Solution Overview

Solution Name:

COOP Careers

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

One-line solution summary:

Overcoming underemployment for underrepresented college graduates through digital skills and peer connections

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Pitch your solution.

COOP’s (“ko-op”) mission is to overcome underemployment for underrepresented college graduates through digital skills and peer connections. Across our sites in New York and San Francisco, we’ve launched 100+ cohorts since 2014, welcoming 1,300+ alumni. 80% of alumni overcome underemployment within one year, earning an average of $45,000 after 12 months and almost $60,000 after three years. COOP aims to reach 10,000 alumni in our first decade, fueling upward mobility and fulfilling the promise of higher education.

Following a decades-long push for greater college access, Americans are more educated than ever before (Census)—yet upward mobility has decreased every decade since 1940 (Brookings). Our organization seeks to close the social capital gap that exists between talented, yet disconnected, low-income and first-generation college graduates, and careers in the digital economy that can provide them with a pathway towards a bright and stable future.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Film your elevator pitch.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What specific problem are you solving?

Nearly half of recent college grads (ages 21-27) are unemployed or underemployed, and these statistics are even higher for recent black grads (Vox). With almost 400,000 Black and Latinx college graduates (NCES) entering the workforce every year, this crisis only stands to grow. This is a recipe to deepen trends of downward mobility for people of color (WaPo).

Segregation, income inequality, education, family instability, and social capital all play a role in the downward mobility of this population (Chetty). COOPers left college with fewer than three meaningful peer or career connections, affirming that social isolation was a factor in their path towards underemployment. Furthermore, informal relationships dominate our labor market. Referred candidates are nine times as likely to get hired (LinkedIn). and currently only 30% of employee referrals go to people of color (Payscale).

A Bachelor’s degree is necessary, but not sufficient. We need connections and referrals as much as skills. A labor market powered by relationships will reinforce the status quo, but we know that this is only a symptom of a segregated society. We believe that by cultivating social networks and closing the referral gap, we can make an  impact on the underemployment epidemic.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What is your solution?

COOP serves as connective tissue between universities and employers. More importantly, COOP connects underrepresented college grads to each other. Below are descriptions of our program:

Community: underemployed recent grads feel a sense of isolation—removed from peers and demoralized by professional rejections. COOP addresses this by recruiting cohorts of 16 college grads with common backgrounds and goals. We facilitate bonding throughout the program—and we foster ties between cohorts.

Captains: Each cohort is led by four captains, returning COOP alumni who serve as coaches. To date, almost 200 alumni have “paid-it-forward” as cohort captains. Captain teams teach 100% of COOP’s 200-hour curriculum, and they are the hallmark of COOP’s model.

Curriculum: We design our curriculum with input from practitioners at our industry partners. The curriculum is divided into Head, Heart, and Hustle—digital “hard skills,” professional “soft skills,” and the grind of the job search. Our cohort captains are also backed by social workers.

Connections: Finally, we work with employers to hire COOP candidates. While we don’t guarantee positions, we do make as many connections as possible. 200+ employers have hired COOP alumni since 2014. Many opportunities come through formal events , but at least as many come through informal peer connections.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

COOP is built to serve BIPOC (90% of alumni), low-income (75% of alumni), and first-generation (70% of alumni) college graduates, who have done exactly what society has asked of them, yet still are struggling to launch meaningful careers. Even with a college degree, our COOPers didn’t have the right connections to get a good job. They felt disengaged, isolated, and broken. Like they were the problem, when in actuality our labor market is to blame.  

Our access to good jobs is determined by who you know, and if we don’t create the right relationships the problem will persist. COOP builds a community of underrepresented college grads who empower each other with the tools to achieve their dreams and ambitions.

Everything we do at COOP is focused on engaging our alumni community, and our growth is determined by their involvement. 20% of alumni have “paid it forward” as Captains since 2015. Perhaps more than any economic outcome, this is a signal that our approach has a deep impact on our alumni. Equally important, over 60% of our full-time team members are also COOP alumni. Finally, according to an independent analysis, every $1 invested in COOP creates a permanent $9 wage increase.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Equip everyone, regardless of age, gender, education, location, or ability, with culturally relevant digital literacy skills to enable participation in the digital economy.
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.

Equipping communities with the relevant skills to connect to the millions of good jobs created by the digital economy requires moving past credentials towards building networks that create equitable access to opportunity.

