JFF recently wrapped its four-day conference Horizons: Designing a Future That Works. The virtual event brought together thought leaders and innovators from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Much of the discussion focused on diversity and inclusion, as well as expanding opportunities for all.

Maria Flynn, JFF President and CEO (Photo: JFF)

From the start, Maria Flynn, president and CEO at JFF, offered a challenge to attendees . “Acknowledging the terrible racism and oppression in our country and making a statement against it is just the first step. Let’s think together about what actions we’re going to take as individuals, as organizations—collectively across this group—and how will we make tomorrow better than yesterday.  I have 10,591 days of work behind me, but I am pledging to make this a new day one and I hope you will do the same.”

Jim Shelton is chief investment and impact officer with Blue Meridian Partners tasked with finding new areas where “significant focused capital can help solve problems at scale.” He said, “This work that we’re in requires that people deal with the immediate, deal with the things that are killing us literally in the moment. And it requires others who are looking upstream and figuring out what the strategies and systems are that can stop it from happening in the first place.”

“My challenge for those of you in roles of decision-making and philanthropy is, who are you emailing back? Who are you calling? Whose calls are you taking? Every single one of us can do more, but we can’t change anything unless we do it together,” said Gayatri Agnew, senior director of corporate philanthropy for the Walmart Foundation.

“The whole country is awakening to just how many workers we have taken for granted and undervalued—the grocery workers, the delivery workers, the farm workers, janitors and domestic workers,” said Ai-jen Poo, co-founder and executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “We basically have a once-in-many-generations opportunity to make low wage jobs—good jobs. This is our moment, this is our opportunity to finally, once and for all, restore the dignity of work in America.”

WorkingNation Overheard at JFF Horizons

As part of our WorkingNation Overheard series, we spoke with a number of people presenting and attending the conference.

Among them, Hector Mujica, the jobs and skilling lead for Google.org. “An equitable economic recovery is one that is built on principles of justice, of economic justice, on principles of ensuring that there’s equal opportunity for everyone to engage and participate and have access to training. And that access has to be able to meet people where they’re at. How can we be providing the right levers of financing and wraparound supports to ensure that these individuals can actively engage in upskilling and reskilling and therefore be able to land adequate jobs?”

Many conference attendees said that employers’ hiring practices should look beyond the traditional four-year degree. Shad Ahmed is senior vice president & chief partnerships officer with Opportunity@Work. In addition to restructuring the requirements listed in job postings, Ahmed said, “Employers should be adopting skills-based talent practices and offering educational benefits.” He adds that companies should also be looking for talent from unexpected sources.

After four days of robust conversation and exchange of ideas, Flynn said,  “We are so hopeful that you will leave Horizons with some renewed energy and urgency, and some great ideas of how to move your work forward and collaborate in new ways.”

JFF plans to host Horizons 2021 in person—next June in New Orleans—“where we hope to share our collective stories of impact from the year.”

You can watch all the WorkingNation Overheard videos on our YouTube channel at the #JFFHorizons playlist.

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