Atlanta meeting kicks off grant by JPMorgan Chase & Co. for Network for Southern Economic Mobility

A meeting this week in Atlanta kicked off a $75,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase & Co. to MDC in support of the Network for Southern Economic Mobility, a group of Southern communities committed to increasing upward economic mobility for youth and young adults in the lowest income brackets .

The network includes seven Southern cities: Athens, GA; Chattanooga, TN; Greenville, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Little Rock, AR; Savannah, GA; and Spartanburg, SC. Through the network, leaders from those cities  receive customized coaching and technical assistance, learn about institutional and governmental systems change, and work together to identify effective strategies to eliminate the barriers that keep a high percentage of low-income young people from rising into the middle class.

The Atlanta convening on Tuesday featured a presentation on the report “Investing in America’s Workforce: Improving Outcomes for Workers and Employers” that was released last month by the Federal Reserve System. Leading that discussion was Stuart Andreason, Director of the Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity at the Atlanta Fed, and David Hefner, Vice President for Strategy and Institutional Effectiveness at the Morehouse Medical School.

“We can’t have a society where only exceptions succeed or where so much is left to the luck of the draw—especially when the deck is so often stacked against those who need the uplift of mobility the most,” says David Dodson, president of MDC. “We must change the odds, not expect people to beat the odds.”

Funding from JPMorgan Chase is supporting a series of convenings for Network sites and other local leaders, including Tuesday’s meeting in Atlanta and others in Nashville, TN, and Charlotte, NC, to share promising mobility practices and strategies. MDC will develop and release profiles outlining best practices and lessons learned from the three sessions in 2019.

“We are proud to support MDC and to join other funders in supporting the Network for Southern Economic Mobility,” said Shekeria Brown, Vice President of the Office of Nonprofit Engagement at JPMorgan Chase. “Investing in capacity building is key to driving systemic change, and we’re thrilled to be able to champion this aspect of the Network’s efforts.”

The problem, as spelled out in MDC’s State of the South report titled “Building an Infrastructure of Opportunity for the Next Generation,” is that it is harder in the South than anywhere else in the U.S. for young people in the poorest households to move up the economic ladder as adults. Southern cities that are top-rated as places to do business are also among the places with the highest rates of inequality and lowest rates for economic mobility, the report found. While education beyond high school is the best indicator for getting a job that pays family-sustaining wages, fewer than 20 out of 100 ninth-graders go on to earn a postsecondary degree on time in all Southern states except Virginia.

Cities in the Network for Southern Economic Mobility have a commitment to helping marginalized young people, a foundation of promising programs that build the presence of industries with career potential for young people, and top leaders who see the connection between economic mobility and the long-term health of their economy.

The Network is helping them deepen, accelerate, and align strategic investments for systemic change that positions youth and young adults for economic success. Leaders in selected communities are examining how well their existing systems are reaching young people facing the most difficult barriers to advancement; analyzing the policies, systems, and culture that impede their progression; and adapting or building pathways that connect institutions and social supports, from school to employment. Communities will learn how others are implementing structural reforms in the Southern economic and political context.

Additional support for the Network is provided by the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and community participation fees.

About JPMorgan Chase

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.6 trillion and operations worldwide. The firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of consumers in the United States and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at