The Network for Southern Economic Mobility is a group of Southern communities committed to increasing upward economic mobility for youth and young adults in the lowest income brackets.

Through on-site coaching, expert programmatic technical assistance, and facilitated peer-learning, the Network is designed to help communities deepen, accelerate, and align strategic investments for systemic change that position these youth and young adults for economic success.

Leaders in selected communities are examining how well their existing systems are reaching those young people facing the most difficult barriers to advancement; analyzing the policies, systems, and culture that impede their progression; and adapting or building the pathways that connect institutions and social supports, from school to rewarding employment. Communities will learn how others are implementing structural reforms in the Southern economic and political context.

The first cohort of cities, which began in 2016, are Athens, Ga., Chattanooga, Tenn., Greenville, S.C., and Jacksonville, Fla. The second cohort, which began in 2017, are Little Rock, Ark., Savannah, Ga., and Spartanburg, S.C.

Minor Shaw image
Hear Micco LLC President Minor Shaw, Chair of the Duke Endowment, speak on MDC and the Network for Southern Economic Mobility on Carolina Business Review in July 2017.

Each participating city has created a small, imaginative, high-level leadership group that includes individuals who can leverage policy and operational changes in the critical systems that directly affect youth mobility within their community. The design and delivery of the Network’s two-year program will be done with full collaboration of member cities and will include:

  • Customized coaching to tackle deep-seated institutional and cultural practices that create barriers to youth development and upward mobility.
  • Focused technical assistance and peer-learning related to systems and data analysis, institutional policy reform, innovative program strategies, youth and employer engagement, and funding strategies needed to connect economically disadvantaged youth to postsecondary credentials and rewarding work.
  • Cross-city knowledge development with expert policy-makers and practitioners in integrated systems and programs proven to help young people.


At the conclusion of the two-year commitment, Network members will have a:
  • Detailed systems and data analysis of those youth in the lowest income brackets and the principal barriers to economic mobility.
  • Powerful, informed leadership group, equipped to challenge institutional inequity and implement an integrated action plan that fosters a dual-customer system (youth and employers), accelerating youth mobility efforts.
  • Set of actionable priorities to build stronger organizations with the culture, skills, and management capacity to refine existing programs, aggregate and realign resources, and spur innovation.
  • Cross-region peer group of leaders working together on a cutting edge issue of national significance.


Moving on Up: Transportation and Economic Mobility
September 2018

This report summarizes recent research demonstrating the link between transportation and economic mobility, highlighting efforts in Southern communities to improve access in order to improve economic outcomes.


For more information on MDC and Network for Southern Economic Mobility, contact Mala Thakur.