Co-Invest for Impact: A Shared Ownership

At the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, we catalyze our network to co-invest in a set of integrated solutions that enable workers, employers, and communities to advance a skilled workforce, promote good jobs and invest in equitable outcomes. By using a co-investment model that leverages both private and public funding, our network of communities have greater resources to do the work. In this blog series, we will dig into some of the different co-investment models being used in the National Fund’s network of regional collaboratives.

The following conversation with Jennifer Gifford and Paula Gilberto of Workforce Solutions Collaborative of Metro Hartford highlights the unique strategies for co-investment in Hartford. This conversation was edited for brevity.

What does co-investment look like in Hartford? 

Jen Gifford, Vice President of Community Resources: Workforce Solutions Collaborative of Metro Hartford (Workforce Solutions) is structured as a funders’ collaborative. Funders are members of our “investors committee,” which serves as the governance body of the collaborative. They contribute funds to Workforce Solutions, not the United Way.

Each investor on the committee has a certain number of votes, based on the amount of funds they contribute ($150,000 or more gets two votes, anything below that gets one vote.) When organizations make a contribution, they’re typically making it to the collaborative overall. Some funders request reporting on specific activities or areas of work, in addition to the collaborative’s overall outcomes, and some funds are targeted for specific projects.

 

Tell us about your collaborative’s funding model and the types of resources that you’re leveraging to increase employment, earnings and racial equity for underprepared workers in your region. How much is pooled vs. aligned funding?

Gifford: We generate around $750,000 per year in pooled funding to advance our strategic plan. The investors committee sets the strategic priorities via a formal strategic planning process, which we are currently undergoing right now. Our workplan is reviewed and approved annually. Investors vote to release funds allocated for things like subcontracts, or partnerships.

As for aligned funding, we align around $450,000 a year through two other initiatives: Hartford Working Cities and Hartford Generation Work. Both are focused on young adult employment and race equity, which are priorities for us.

Sometimes, aligned funds are braided for the purpose of specific projects, like a race equity forum for employers that we’ve been planning. Other times, funds are aligned, but not braided. For example, we are partnering with Generation Work on a report about employer practices, from the perspective of young adults. Once the report is complete, we’ll discuss it with employers at the quarterly Advanced Manufacturing Employer Partnership meetings, and begin next steps based on the findings.

Describe how you’ve been able to braid or blend private philanthropy and National Fund resources with state and federal funding.  What are the benefits of this approach? Challenges?

Gifford: We’re not braiding or blending with state and federal funding ourselves. The funds we’re braiding come from private philanthropy or National Fund resources. Our intermediary partners determine how to align with public dollars. We require our intermediaries to share the extent to which our funds are aligned with public dollars, for example, to fill funding gaps in the public system. Identifying where Workforce Solutions dollars can have the most impact is a challenge. We want to ensure our investment isn’t just supplemental but adds meaningful value that helps reach scale.

How are employers investing in the work?

Paula Gilberto, President and CEO: Through Better Skills Better Jobs, we saw a significant investment of managers’ time in training. For on-the-job training, we expect employers to contribute at least 50% of employees’ wages since they’re leveraging the other 50% of wages through pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs.

What keeps funders engaged in the collaborative? How important is the co-investment model to your success? Is it seen as a strategy to reach scale?

Gifford: Building and managing relationships are key to ongoing engagement. We try to be intentional about that by inviting investors to attend events, sharing information, meeting regularly, and connecting with them one-on-one. We asked our investors for their perspectives about our work, and one of the things that surfaced was the value they place on learning with and from each other as part of the collaborative. Co-investment is more than joint funding — it’s actually about joint ownership of shared progress. Over the last few years, we’ve made good progress and continue inviting more investors into the work. Connecting to likeminded funders who have core work in common is something that interests our most engaged investors.

What advice would you give to other communities interested in diversifying the types of resources they leverage?  

Gifford: Relationships are the foundation for this work, and those take a long time. The people running, managing, and leading the collaborative all influence its success. The more people you have strengthening relationships on behalf of the collaborative, working together to build those connections over time, the better.

Gilberto: Be really clear about the model you’re developing. In Hartford, we felt very strongly that sustainability was going to be supported and advanced by shared ownership and shared thought leadership that addresses employer needs and the needs of people who are unemployed and underemployed.


ABOUT WORKFORCE SOLUTIONS COLLABORATIVE OF METRO HARTFORD

Workforce Solutions Collaborative of Metro Hartford (Workforce Solutions) is a funders’ collaborative committed to developing an educated, economically self-sufficient workforce that meets employer needs. Using sector-based employer-driven strategies, participants improve work-readiness and secure industry-recognized credentials that are portable and stackable.