The Business Case for Ecosystems

Written by: Mae Watson Grote, Founder and CEO of The Financial Clinic

A little less than two years ago, we assembled a cohort of NYC’s most innovative workforce development organizations, and presented them with a simple, yet ambitious goal: We want to help you bake financial security strategies into the DNA of your organizations, not only so that its sustainable, but so it also accelerates your mission. In creating our first Financial Security Ecosystem, we sought to embrace, and ultimately propel “dynamic and co-evolving communities of diverse actors who create new value through increasingly productive and sophisticated models of both collaboration and competition,” which has come to define the concept in the private sector.

At the beginning of WorkBOOST NYC, we were certain that this “business ecosystem” approach could have a profound impact in workforce development, not only for the customers seeking their job placement services, but for the organizations themselves hoping to better understand the systemic barriers relating to financial insecurity that hindered the communities and households they serve.

Now, as we reflect back on what we’ve accomplished and how it informs our future projects, we’ll be showing off some of our “tricks of the trade,” and we’d love it if you’d join us this Friday at Impact NOW, a free half-day professional development opportunity aimed at arming workforce and financial security practitioners with the tools they need to begin this work.

Spoiler alert: I am proud to note that our partners and Clinic team accomplished exactly what we set out to achieve! Data collected from WorkBOOST NYC partnering organizations shows that 80% of job-seekers going through our program set financial goals, seeing their weekly income increase up to $34.43. On the frontline staff side, 55% reported that they feel very confident in reaching their financial a goal, up 20% increase from a survey conducted at the outset of the project. On the organizational level, 37% of the cohort raised money aided by the Clinic for future financial security activities and 62% revised or created new marketing materials showcasing their financial security work as an integral element to their programs. Armed with this data and more, I can confidently say that we proved not only the value of embedding financial security into workforce programs, but a blueprint for how to execute and sustain this important work going forward.

As our WorkBOOST NYC partners have amply demonstrated the “new value” of embedding financial security strategies, the Clinic is now turning to making the business case for the ecosystems that exist between workforce organizations and their employer partners — “sophisticated models of collaboration” in their own right — whose needs are so critical towards building the type of workforce we envision to be within our reach. Embracing this challenge head on, we’ve deepened our understanding of the challenges employers face with respect to turnover, scalability, and existing employee financial wellness programs, and our experience with WorkBOOST NYC has allowed the Clinic to produce a suite of employer-partner centric supports:

  • We’ve created specific tools in Change Machine that support casemaking and employer engagement strategies;
  • We’ve supported workforce organizations by providing detailed and actionable data collection, and analytics tools that they can use to demonstrate to their employer- partners that their program graduates lower the cost of the employer’s human resource supports, and;
  • Looking to the future, we’ll be closing out Impact NOW with a plenary panel fittingly titled “The Nexus of Work and Wealth,” because the panel will look ahead to field-wide questions, like how employers and corporations are promoting their employees’ financial well-being in their workplace. We’ll explore in detail how financial security helps build “quality jobs” and overall job satisfaction in workforce.

Where we hope to land — or rather, what we hope will come from this new sophisticated model of collaboration — is the pursuit of a labor market where employers see the interconnectedness of work and wealth building as not only a morally-just goal to pursue, but an integral part of their organizational culture that gives them a competitive edge in recruiting talent at all staffing and wage levels.

This is our vision for the future of work, so I hope you’ll join us, not only for this exciting free professional development opportunity, but also more broadly in strengthening our collective mission of building a more inclusive economy with quality jobs for every American.