About the Elevate Initiative

About the Initiative


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Economic Mobility and Opportunity (EM&O) portfolio aims to improve the economic outcomes of America’s most vulnerable individuals and their families. Along with the struggle of finding jobs that provide greater economic security or channels for advancement, many individuals often face systemic, institutional forces out of their control, referred to as ‘structural barriers’. Among these, structural racism presents unique challenges to long-term upward mobility and economic security. Moreover, race often intersects with other identities to create new compounding barriers (e.g., discrimination experienced by Black women that neither Black men nor white women face). Even as workers move into ‘good jobs’ or achieve other positive signs of upward economic mobility, gaps in outcomes between white workers and Black and Brown workers and other groups remain.

Funding Criteria

Target Populations: This RFP is focused on addressing structural and systemic barriers to economic opportunity and ensuring equitable outcomes in the American workforce. Applicant organizations should demonstrate a primary focus on addressing financial insecurity and poverty, with a priority on groups who have historically been affected by systemic inequity and injustice.

The following is a list of target populations with whom applicants might be working. We include these not to indicate that applicants should address the entirety of complex and important issues facing these groups, but as populations that your work engages and who have traditionally faced systemic racism and disadvantages in the workforce.  These groups may include, but are not limited to:

  • Black and Brown workers
  • Black and Brown businesses and entrepreneurs 
  • Immigrant workers
  • Indigenous workers
  • Returning citizens
  • Workers experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity
  • Individuals residing and working in rural areas 
  • Young adults of color
  • Women of color


We are interested in evaluating proposals for programs that seek to change systems that adversely affect Black and Brown workers and other populations listed above. The specific vehicles or approaches to the work of building greater equity will factor into the evaluation of proposals and will ultimately enrich the community of practice. Examples of approaches include but are not limited to:

Emerging Industry Access

Initiatives that promote access to new or non-traditional industries and models in which economically vulnerable populations are currently underrepresented due to structural racism and lack of access, e.g. co-op models, advanced manufacturing, or tech.

Systems Change Initiatives

Efforts that advance economic mobility for one or more of the target populations on a systemic level. This might include programs that address the effects of systemic racism in areas ranging from procurement policies, funding allocations, community-led initiatives, or broader recruitment and retention in emerging industries.

Workforce Development Programs

Programs that build skills, promote skills transfer, or offer meaningful training opportunities that lead to living-wage jobs and pathways to advancement. This also includes initiatives that work at scale and directly involve industry and public sector representatives, which seek to address systemic barriers to access or promotion within sectors, or which assist with system navigation, social enterprise development, or entrepreneurship pathways.

Selection Criteria

  • Impact: Potential impact of programs that address structural racism and intergenerational mobility gaps for Black and Brown workers and other populations facing structural bias
  • Reach: Scope of the project and the strength of its dissemination strategy or ability to be replicated with populations facing structural bias
  • Credibility: The degree to which the organization demonstrates success in addressing the issue of structural racism as it affects the Black and Brown workforce and other population groups referenced above 
  • Alignment: The project scope and proposed outputs align with the desired outcomes of the RFP
  • Shared Learning: The organization is committed to actively participating in a learning community that includes all grantees and is facilitated by Frontline Solutions for the duration of the grant
  • Collaboration: The organization is able and willing to build and participate in a community of practice with other grantees to enhance collaboration, share strategies, and refine learnings
  • Commitment to racial equity: The organization represents, listens to, and is deeply connected to the community it aims to support through its work (preference for organizations led by people of color)

Grantee Archetypes

We are very interested in receiving applications from organizations that represent a diversity of approaches to this work. We have listed below a number of archetypes – by no means exhaustive – that speak to the different types of organizations that offer unique perspectives of techniques for furthering this work.

  • A non-profit that works directly with Black workers addressing the structural barriers they face (e.g., discriminatory employment barriers)
  • A community-based organization that works with local small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) to improve education and career pathways in the Hmong community
  • A community-based organization led, or predominantly influenced, by Latinx farmworkers in northwest Arkansas
  • A Black-led, community-based organization that partners with health and human services providers that offer wraparound services
  • A research organization (e.g., think tank, university department or initiative) that is working in partnership with a community to understand new economic opportunities, develop a catalog of employer practices, or engage in community-based participatory research
  • An organization whose programming includes helping Black and Brown workers navigate various systems, including federal benefits, employment services, etc.  
  • A non-profit that wants to scale a model for improving employer practices among SMBs in their area focused around race 
  • A community development financial institution directly engaged in investments that promote the indigenous people’s access to the workforce

Selection Process

STEP 1: Review

Frontline Solutions will receive and review first-round applications

STEP 2: Additional

Frontline will ask selected applicants to provide additional documentation

STEP 3: Interview

Frontline will invite finalists for a one-on-one interview with program staff and advisers

Important Dates

  • Wednesday, December 2, 2020 RFP Launch and Webinar
  • Wednesday, December 16, 2020 Webinar
  • Tuesday, January 5, 2021 Webinar
  • Monday, January 11, 2021 RFP Due at 11:59PM EST 
  • January 28, 2021 Second Round Applicants Notified; Full Proposals Requested
  • Sunday, February 14, 2021  Second round/Full Proposals Due at 11:59PM EST       
  • Friday, February 26, 2021 Finalists selected and announced
  • Mon., March 1 – Fri., March 12, 2021 Finalist Interviews
  • Friday, March 26, 2021 Final Decisions
  • Mid-April 2021 Announce Grantees

Informational Webinars