New Year, New SHIFT Toward Systems Thinking

At the beginning of each year, many of us commit to something new or to making a big change for the better. New goals, new way of thinking. Throughout January, I’ve been reflecting on National Fund’s successes of the past year and gearing up for how we will carry that momentum into 2023 and beyond.

Last year during our SHIFT conference, we convened over 300 practitioners to grapple with the big questions around the need for strategic realignment in workforce development. How can we SHIFT mindsets, approaches, and actions to ensure all jobs are good jobs, all workers have the resources required to thrive, and race does not dictate employment outcomes? There were some great conversations that came out of the convening and one thread that continues to rise to the top is a mandate to apply a systems thinking approach to the work we’re doing on behalf of workers, employers, and communities. That’s why we’re excited about work we’ll be leading in the year ahead.

Throughout 2022, National Fund engaged five communities — Boston, Hartford, CT, Louisville, Springfield, MA, and Wilmington, DE — in our Systems Thinking Learning Lab with support from JPMorgan Chase Foundation. The learning lab aimed to help each participant use systems thinking to solve a specific workforce problem in their local community. We cracked open our Systems Change Toolbox and led the collaboratives in sessions to identify underlying drivers of the problems and pinpoint practical steps needed to move from problem to solution.

This year, we will help the cohort begin implementing their action plans through targeted coaching and support. With a refreshed toolbox and refined curriculum, we also hope to engage a new cohort of collaboratives to tackle issues like inaccessible childcare, inefficient transportation systems, inequitable employer practices, and other structural issues that prevent too many from accessing economic opportunity.

Change takes time but if we’re serious about creating a seismic shift in workforce development, we all must be in it for the long haul. National Fund remains committed to doing the necessary work and I’m looking forward to helping our partners continue to change systems for the better.

Amanda Cage

-- President and CEO, National Fund for Workforce Solutions