The National Fund for Workforce Solutions Catalyzes Systems Change Among Workforce Organizations & Funders

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A recent report details a systems change model that allows regional funder collaboratives to enact large scale and long term improvements

The National Fund’s nine years of investments in 40 communities is making us smarter about systems change. " -- Fred Dedrick, Executive Director of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions

A new report from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions highlights the best practices for serving American businesses and upskilling the nation’s frontline workforce.

With philanthropic and nonprofit organizations seeking to create sustainable impact, the report documents how National Fund collaboratives use systems change efforts to achieve large scale and long-term improvements to workforce development systems and practices. In addition to documenting examples of and calling for systems change, the report defines a framework for evaluating systems change. By providing examples of how National Fund collaboratives are evolving to meet the needs of workers in various high-demand industries including manufacturing and healthcare, the report highlights how efforts to improve the workforce system helps to proliferate advocacy and investment efforts.

“The key importance of systems change, as the National Fund defines it, is that it enables small improvements in practice to reach scale by sustaining that improvement over time. In other words, the National Fund strategy is to reach scale not by investing more and more resources but in altering a workforce system or a policy so that more and more people are impacted,” said Fred Dedrick, Executive Director of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. “The only way to learn what systems need to be changed, or can be changed, is to actually make investments over time. The National Fund’s nine years of investments in 40 communities is making us smarter about systems change. “

The National Fund’s efforts toward systems change span several states and documents four areas in which systems change is utilized to achieve scale:

  • Improving Educational and Workforce Development Systems: These efforts, including the expansion and improvement of training and support services, have proven successful in areas including Kentucky, New York and Southwest Alabama. These cases of successful systems change include sector-specific strategies, employer engagement initiatives and other stakeholder-driven activities that create advancement opportunities for new and incumbent workers.
  • Strengthening Employer Practices: Workforce development doesn’t work without meaningful engagement of employers. The report explores the mutual benefits that are realized when meaningful employer exchanges happen, such as improving hiring practices and creating new career ladders and pathway opportunities for frontline workers.
  • Promoting Public Policies and Investments: These efforts are often a catalyst for new state policy, regulation, practice or investment to support industry partnerships, career pathways, or other mechanisms and organizations that support both the advancement of workers and the success of businesses. This includes helping to increase funding for statewide sector-based training, employer based training, summer youth jobs, and job training for welfare recipients.
  • Changing Philanthropic Perspectives and Investments: These efforts focus on bringing together public and private funders to combine their resources in order to have a greater impact in improving workforce development systems, activities, and outcomes. Beyond contributing financially, funder organizations are responsible for developing shared goals and visions for their collaborative and partnerships and helping to execute these goals. Local funders in Boston, Central Wisconsin, and Baltimore note that their collaboration with the National Fund offered opportunities to address important community issues and deepened their learning in areas such as evaluation and public policy.

About National Fund for Workforce Solutions
The National Fund for Workforce Solutions, based in Boston, Mass., is a growing national partnership of employers, communities, workers and philanthropy. Together, they invest in more than 36 regional funder collaboratives to strengthen local economies by implementing demand-driven workforce strategies that create talent supply chains, close skill gaps, and improve systems. To learn more, visit

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