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Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ballmer Group Announce Tulsa to Join New Initiative to Increase Economic Mobility

This article was archived on 7/20/2019

Tulsa Will Use Data to Identify Barriers to Economic Opportunity for Residents, Test Promising Strategies, and Share Learnings with Other Communities

June 18, 2019 - Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ballmer Group announced today that Tulsa was selected as one of ten American cities that will participate in a new national initiative to identify, pilot, and measure the success of interventions to accelerate economic mobility for their residents. NextUp, a new program administered by Tulsa Community WorkAdvance (TCW), a successful evidence-based non-profit organization, will serve as the key partner for the initiative. The City of Tulsa will serve as the government agency partner.

Through this initiative, Tulsa will help youth aged 18 to 24 who are not currently employed or in school access education and training for high-quality jobs. Data points to more than 11,000 individuals in this age group that are not working or currently in school in the Tulsa region. Tulsa’s efforts are designed to help improve residents’ long-term economic mobility.

“While Tulsa is experiencing an economic resurgence, studies show that economic mobility for many Americans is not what it was for previous generations,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said. “This initiative gives Tulsa a chance to be a true laboratory of democracy in service to the American Dream of equal opportunity. I want to thank Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ballmer Group for their support of the City of Tulsa and Tulsa Community WorkAdvance as we engage in this important work.”  

NextUp focuses on youth aging out of the Oklahoma foster system and high school graduates without plans for work or continuing education. Both NextUp and TCW build stable and productive lives through no-cost technical training, job placement, career coaching, and career readiness training. NextUp was created with support from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and a Tulsa Area United Way Social Innovation Grant. 

"Our TCW participants have an average age of 30. NextUp will help reach those who need meaningful, gainful employment earlier," said Karen Pennington, Executive Director of NextUp and TCW. "It's very interesting when you consider the possibilities. What if we help youth and young adults earn credentials, get promoted, and have clear career goals? Getting to a place of economic mobility faster and earlier in life has a huge impact on the participant’s whole family, the next generation, and the community."

Over the next 18 months, Tulsa will pilot and measure the early impacts of NextUp, which provides the direction and skills needed for young adults to find their first jobs, complete a GED, enroll in short-term technical training and learn about new occupations and career pathways. NextUp participants can enroll in training offered through TCW’s programs or pursue other educational opportunities through community schools. The NextUp program is entirely no-cost to participants, and strategic community partnerships will provide additional resources missing in the lives of this age group. By 2025, data shows that 77 percent of jobs will require post-secondary education. NextUp will help create a pipeline of educated and qualified workers.

Tulsa will also work closely with other cities participating in the initiative to share lessons and experiences to further advance the work and build a model for future collaboration among cities on the topic.

The defining characteristic of the American Dream is upward mobility, but new data from Opportunity Insights shows that the current generation’s chances of earning more than their parents are declining. In many communities, young people and families face significant barriers to climbing the economic ladder based on the neighborhoods in which they live.

The new national initiative, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ballmer Group, seeks to respond to the strong demand among local leaders for new, more effective interventions to address rising income inequality and declining economic mobility. In Bloomberg Philanthropies’ 2018 American Mayors Survey – the largest comprehensive public-opinion survey of mayors and city managers – one of their top concerns was the challenge of providing more and better economic opportunities for all residents.

Tulsa staff have already started working with a team of advisors from Results for America and the Behavioral Insights Team, both partners in What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative that helps cities confront urgent challenges through data- and evidence-based decision-making. Tulsa city staff will deepen their data skills and strengthen their ability to deliver results to residents with the help of experts from other What Works Cities partners, including Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Government Excellence, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Government Performance Lab and the Sunlight Foundation.

Additionally, Opportunity Insights at Harvard University is helping Tulsa staff draw insights regarding economic mobility in the community using data from the Opportunity Atlas, an interactive resource developed in collaboration with the U.S. Census Bureau.

The ten cities participating in the economic mobility initiative are:
Albuquerque, NM; Cincinnati, OH; Dayton, OH; Detroit, MI; Lansing, MI; New Orleans, LA; Newark, NJ; Racine, WI; Rochester, NY; and Tulsa, OK.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 510 cities and 129 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $767 million. For more information, please visit or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

About Ballmer Group:
Ballmer Group works to improve economic mobility for children and families in the United States who are disproportionately likely to remain in poverty. We believe that building pathways to opportunity requires broad, systemic change. We invest in many stages of a child’s life by supporting strong community partnerships among public, private, and nonprofit organizations that use data to more effectively serve families. Ballmer Group was co-founded by philanthropist and civic activist Connie Ballmer and her husband Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, founder of USAFacts, and chairman of the Los Angeles Clippers. Learn more at and on Twitter @BallmerGroup.

About Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Susan Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.