Tackling opportunity gaps by investing in networks, not just skills


Aug 26, 2021

In recent years, a focus on chronic “skills gaps” has spurred investment, innovation, and policy change nationwide. But to drive economic mobility, innovators need to attend to another, more hidden gap: the network gap. Access to networks is a key ingredient to getting by and getting ahead, and should be part of the design and measurement of any program aimed at boosting outcomes for historically marginalized learners and workers. 

In this virtual session at the ASU+GSV Summit, I spoke with four leaders in the education-to-employment space about what it takes to build a systematic approach to equitably fostering positive and diverse relationships across their organizations. 

  • Andrew Frishman, Co-executive Director of Big Picture Learning shared how his organization connects students to local internships by identifying and sharing existing connections within students’ families and communities.
  • Sheila Sarem, Founder of Basta shared how her program emphasizes both knowledge and networks, and, in particular, where both of those fit within students’ career journeys and  mindsets.
  • Aimee Eubanks Davis, Founder of Braven shared how her organization places students in small peer cohorts coached by industry professionals who teach about the power of and skills associated with building networks.
  • Chris Motley, Founder and CEO of Mentor Spaces described how his community-driven technology platform facilitates conversations between job candidates of color and mentors, or “people in the know,” who can coach learners and workers on their first or next career move.

Check out our conversation below. *Free registration required to view the video.*

Note: This session was generously sponsored by our partners at American Student Assistance.

Julia is the director of education research at the Clayton Christensen Institute. Her work aims to educate policymakers and community leaders on the power of disruptive innovation in the K-12 and higher education spheres. Be sure to check out her book, "Who You Know: Unlocking Innovations That Expand Students' Networks"