Announcing Elevate, an Initiative to Accelerate Economic Mobility for Communities of Color.

July 29, 2021 Nadia Owusu

Frontline Solutions is thrilled to announce the launch of the Elevate Initiative, which will support 13 organizations doing on-the-ground work to remove structural barriers and accelerate economic mobility for communities of color.

Along with the struggle of finding jobs that provide greater economic security or channels for advancement, many people face systemic and institutional forces out of their control. Among these forces, structural racism presents unique challenges to long-term upward mobility and economic security. And, race often intersects with other identities to create new compounding barriers. Even as workers move into ‘good jobs’ or achieve other positive signs of upward economic mobility, gaps in outcomes between white workers and Black and brown workers and other groups remain.

Support for the Elevate Initiative comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided Frontline Solutions with $1,350,000 to subgrant to chosen participating organizations. Funds will be used toward work that each organization is doing in the following areas:

  • Emerging Industry Access: Initiatives that promote access to new or non-traditional industries and models in which economically vulnerable populations are currently underrepresented due to structural racism and lack of access, e.g. co-op models, advanced manufacturing, or tech.
  • Systems Change Initiatives: Efforts that advance economic mobility for one or more of the target populations on a systemic level. This might include programs that address the effects of systemic racism in areas ranging from procurement policies, funding allocations, community-led initiatives, or broader recruitment and retention in emerging industries.
  • Workforce Development Programs: Programs that build skills, promote skills transfer, or offer meaningful training opportunities that lead to living wage jobs and pathways to advancement. This also includes initiatives that work at scale and directly involve industry and public sector representatives, which seek to address systemic barriers to access or promotion within sectors, or which assist with system navigation, social enterprise development, or entrepreneurship pathways.

Awardees will also participate in a year-long learning community aimed at building relationships, sharing promising approaches, and providing technical assistance.

As a Black-owned-and-led consulting firm, committed to advancing racial justice, when it came to selecting grantees, we wanted to ensure that we were investing in organizations that are led by and rooted in communities of color. The funding gap between Black-led organizations and white-led organizations is alarming. One study of more than 140 nonprofits found that white-led groups had budgets that were 24% larger than those led by people of color. But, we have long-established relationships of trust with community and grassroots organizations. These relationships made it possible for us to engage organizations and leaders who are doing great work but were likely not on the radar of large foundations. To further extend our reach, and ensure that the voices of people with proximity to the issues were heard, we formed an advisory council of grassroots and nonprofit leaders with experience and expertise in advancing racial justice and addressing workforce disparities to guide the nationwide RFP process.

The selected organizations stood out in an applicant pool of over 500 organizations from across the country. The Elevate Initiative grantees are:

  1. Springboard to Opportunities (Jackson, MS)
  2. Change Labs (Tuba City, AZ)
  3. Black & Pink National (Omaha, NE)
  4. Casa de Salud (Albuquerque, NM)
  5. A New Way of Life Reentry Project (Los Angeles, CA)
  6. Custom Collaborative (New York, NY)
  7. Collaborative Healing Initiative Within Communities (Aurora, CO)
  8. Center for Cooperative Development and Solidarity (Boston, MA)
  9. Power Coalition for Equity and Justice (New Orleans, LA)
  10. Valley Community Interpreters (Albuquerque, NM)
  11. Ujamaa Place (St. Paul, MN)
  12. Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative (Bronx, NY)
  13. Hmong American Farmers Association (West St. Paul, MN)

Frontline Solutions is committed to learning in public, and the Elevate Initiative is no exception. We are excited to share lessons, in an ongoing way, about what it takes to dismantle structural barriers to economic security and the challenges that community organizations and leaders face toward these efforts.