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Pacific Community Ventures and Aspen Institute to Create Quality Jobs at Retail Small Businesses

Pacific Community Ventures will participate in Reimagine Retail to investigate strategies for collaborating with employers on job quality and worker advancement.

San Francisco, CA, April 29, 2017 --( The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program announced today that it has awarded a grant $200,000 to Pacific Community Ventures to take part in Reimagine Retail, a project made possible through a $5.5 million grant awarded by the Walmart Foundation to the Aspen Institute in 2016. Over a two-year period, Pacific Community Ventures will engage retail employers and explore strategies to improve job quality and support advancement for retail workers.

Workforce development organizations, retail businesses, and other partners have potential to collaborate to improve the quality of jobs for workers in entry-level positions, create pathways for advancement in retail and related sectors, and increase employee engagement, productivity, and retention. To explore open questions about how to expand opportunities for working people, leaders in these fields will need to build capacity, experiment with new and innovative strategies, and learn from their experiences.

Through Reimagine Retail, the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program (EOP), Pacific Community Ventures, and five additional local partners across the country will investigate approaches that aim to improve job quality and worker advancement opportunities in retail and related sectors.

Over the next two years, Pacific Community ventures will pilot, and publish, a quality jobs toolkit focused on retail small businesses. Small businesses are a big part of the US retail sector. 98% of retail businesses have fewer than 50 employees, and small retail businesses are one-third of all retail jobs. The quality jobs toolkit has the potential to enable meaningful improvements in job quality in an industry that relies on a significant number of frontline workers and operates with limited resources — and once it’s proven out across the retail industry, it can be adapted to restaurants, health services, and on and on.

Over a two-year period, EOP will offer Pacific Community Ventures and other local partners opportunities to experiment with new ideas, learn from their peers, and participate in research activities to explore the outcomes of their work. They look forward to learning alongside this group and sharing findings with a broader community. EOP will share findings from partners’ work broadly to advance promising practices for expanding economic opportunities for workers in retail and adjacent sectors.

“As part of our vision to make quality job creation the norm, we believe that we must equip small businesses with the practical tools and resources they need to offer higher quality jobs in a way that balances their business needs and bottom lines with better wages and benefits for their employees,” said Mary Jo Cook, President and CEO of Pacific Community Ventures. “We know that small businesses want to provide good employment opportunities for their workers – but they are often uncertain of how to do so in ways that make sense for their business. We’re committed to enabling them to succeed – and believe a simple, practical quality jobs toolkit will help spur them to action.”

“We have found that learning and evaluation methods that engage program leaders and other stakeholders in the process have been critical to developing a practical understanding of why and how specific initiatives achieve their outcomes, building practical knowledge about efforts that address complex economic and social challenges,” said Maureen Conway, vice president for policy programs and executive director of the Economic Opportunities Program at the Aspen Institute. “We are excited about bringing this engagement approach to Reimagine Retail so that the lessons we learn about this emerging area of practice can be applied and adapted in other communities.”

Reimagine Retail is one of several interrelated projects supported by a $5.5 million grant provided by the Walmart Foundation to the Aspen Institute as part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s Opportunity initiative, a five-year, $100 million sector-wide effort aimed at strengthening the transferability of skills of the US retail workforce and developing ways to make it easier for front-line workers to advance their careers.

“Through our collaboration with the Aspen Institute, we aim to further strengthen the retail workforce ecosystem by creating greater opportunities for workers to build long-lasting careers,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability officer for Walmart. “By engaging six local partners in communities around the country, our work together will help ensure that frontline workers have access to the training and tools needed to achieve upward mobility.”

More information about Reimagine Retail and each of the six local partners is available online at:

Pacific Community Ventures is a nonprofit social enterprise that engages small businesses, investors and policymakers to build an economy that works for everyone. To achieve our mission we provide small businesses working in underserved communities with access to capital and mentoring, test new approaches to creating quality jobs which can be scaled through partnerships, and conduct research and evaluation so that impact investors will deploy more capital more effectively to underserved communities.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

The Economic Opportunities Program (EOP) advances promising strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income Americans connect to and thrive in a changing economy. Over its 25 years of work, EOP has focused on expanding individuals’ opportunities to connect to quality work, to start businesses, and to build assets and economic stability.
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Pacific Community Ventures
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