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Who Builds the Ecosystem?

The Commonwealth Workforce Coalition (CWC) is a statewide initiative that seeks to strengthen the capacity of Massachusetts’ education, training, and workforce system to produce better employment and earnings outcomes for unemployed and underemployed residents.  CEDAC founded the initiative, which was transferred to the Center for Social Policy (CSP) at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2017.  Nevertheless, CEDAC remains an important partner to CSP regarding CWC, and remains active in its annual Sharing Skills~Building Connections conference.  The theme of the conference is Advancing Equity, and it will be held this year on May 3rd   in Worcester. If you are interested in attending, you can learn more about doing so here.  In this week’s blog post, CSP’s Director Susan Crandall discusses how CEDAC, CSP and CWC help to build the community development ecosystem.

Massachusetts has a strong ecosystem of interrelated organizations supporting the needs of vulnerable individuals and families. Most of these organizations are visible in the community, providing direct services to clients to solve their pressing challenges that include obtaining affordable housing, taking care of their children, or participating in job training. Other agencies, like CEDAC, play a “behind-the-scenes” role, in essence providing the infrastructure to enable the ecosystem to function.

CEDAC lends not only its financial resources, but also its staff expertise, to invest in community development sites, supportive housing, and also build high quality learning and care spaces for low-income children. And the agency also continues to invest in the Commonwealth Workforce Coalition, a program it operated for fifteen years. Now, the Center for Social Policy at UMass Boston manages the Commonwealth Workforce Coalition, which builds the capacity of job training providers to provide effective workforce development services to help unemployed and underemployed workers advance in their careers.

Like CEDAC, the Center for Social Policy is typically a behind-the-scenes player in the social services ecosystem. CSP conducts applied research at the intersection of public policy and employment in order to improve the well-being of low-income families. CSP is the lead research partner for On Solid Ground, a 40+ member coalition, led by CHAPA and Homes for Families, that advocates for policies to improve housing stability and economic mobility for vulnerable families.

A major element of On Solid Ground is developing policy solutions to the cliff effect, which is the phenomenon that occurs when families with children lose essential public supports, like housing and childcare, when they gain an increase in earnings from work. The Center for Social Policy’s research has been deployed by On Solid Ground to advocate for policy changes. (You can learn more about the research and the policy solutions that have emerged from it here).

CSP’s research on cliff effects was also featured at Commonwealth Workforce Coalition regional networking sessions. Many members of the workforce development community are eager to increase their understanding of public benefits, so they can more effectively guide clients as they pursue career advancement. The training was conducted in five communities around the state: Boston, Lowell, Worcester, Springfield, and Brockton. The program was so popular that it is being reprised at a workshop at our upcoming Sharing Skills-Building Connections at the College of Holy Cross in Worcester on May 3rd.

The conference morning keynote speaker is Secretary Rosalin Acosta of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. We are also pleased to welcome our lunch keynote speaker, Alex Dixon, General Manager of the new MGM Casino in Springfield. The conference will include impactful workshops relevant to our theme of Advancing Equity by community partners around the state, including Homes for Families, Commonwealth Corporation, WayFinders, Holyoke Community College, and the Central Massachusetts Workforce Investment Board . In addition to CEDAC as our Founding Partner, we are grateful for the support of our conference sponsors: Massachusetts Gaming Commission, CHAPA, SkillWorks, Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, and Partners Healthcare.

The Center for Social Policy is fortunate to partner with CEDAC to bolster the workforce infrastructure and we look forward to continuing this collaboration in the future.

Categories: CEDAC, CWC

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