Solving for Economic Inclusion Together

We here at Solve consider ourselves to be lucky. We are lucky to be working in Chicago,  an amazing city filled with summer days at the beach and ice skating in Millenium Park in the winter. But like any major city, Chicago has its fair share of  problems. Chicago is stricken with poverty, segregation and inequality challenges. For many Chicagoans, there is not enough food on their table, money in their pockets or safety on their streets. We here at Solve are lucky to be working with so many amazing organizations that strive to fix these problems.

In 2017, we on-boarded dozens of nonprofit organizations to the Solve digital platform. These organizations offer a variety of services in underserved communities across the city, providing resources and assistance to those in need. Our largest partner organization to date, UCAN, serves over 10,000 at-risk children, youth and families across Illinois through more than 30 programs. And our other partners at i.c. Stars, CodeNow, Greenwood Project and Re:Work  train underserved community members to prepare for the technology jobs of the future. Joining the Solve platform this month are Teamwork Englewood, Greater Bronzeville Neighborhood Network and Greater Chatham Initiative. These three lead agencies will bring dozens of more nonprofit service providers to the platform.

The ingredients for socio-economic change are here.  Solve is the platform to unify the hundreds of organizations and thousands of people working to make Chicago a better place for everyone. Together, we can solve for economic inclusion. Together, we can ensure that all Chicagoans live a dignified life. To learn more about the work we are doing, we encourage you to visit us at  


Introducing Client Filters

Continuous self-improvement is important to us. We are always open to criticism and feedback, without it we can’t make the best possible product. We’ve heard it is hard to sort through your contact list. We’re responding to your feedback with some brand new features:

1. Client Filters – easily adjust your client list by filtering by Program, Assigned Staff, Location and Zip Code

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2. Target Population – more accurately describe your target population by selecting from a variety of underserved populations (i.e. homeless, veterans, opportunity youth…)

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3.  Program Location – do you have multiple sites? Now you can add addresses to specific programs

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Employers, Why is it Challenging to Find Growing Entry-level Talent? Let’s Discuss.

Here’s a new term for you to think about: “bandwidth poverty”. What do you suppose this term means? Xavier Ramey, the founder of Justice Informed and advisor to Solve, recently brought “bandwidth poverty” to my attention and my team has been using this term ever since to motivate us in our work.  In this blog post, we’ll dive into bandwidth poverty and how it prevents residents from underserved communities from realizing their potential in the workforce.

Bandwidth poverty (source): An attention shortage that creates a negative, reinforcing cycle and contributes to less-than-optimal decision making that leaves individuals worse off than before. When we experience financial poverty, for example, we focus on the immediate need to make money or to pay a bill and don’t leave significant bandwidth or mental space to consider future needs.

When it comes to hiring, employers need to understand the effects of bandwidth poverty on some of their potential candidates and new hires. In addition to securing a stable job, there are other challenges that could be crowding an employee’s mental space such as:

  • Transportation – how will this individual commute to their job from home?
  • Childcare – can this individual afford to hire childcare services while they are at work?
  • Food – can this individual provide adequate nutrition for his or her family?
  • Trauma – is there a pre-existing emotional, physical or mental trauma this individual needs treatment for?

These four barriers can occur both pre-employment and post-placement and can even lead to poor retention rates.

But there is hope for positive change. Here are two examples of solutions that Solve has discovered since starting our journey.

The first example is the simplest yet most innovative: Access United, an initiative supporting access to career and training pipelines in the unionized construction trades, is piloting a $100,000 fund.  This fund, managed by United Way of Metro Chicago in partnership with the Chicago Community Trust, the Obama Family Foundation, and the Chicago Federation of Labor, will support the reduction of identified barriers to securing employment through the administration of financial assistance coupled with wrap-around supportive services.

The second example pertains to the employer. Much like the Google’s of the world, employers can go outside the box to attract talent from under resourced communities and employ unique tactics that directly address individuals affected by poverty bandwidth. In this five minute TEDx Talk, one company describes how they resolved a common challenge their employees experienced (transportation) with one simple, cost-effective solution.

A model similar to the TEDx Talk above is live right now in Chicago and sponsored by the Manufacturing Performance Center’s Tony Garritano and Xavier Hernandez. Much like the problem described in the TEDx Talk above, Tony and Xavier are providing their employees with affordable and convenient transportation options to their firms out in Elgin.

As employers look to add to their teams, I ask that they stop to consider what challenges may be impacting the individual sitting across from them during a job interview. What did it take for that potential hire to even physically be present during the interview? Are there children waiting for this person to come home or pressing bills that need to be paid? It’s important to keep in mind the different things like transportation and childcare that can take away an employee’s ability to devote their entire time to their work.

Together, it’s time to Solve the many barriers to employment and create inclusive growth for all!

Navigating Uncharted Waters: What it Takes to Do Something That Hasn’t Been Done Before

What do you do when you want to build a business completely from a scratch, in an area that no one has previously pursued? The prospect of starting a project from below ground zero can seem daunting and it takes a special mindset to venture into the unknown.

Materializing a dream from an undiscovered space requires three things: courage, self-reliance and determination. It’s not simply enough to just have a vision – you also need the mental fortitude and will to see your business through to the end.

First, you need the courage to jump right into the unknown. Courage can propel you to achieve what was once thought to be unachievable and to deflect doubt coming from any naysayers.  This can also help entrepreneurs like yourself confront any uncertainty or internal conflict you’re likely to encounter as you bring your vision to life.

Once you find that inner courage to start building, you need to foster self-reliance to sustain growth. With self-reliance, you can rely on yourself when it comes time to make difficult decisions and also trust your instincts as you push forward toward attaining your goal.

And finally, determination is a trait every dreamer needs to persevere. Determination means you won’t quit in the face of adversity and are driven to overcome any obstacle, no matter big or small. It can enable you to get through any negativity (both internal and external) and to keep an eye on the bigger picture.

Building your business from nothing is far from easy and is not for the faint of heart. But with courage, self-reliance and determination, there is little to stop you from achieving your goals.