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Detroit Workforce Funders Collaborative (MI) – Philanthropic Collaboration for a Racially Equitable Workforce System


Long-standing efforts to create a more equitable workforce development system in Detroit and Southeast Michigan shifted drastically as national discussions about social justice and racial equity issues intensified in the Trump era. The shift brought increased leadership, capacity, and support from the public and private sectors for transforming the workforce development ecosystem to drive more equitable talent outcomes. Despite this progress, Detroit’s philanthropic sector struggled to identify areas of strategic alignment and opportunities for achieving greater funder collaboration. The individual efforts of funders were often disjointed or disconnected, a dynamic that was further complicated by an influx of national foundations seeking to build a presence in the region. A core group of workforce funders believed that greater impact could be achieved if the philanthropic sector collaborated in a more intentional and intensive manner.


TIP Strategies and ThirdSpace Action Lab were engaged to conduct a landscape scan and assessment of the region’s workforce ecosystem, explore options for funder alignment, and develop recommendations for launching a formal funder collaborative. The group included the McGregor Fund, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, William Davidson Foundation, Ballmer Group, Ford Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Hudson Webber Foundation, Skillman Foundation, City of Detroit, and the Regional CEO Group. A foundational element of this work was an explicit focus on racial equity and inclusion to create more equitable workforce outcomes for the region’s Black workers. An assessment of the changing economic and workforce landscape, including a risk analysis for jobs in the region, was conducted to inform gaps in the workforce system that the funders could address. The consulting team facilitated a series of briefings, individual interviews, and group workshops with the funders to identify areas of alignment and obstacles to collaboration. Best practices from other workforce funder collaboratives and an ecosystem map of the funders’ workforce development interests informed potential areas of collaboration. Finally, early recommendations about the vision, mission, and focus areas for the collaborative were offered along with next steps for formalizing a collaborative structure.

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