Building Social Capital for Climb Hire’s Learners and Alumni

Published on
July 13, 2023

Founded in 2019, Climb Hire assists low-income working adults in finding upwardly mobile careers, helping them to find their path into the knowledge economy without credentials and networks. With funding from Schmidt Futures, Climb Hire partnered with Common Group to build a tech-enabled alumni network and social capital engine that would generate organic referrals for alumni and future Climbers. This collaboration aimed to generate learnings through action research that would lead to a scalable, tech-enabled design response to the design question, “How might we reliably, scalably generate upward economic mobility for millions?”

Common Group conducted an extensive design research effort, combining analysis of economist Raj Chetty's and others’ research on social capital with design research interviews with Climb Hire alumni. This led to a number of key insights, chief among them: Climb Hire learners were not differentiating between “bonding capital”, close social connections, and “bridging capital” ties to professionals that could advance their career (see the full research brief here).

These groundbreaking insights led to a 9 month design and prototyping phase focused on three core questions: i) Why do people build bridging capital, ii) How does bridging capital translate into job referrals, and iii) How might we identify committed “referees” and engage them deeply in Climb Hire’s mission?

While the prototyping and implementation continues, this design effort has already prompted Climb Hire staff to reevaluate their social capital curriculum and processes with an eye on distinguishing bridging vs bonding capital. Looking to the future, Common Group's research-driven prototyping approach is setting a new standard for connecting “top down” quantitative research with “bottom up” design research, yielding cutting edge insights that will drive a truly transformative approach for Climb Hire’s learners.