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Coded by Kids raises $1M to launch OnE Philadelphia for a long-term, inclusive tech pipeline – Funded by Bank of America and more

Originally posted on Philly on Oct 21, 2020.

The program, funded by Bank of America, Comcast NBCUniversal and the Lenfest Foundation, aims to work in communities of color to address diversity and inclusion in the tech and innovation space, and to deliver sustainable career opportunities.

Tech nonprofit Coded by Kids announced Wednesday that it was working with corporate partners to launch an inclusive talent pipeline project called the OnE Philadelphia initiative, or Opportunity and Equity for Philadelphia.

The initiative has raised $1 million from partners Bank of AmericaComcast NBCUniversal and the Lenfest Foundation to address diversity and inclusion in the tech and innovation spaces in the city with long-term solutions that are “designed to deliver high-quality, sustainable career opportunities for communities of color in Philadelphia.”

Coded by Kids, founded in 2014 by CEO Sylvester Mobley, offers young people software development, digital design, computer science and startup-focused education programs. The OnE initiative plans to counter what its partners — including Mobley — see as the city’s current focus on short-term solutions to systemic racial inequity by instead implementing a citywide tech education effort that will create a pipeline for high-level tech talent and leadership. And it’s not just focused on kids, but also on getting adults in underrepresented communities into life sustaining and high-opportunity jobs.

There are three strategies at the heart of the initiative, the org said: creating an integrated tech education, skill development and experiential learning ecosystem that targets high-growth and opportunity careers; building infrastructure needed to support that integrated ecosystem; and changing the way underrepresented Philadelphians look at tech and innovation to change the culture of the city.

Mobley told that this $1 million and these current partnerships are just the beginning of this long-term effort.

“We’re trying to address systemic inequity. It’s not a 12-month program,” he said. “People have to be willing to dig in for the long haul. It’s a long-term initiative, and it will happen over the course of many years. It’s something that hasn’t been done in Philly so far, and we have to get people to buy into it, and have to look to long-term outcomes.”

The first few months of the OnE initiative will focus on community buy-in, Mobley said — getting those not traditionally involved in the tech space to understand what’s available to them. In the past, initiatives like this haven’t worked because the time and effort wasn’t put in for community support, he said.

Eventually, OnE Philadelphia will identify and train 40 quasi-block captains, or folks who will become pillars for tech and innovation in their neighborhood. While it’s not just a Coded by Kids initiative, Mobley said the org will make some related changes, such as changing its annual coding competition for teenagers to be more neighborhood-based and inclusive.

The funding from corporate partners will go toward future community-focused initiatives and grants for other nonprofits that OnE will work with.

“We’re saying, ‘We want you to support this pipeline we’re building, and in order for you to do that, we know there’s going to be a cost,’” Mobley said. “Grants can help cover that cost.”

Comcast’s investment in OnE Philadelphia comes from the company’s multi-year $100 million commitment to fight injustice and inequality, and the Lenfest Foundation said the funding supports its commitment to “finding solutions for life-changing impact in Philadelphia for years to come through strategic investment and fostering collaboration.”

And the Bank of America funding comes from a $1 billion, four-year commitment it established this summer to address issues that are fundamentally connected to economic mobility — like access to workforce development opportunities — to build more sustainable communities.

“The work that Sylvester and his team have done so far to put this plan into action is inspiring and it’s a pleasure to be a part of this transformative workforce readiness initiative,” said Jim Dever, Bank of America’s Greater Philadelphia market president, in a statement.

But the success of a diverse talent pipeline will also take buy-in from multiple city stakeholders, Mobley said. The OnE initiative likely has to work with community orgs and leaders, corporate partners and eventually the City of Philadelphia itself to actually address the roots of racial inequity, he added.

“People often say the system is broken, and what I try to point out is, the system is functioning exactly as it was designed to, to drive inequity,” Mobley said. “Part of that design was intentional disinvestment. You can’t fix disinvestment with disinvestment. The only way we’ll fix it is funders committing to longterm, sustained funding.”

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