At COOP, we blend both what you know and who you know through our alumni-led, social capital focused digital career accelerator program. We know that having a network and referral source within the industry you hope to enter can make you 9x more likely to get hired. By blending relevant digital economy skills training with near-peer industry coaches we can create transformational wages gains for underrepresented communities.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

New York, NY, USA
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What is your solution’s stage of development?

Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth.
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Explain why you selected this stage of development for your solution.

Since our founding in 2014 we have grown from an initial pilot of 12 to an alumni community of almost 2,000 and have replicated our program in two markets. During this time we have maintained some program quality and employment outcomes for our alumni while growing our students served each cycle. We are now in a period of rapid growth to prove that our model can be successful across the nation.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Kalani Leifer, Founder/CEO

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.
More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What makes your solution innovative?

Starting with our pilot, COOP’s program outcomes have been consistent. Over 90% of participants complete the program and 80% of all alumni are fully employed—earning $45,000 in year one and $75,000 by year four. We are guided by our core values of head, heart, and hustle that we have embodied as a kickstarter funded pilot to the national program we are today. 

A few innovations have positioned us to solve the societal challenge of underemployment:

Overcoming underemployment in real time: Unlike most organizations focusing on the college-to- career transition, COOP doesn’t limit its intervention to pre-graduation. COOP’s intervention is most effective for college graduates—right when they’re most isolated from each other and institutions, ready and urgently motivated to seize full-time opportunities.

Alumni leadership in our DNA: Since the end of our first year, every COOP cohort has been led by alumni captains that serve as near peer coaches. We have doubled down on alumni leaders, introducing two new layers of alumni leadership in 2019, and are piloting even more alumni specialist roles. Of course, our full-time team is dominated by alumni. And equally important, most of the jobs our cohorts secure come through alumni referrals.

Relationships over skills: We believe credentials matter less than relationships to achieve economic mobility. We have scaled access to skills training and education for low-income individuals, but not the social capital necessary to enter living wage industries. By focusing on building social capital, we create the relationships that can be transformational for upward mobility.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Crowd Sourced Service / Social Networks
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Women & Girls
  • Urban
  • Low-Income
  • Minorities & Previously Excluded Populations
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 4. Quality Education
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 10. Reduced Inequality
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • United States
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • United States
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

2021: 1,150 

2022: 1,700 

2023: 2,450 

2024: 3,500

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.
About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Nonprofit

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

How many people work on your solution team?

FTE: 38

PTE: 150

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

How long have you been working on your solution?

7

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Our Founder & CEO, Kalani Leifer, started his career as a high school history teacher in the Bronx, NY where he saw first hand how the social capital gap impacted marginalized communities. Later, he worked at McKinsey in Switzerland designing education systems and post-secondary career pathways. Directly prior to founding COOP, he worked at Google where he saw the immense potential careers in the digital economy offered to underrepresented communities.

Our Chief Program Officer, Adanta Ahanonu, has dedicated her entire career to scaling nonprofit organizations. She was the Founding Site Director for Year Up’s Diablo Valley Community College partnership that was recognized as a best-in-class program by California Forward. She is also a graduate of the Surge Fellowship program hosted by Surge Institute.

The remainder of our Leadership Team has held leadership roles, either founding or scaling, at best-in-class nonprofits across the country such as Year Up, Per Scholas, Teaching Lab, and the East Harlem Tutorial Program. Furthermore, almost a quarter of our Leadership Team are alumni of our program that have developed from entry-level managers at the organization into Directors.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What is your approach to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership team?

COOP is deeply committed to embedding DEI into our culture by leveraging our unique differentiators, particularly alumni leadership, into our organizational practices. This begins in our talent acquisition practices. The vast majority (70%) of our full-time staff are program alumni. Additionally, in the past year we have made great strides to solidify our professional development, compensation, and performance management processes that are built on DEI best practices and designed by experts in the field. Finally, we are undergoing an intentional DEI discovery process led by an external firm that will advise us on ways in which can continue to become more equitable as we grow and scale.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.
Your Business Model & Partnerships

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.
Partnership & Prize Funding Opportunities

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Human Capital (e.g. sourcing talent, board development, etc.)
  • Business model (e.g. product-market fit, strategy & development)
  • Public Relations (e.g. branding/marketing strategy, social and global media)
  • Monitoring & Evaluation (e.g. collecting/using data, measuring impact)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The ASA Prize for Equitable Education? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Andan Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The HP Prize for Advancing Digital Equity? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Innovation for Women Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The AI for Humanity Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The GSR Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Solution Team

 
    Back
to Top