/eop.
EOP has several initiatives, including the Business Ownership Initiative, Workforce Strategies Initiative, UpSkill America, Good Companies/Good Jobs, and the Future of Work Initiative. In addition, across these approaches EOP hosts the Economic Opportunity Fellows Network and the Opportunity in America event series.
Thank you to our many partners and funders for supporting our efforts.
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