Grappling with Economic Injustice
Economic justice
Design research
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation x

In the midst of pandemic and renewed racial reckoning, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded a deep study to answer a burning question. They saw that an emerging class of job-preparation schemes in the U.S. called 'dual-customer training programs' showed promise in ending cycles of poverty and unlocking economic mobility—but these programs had largely failed to scale.

Our approach

Design question

The Gates Foundation commissioned a massive qualitative and quantitative research study in an effort to answer one simple question: why? What was preventing these programs from reaching millions?

Design response

Through an equity-centered community design program, the team collaborated over the course of several months with a cohort of five equity advisors, each of whom introduced the research team to five additional subjects from their personal networks who had also experienced economic injustice. From interviewing, synthesis, and insights development; to developmental writing, copy editing, and creative direction; the final artifact was ultimately delivered to the field as a public good in 2021, in partnership with the nonprofit workforce-development organization, SkillUp.


“It was a time of major upheaval all around the world, but especially in the U.S. There was—and is still—a real feeling that the progress many of us have felt good about over the last several decades hasn't been nearly enough, that something much deeper is going on in the nation. We needed to see that. It was timely. Lisa and the team delivered something more than a research study. They delivered an artifact—a testament I'd say—to the condition of our country, the condition of our people, the condition of our ways of thinking. They produced something that carried with it the same gravity and seriousness as the subject matter itself, which gave it a kind of impact that I don't think philanthropy-funded research often has.”

Josh Jarett

Executive Chair at SkillUp and former Deputy Director at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation