Amid the Great Resignation, New Book Explores Opportunities to Transform and Build Equity in Workforce Development

February 22, 2022
Amid the Great Resignation, New Book Explores Opportunities to Transform and Build Equity in Workforce Development

Cambridge, MA – The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School and Brookings Institution Press are pleased to announce the publication of Harvard Kennedy School Professor Stephen Goldsmith and Kate Markin Coleman's important new book, Growing Fairly: How to Build Opportunity and Equity in Workforce Development.

The labor market in the United States faces seemingly contradictory challenges: Many employers have trouble finding qualified applicants for open positions, while millions of Americans are out of work or are underemployed—their paths to living-wage jobs blocked by systemic barriers or lack of adequate skills. In Growing Fairly, Coleman and Goldsmith discuss workforce development reforms that meet the needs of both workers and employers.

Over a two-year period, Goldsmith and Coleman interviewed hundreds of government, business, and nonprofit leaders, as well as program staff and current and former program participants. Based on their conversations, the authors set out ten principles for designing a more effective, equitable workforce development system, one that will help workers obtain the skills necessary for economic mobility. 

The book argues for a more comprehensive, less fragmented, and more personalized approach to skilling current and prospective workers. Goldsmith and Coleman spell out the attributes of effective programs and make the case for skill-based hiring, widely distributed performance data, and dramatically improved regional collaboration. The book illustrates how local action can overcome the structural barriers that challenge even the most determined would-be learners. Growing Fairly shows cross-sector leaders how to work across organizational boundaries to change the trajectory of individuals struggling to make a living wage.

Stephen Goldsmith is the Derek Bok Professor of the Practice of Urban Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where he directs Data-Smart City Solutions. He previously served as Mayor of Indianapolis, Deputy Mayor of New York City, and Chair of AmeriCorps for a decade. Goldsmith has developed a reputation as one of the country’s most innovative and effective local public servants in the last 25 years. He has been the subject of extensive coverage in national media for his accomplishments. He is the author and co-author of eight books on cities and conducts sessions for mayors and senior local officials at Harvard.

Kate Markin Coleman directs ias advising, LLC and is former Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy, and Advancement Officer of YMCA in the U.S. She spent the first half of her career in the private sector, transferring to the social sector after she and her colleagues sold the fintech firm they ran. Coleman was a top official in one of the country’s largest nonprofits, the national YMCA, where she advanced innovation and effectiveness. She studied cross-sector collaboration as a Harvard Advanced Leadership Fellow and is the co-author of two books that offer practical insights on how to design effective solutions to challenging urban problems.

Praise for Growing Fairly 

“Few issues are as important to the success of cities as equitable growth. Even in a city such as San Diego, fortunate to have a strong economy and a national model for workforce development, upward mobility remains elusive for many. Growing Fairly presents a uniquely valuable set of principles that can help cities make progress toward a brighter future for all residents, leaving no one behind.”

— Todd Gloria, Mayor, City of San Diego

“Stephen Goldsmith and Kate Markin Coleman not only establish the indisputable case that diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential elements of a stable and robust economy, they also have designed a model for effective collaboration among the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Their clear-eyed, rational approach is rooted in years of practical experience, authoritative research, and a profound respect for the dignity of work.”

— Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League

“In today’s labor market, we paradoxically have millions of people searching for their next paycheck and millions more job postings. In Growing Fairly, Goldsmith and Markin Coleman distill the nation’s leading workforce development prototypes and pilots and how to expand proven approaches. Communities need to convene partners—public and private, for profit and nonprofit—to design skills-focused solutions. Together, we can do this. It’s time. Past time.”

— Wendi Copeland, Chief Strategic Partnership Activation Officer, Goodwill Industries International

“Growing Fairly presents an actionable framework for reimagining regional skills-based workforce systems through cross-sector collaboration. A must-read for all education and workforce stakeholders.”

— Maria Flynn, President and CEO, Jobs for the Future

About the Ash Center 

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School advances excellence in governance and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide. Through its research, education, international programs, and government innovations awards, the Center fosters creative and effective government problem solving and serves as a catalyst for addressing many of the most pressing needs of the world’s citizens.

About the Brookings Institution Press 

The Brookings Institution Press helps bring the knowledge and research by scholars from within and outside the Institution to a wider audience of readers, researchers, students, and policymakers through its books and journals. The Press publishes about forty books a year that harness the power of fact and rigorous research to start conversations, inform debates, change minds, and move policy. For more information, visit


Daniel Harsha
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation

Sarah Grucza
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation