Case Study

Advancing the Social and Economic Mobility of Black, Indigenous, and LatinX Learners

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September 2021

Identify deeply-rooted conditions in the American education system and confront barriers for students who are underrepresented in higher education.


Gather human-centred data, focusing on the “voices on the ground”, to expose core issues and achieve greater alignment on the core issues.


The development of an industry “systems map” outlining the challenges and relationships between factors affecting underrepresented learners, and a continuing effort to challenge assumptions and amplify the voices of marginalized student groups.


Many Americans rely on access to quality secondary and postsecondary education to secure fairly paid jobs and fulfilling careers. Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit, works to promote change in the American workforce and education systems to drive economic advancement for all.

JFF first approached Coeuraj to design and facilitate a participatory research project to understand the needs, aspirations, and challenges of students underrepresented in higher education, particularly Black, Indigenous, and Latinx learners. To identify and confront deeply-rooted conditions, JFF needed to collaborate with individuals from all facets of the postsecondary and school-to-work systems.

To support this aim, we applied rigorous human-centered data gathering and analysis techniques to draw in a variety of perspectives and put these insights into action within a series of virtual engagements between JFF members and stakeholders. We prioritized “voices on the ground” that are often excluded from planning and decision-making circles. Through these engagements, JFF achieved greater alignment on the core issues barring progress, increased their body of knowledge and exposure to the system, and advanced strategic planning.

Currently, we’re working with JFF on a second project to identify the specific needs of Black learners and early-career workers in the digital IT sector. We began by designing and facilitating a series of dialogues between Black leaders in the education space that focused on identifying underlying issues and levers for change. Applying JFF’s research, we created a systems map that illustrates the assets, challenges, and relationships between factors affecting Black learners in the sector. Today, we are working to bring in participants’ voices to identify a path forward.

Together with students, early-career workers, and Black industry leaders, JFF will continue to challenge assumptions and eventually collaborate on a set of strategic priorities grounded by the needs and perspectives of the people they intend to serve.

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