Advancing Career-connected Learning Through Collaborative Fund Management

Published on
July 12, 2023

For decades, conventional wisdom has dictated that the pathway to economic mobility was simple — if you obtained a college degree, you would secure a lifelong career with a family-sustaining wage. However, changing economic realities along with skyrocketing educational costs have led to nearly two-thirds of students today saying college is not worth the cost. Alongside this shift in opinion, companies continue to remove four-year degree requirements for jobs.

Funders and philanthropic organizations similarly have incorporated new strategies in response to learner, employer and worker demand for flexible and accelerated pathways to careers. After recognizing a lack of coordination, capacity and common goals across the philanthropic landscape, several funders sought to create an ‘innovation challenge’ to pool assets and increase the impact of investments in career-connected learning.

Enter Catalyze, which drives innovation in career-connected learning through agile grantmaking, next-generation learning and transformative storytelling. Designed and managed by Common Group, Catalyze is a collaborative funding initiative with a mission to enable all young people in the United States to find their purpose and achieve fulfilling careers.

Since its launch, Catalyze has distributed $10 million in grants to 40 organizations nationwide, positively impacting 23,000 students. These grants have empowered organizations to plan, pilot, and implement innovative solutions that provide students with career-connected learning opportunities and pathways into rewarding careers. In addition to making grants, Common Group is unearthing insights and data to inform the field, as well as driving forward robust communications efforts to ensure that workers and learners, as well as funders and influencers in the education and workforce development have innovative models to showcase in broader narrative change efforts.

Common Group has built an internal team to provide oversight for strategy, operations, community management, program development, fund stewardship and communications — ensuring Catalyze is built into a movement that empowers students to unlock their potential, find their purpose, and forge a path towards a brighter future.

In bringing together leading funders such as American Student Assistance, Arnold Ventures, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Charles Koch Foundation, Charter School Growth Fund, Joyce Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation, Common Group is ensuring a diverse range of perspectives and resources, amplifying the reach and impact of the initiative.

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