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Improving employment pathways so that
MemWorks is identifying the root causes of employment roadblocks for Memphians experiencing poverty so evidence-based solutions can be implemented to enable pathways to economic mobility.

Employment Pathways are not Working

We cannot solve what we do not understand. Nearly 1 in 4 Memphians are experiencing poverty while employers across the community struggle to hire and retain staff. Why are employment pathways not connecting people experiencing poverty with living-wage careers? Until we understand why these pathways are not working, we can never hope to implement solutions that will improve them. MemWorks is identifying these roadblocks so our community will be equipped to make employment pathways effective in Memphis.

The Approach

MemWorks utilizes a place-based approach that combines deep domain expertise with a strong understanding of the Memphis context. Rather than starting with solutions, MemWorks seeks to develop a holistic understanding of the roadblocks that hinder employment pathways and why they occur. This objective understanding will enable targeted solutions to address the roadblocks.

The approach is divided into three phases over an 18-month timeline. The first two phases combine data analysis with the voices of individuals experiencing poverty to tell the stories of employment challenges and successes in Memphis. In the third phase, we will collaborate with workforce stakeholders to use this knowledge to implement action plans for the needed interventions.

Data Analysis

Develop an analytical understanding of the workforce development ecosystem and the potential employment roadblocks in Memphis

Spring 2023

primary research

Highlight the lived experience of individuals experiencing poverty to understand real stories, build evidence for employment roadblocks, and begin to explore solutions

Fall 2023

action plans

Collaboratively design and implement evidence-based solutions to address the roadblocks that unlock the greatest opportunities

Spring 2024

About Us

MemWorks is a collaboration that pairs MDRC’s expertise in advising policies that create pathways out of poverty with Slingshot’s deep understanding of the Memphis ecosystem. Our hope is that MemWorks creates a
place-based model that supports systemic change and more effectively
fights poverty in Memphis and in other communities across the nation.


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