Who's Coming to Dinner? / by Tynesia Boyea-Robinson

This week, I met with Todd Williams, Executive Director of Commit 2 Dallas, a promising cradle to career initiative in Dallas.  Todd and the Commit team have garnered support from school districts across North Texas, and are laser beam focused on early childhood and 3rd grade during the first phase of their efforts.  But like any great leader, Todd is already coalition building for his next phase of work- careers and higher education. Todd asked me who he should invite to the table for the workforce strategic committee to inform these efforts (you gotta' love a guy who asks for advice from a complete stranger).  These are three of my suggested guests at this table.

  1. Employers in pain - There are currently 3.7 million unfilled jobs in this country because many companies can't find the talent they need.  If a company doesn't have the right people they can't meet the needs of their clients.  Don't go for the usual suspects- go for the companies who have a vested interest in your workforce effort succeeding today.
  2. Funders driven by performance - Don't select funders by how much money they give, how many high powered folks they have on their board, how good they are at navigating politics.  Instead, select funders who have a track record of selecting organizations based on performance.  And in workforce development, the leading indicator of performance is very straightforward - livable wage careers with pathways.  A great example is the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region, who is not only known for selecting high performing organizations, but is a convener of other funders and a thought leader in the DC region.
  3. COMMUNITY colleges  - No, the all caps COMMUNITY is not a typo.  I mean community colleges that have strong partnerships with the... well, community.  And I don't mean the paper partnerships where when you see someone at a meeting you say "we work together", but don't see them again until the next networking event.  True partnerships have an inherent vulnerability- you give the other partner space to fill the gaps you have.  Dr. Bob Templin at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), has done an amazing job with this.  They leverage other nonprofits in the area to provide the wrap around supports while providing dual credit opportunities for participants while they're in those programs.   During college matriculation, NOVA relies on these organizations to continue to support them so they not only get TO, but also THROUGH college.

While there are other dinner guests, I consider these the key folks to bring to the table.  Now, what do you do when you get there?  I'll address that in an upcoming post.