APTOS, Calif. — California FarmLink has been selected by the Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunities partnership to be part of Shared Success: scaling financial intermediary strategies to advance job quality, equity, and small business prosperity. This innovative pilot program, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will focus on advancing job quality among small- and medium-sized businesses.
From stagnant wages to low access to benefits, low job quality affects millions of workers in the US and disproportionately impacts BIPOC workers. Nearly 60% of low-wage workers work at businesses with fewer than 100 employees, including the 35% of low-wage workers at micro-businesses with fewer than 10 employees. Improving job quality for low-wage, BIPOC workers requires a focus on small businesses.
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) like California FarmLink can help improve the lives of low-wage workers by centering job quality in their financing and advising. CDFI grantees will integrate job quality into their financing and advising services to support and incentivize small- and medium-sized businesses to improve job quality in areas including worker compensation, advancement, employee satisfaction, basic benefits, incentives, and wealth building.
California FarmLink’s programs integrate affordable capital, land access and business education. This work helps farmers to think through long-term wealth creation through asset acquisition and debt reduction, while managing the capital and land required to generate wealth. Managing the job quality of farm labor is a fundamental aspect of developing small farm business viability, especially when factoring in risks ranging from misclassification of labor to on-the-job safety and well-being.
Joining in this collaborative effort are key partners U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC) and Pacific Community Ventures (PCV). USBCDC, the community development and tax credit subsidiary of U.S. Bank, will provide CDFI partners with an opportunity to apply for capital investments; PCV will leverage its existing expertise in good jobs business advising to support CDFIs in strengthening their practices.
“As an agricultural CDFI, FarmLink is excited to join this collaboration to advance job quality and equity,” reported Reggie Knox, CEO. “We will draw on the expertise of small farms in California who have already forged a path forward in improving job quality for workers on their own farms.”
“This is a critical undertaking to meaningfully improve jobs in a way that benefits both workers and business owners. Most business owners recognize the value of their employees, but need information, incentives, and tools to improve job quality,” said Maureen Conway, vice president at the Aspen Institute and executive director of the Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program. “We are pleased to partner with these CDFIs who share our values and are well positioned to help small businesses seize opportunities for making job quality improvements in the short term and ultimately drive structural changes for a more just and equitable economy.”
By building job quality-related services into their existing operating and financial models and sharing evidence of CDFI success in influencing job quality, these CDFI partners will lay a foundation for scaling job quality as a key driver of racial equity and economic mobility.
In the long term, Shared Success aims to raise the floor for workers across the US small business ecosystem by demonstrating that small business owners can feasibly enhance job quality in ways that strengthen business resilience and worker wellbeing, and by developing the capacities, products, and practices of financial institutions to facilitate job quality improvements.