Perhaps most exciting, it will materially change people’s economic well-being.

JFF Announces $1 Billion Wage Gain Challenge in Partnership with Schmidt Futures’ Alliance for the American Dream

Published jun. 13, 2018

Innovative Competition Unveiled at JFF’s National Summit, Horizons: A Vision for Economic Advancement

NEW ORLEANS (June 13, 2018) — JFF, a national nonprofit that accelerates the alignment and transformation of the American workforce and education systems, announced today that it will launch the $1 Billion Wage Gain Challenge to raise the wages of at least 100,000 workers by $10,000 or more by 2021. Maria Flynn, president and CEO of JFF, made the announcement to 800 attendees at Horizons, JFF’s national summit on June 13–14 in New Orleans.

JFFLabs, the innovation and strategy arm of JFF, will lead this ideation competition to find the nation’s most effective and promising ways to meaningfully increase annual incomes and help close the wage gap. According to the Pew Research Center, the share of national income held by middle-class households has decreased to 43 percent—its lowest level since the center began publishing income-share data in 1967—while middle-class wages have grown just 6 percent and low-wage workers’ wages have decreased by 5 percent since 1979. The competition is supported by Schmidt Futures and will be complementary and connected to its efforts in the Alliance for the American Dream

“The $1 Billion Wage Gain Challenge will spur innovative thought, share best practices, and accelerate awareness of stagnant wages,” said Flynn. “Perhaps most exciting, it will materially change people’s economic well-being.”

The $1 Billion Wage Gain Challenge will launch alongside the Alliance for the American Dream, a network of four communities (each anchored by a public research university) that will provide access to capital and market for new ideas to support distressed communities locally. In its inaugural effort, the Alliance is challenging citizens to develop policy ideas or startup concepts that increase net income for 10,000 local, middle-class households by 10 percent by 2020, either by raising income or decreasing cost of living (e.g., in transportation, housing, utilities, food).

“In partnership with JFF, we are excited to introduce the $1 Billion Wage Gain Challenge,” said Thomas Kalil, chief innovation officer of Schmidt Futures. “We encourage other investors to join us in this bold challenge to find the most successful solutions to erasing the wage gap.”

Building on this momentum, at Horizons, JFFLabs also launched a new program to elevate promising work-based learning startups. JFFLabs is now accepting applications for a cohort of tech-enabled startups looking to create and scale career advancement opportunities for retail and adjacent sector workers through work-based learning strategies.


Horizons brings together 800 leading practitioners, policymakers and technology leaders across the K–12 and higher education and workforce fields, as well as innovators in technology, investing, and corporate talent development, to explore the new imperatives and solutions related to the future of work and learning. “As the future of work rapidly becomes today's reality,” said Flynn, “it is critically important that we come together to drive impact and equity.” Notable speakers include Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX; John Battelle, CEO & founder of NewCo; Nisha Patel, executive director of US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty; and Alan Krueger, economist, Princeton University.


JFF (Jobs for the Future) is a national nonprofit that accelerates the alignment and transformation of the American workforce and education systems to ensure access to economic advancement for all. JFF develops innovative programs and public policies that increase college readiness and career success and build a more highly skilled, competitive workforce. With 35 years of experience, JFF is a recognized national leader in bridging education and work to increase economic mobility and strengthen our economy. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter.