Better Careers Design Group

Co-designing outcomes-driven solutions for California jobseekers

What is the Better Careers Design Group?

The Better Careers Design Group will collaborate to design solutions for systemic workforce challenges and advance the equity of economic outcomes in California. Through this group, government agencies and grantees of the Irvine Better Careers initiative will come together to study human-centered and outcomes-oriented design and plan concrete changes that put these design principles into practice. 

Over eighteen months, Design Group members will partner with the people and communities they serve to investigate problems that exist within their local workforce system. During this journey, they will develop and refine implementation plans that respond to barriers and further the outcome goals of the Better Careers initiative:

  • Help under-resourced jobseekers secure jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage
  • Improve training opportunities that lead to quality jobs and advancement
  • Identify successful models of matching employers with middle-skilled workers
  • Build and grow a diversified pool of talented workers

How will the Better Careers Design Group collaborate?

The Design Group will follow an 18-month applied study. Through six full-day interactive workshops, applied activities, and one-on-one technical assistance from Third Sector, the group will learn an integrated, collaborative approach to generating ideas and establishing feedback loops around improving outcomes. Design Group members will refine their solutions based on input from other group members, colleagues, partner organizations, and residents. The result will be a plan to collectively implement these solutions in their communities. Group members can expect to graduate with experience in human-centered design and outcomes orientation that can impact many aspects of their day-to-day work.

The Design Group is supported by a grant from the James Irvine Foundation, which allows members to participate at no cost. Design Group members will be offered a small grant to compensate them for their time ($25,000 per organization) and will be reimbursed for all workshop travel and lodging expenses.

Who Should Apply?

Up to ten government agencies and up to six Better Careers grantees and will be selected to be a part of the Design Group. Organizations may apply independently or as a cross-sector team composed of one or more government agencies and one or more Better Careers grantees. Preference will be given to grantees and agencies that operate within the same geography and have collaborative relationships. The Better Careers Design Group is intended to be as representative as possible of the California workforce development system, demonstrating diversity by populations served and career pathway options. 

Third Sector will select government agencies and Better Career grantees to join the Design Group on the basis of their

  • Enthusiasm for innovation, 
  • Capacity to participate,
  • Commitment to developing and making progress towards equity goals, and 
  • Ability to support the Irvine Better Career initiative goals.

Applicants not selected for the Design Group may be invited to join the virtual Learning Community, which will have access to resources and webinars related to the curriculum and the Design Group’s progress. Community-based organizations who are not grantees of the Better Careers initiative may also be considered for the virtual Learning Community.

How Can Agencies and Organizations Apply?

Applications are due Friday, October 18, 2019 by 5:00pm PST. If you need an extension to October 25, please email Drew Souders at dsouders@thirdsectorcap.orgOrganizations may apply online at (for the Design Group), (for the Learning Community only) or email answers in PDF or Word form to Drew. The application and further details are also available on the Instructions to Apply.

Please watch the informational webinar before completing the application.

Submit your email address to be informed of application updates and to follow the progress of the Design Group.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following section provides answers to key themes asked about during the open information period from Oct. 3 - Oct. 14. 

Team Formation

Needing time to form a team was one of the primary reasons cited for extension requests. As a reminder, Teams should consist of Irvine Better Careers initiative grantees and workforce-focused government agencies/ quasi-governmental organizations (WDBs, community colleges) that operate within the same county or local workforce area. Each organization will be expected to fill out its own Design Group application

Forming a team with government agencies or Better Careers grantees operating in two adjacent counties is possible. While this option could offer a team more brain power and allow Team Solutions Plans to address issues that span multiple counties, it may be more difficult to manage time and relationships across a larger geographic area.

Participation from State-wide Agencies

State agencies (e.g., CDSS, CWDB, Future of Work Commission) will be invited to provide input into Design Group content and facilitate select workshops or Learning Community sessions. Their guidance may address flexible funding streams (e.g. CalWORKs Expanded Subsidized Employment), new initiatives (e.g. CalWORKs 2.0, state-wide logic model), or better workforce coordination. In order to allow all Design Group participants to receive this guidance, state agencies will not be considered as eligible Design Group Team members.

 Better Careers Design Group Formation Timeline

Wed, Sep. 18, 2019

Application available to view

Thu, Oct. 3, 2019

Informational webinar; Recording posted within one week

Thu, Oct. 3 – Mon, Oct. 14, 2019

Open information period

Thu, Oct. 3 – Fri, Oct. 18, 2019

Open application period

Fri, Oct. 18, 2019

Applications due by 5:00pm PST

Mon, Oct. 14 – Fri, Oct. 25, 2019

Interviews scheduled with applicants for time slots between Nov. 12 – Nov. 25, 2019 (An interview will be cancelled if the organization does not meet consideration criteria upon review of application.)

Mon, Oct. 21 – Fri, Nov. 8, 2019

Full application review

Tue, Nov. 12 – Mon, Nov. 25, 2019

Finalist due diligence interviews

Fri, Dec. 13, 2019

Announcement of Better Careers Design Group and Learning Community

Mon, Dec. 16 – Wed, Dec. 18, 2019

Applicant feedback

Wed, Dec. 18, 2019 – Fri, Jan. 17, 2020

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Third Sector and Design Group organizations developed and finalized

Jan. (TBD), 2020

Kickoff webinar

Feb. (TBD), 2020

First workshop

The Better Careers Design Group is supported by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation.