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Workforce Innovations for an Equitable Recovery

Thursday, October 28, 2021 -
11:00am to 12:00pm PDT
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The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt by communities for years. The subsequent economic downturn had a disproportionate impact on communities of color and frontline, essential workers. As we continue to battle the pandemic and plan for equitable recovery efforts we must highlight promising strategies to help build back a better and more just economy. Join us to discuss innovations in workforce models that better protect workers and their needs. Our speakers will highlight promising workforce strategies that include worker cooperatives and social enterprises that should be considered as we build back our region’s economy.


Leslie Payne, Inititaive Director, Irvine Foundation 
Leslie Payne joined The James Irvine Foundation in 2016 as a Senior Program Officer and was named Initiative Director in July 2021. Leslie leads Irvine’s Better Careers initiative, which focuses on readiness for and access to middle wage jobs. Prior to her work on Better Careers, Leslie led the culmination of Irvine’s Elections Policies and Practices work as well as the Arts Engagement program. She was also a part of the Foundation’s Fair Work initiative pilot, Strategic Partnerships team, and Research and Development team. Prior to Irvine, Leslie held a variety of roles in mission-driven organizations in the private and independent sectors, specializing in strategy, innovation, and partnerships. She serves on the board of Innovate Work Labs and Telescope. She has almost two decades of experience helping organizations learn, adapt, and grow to find effective ways of meeting complicated challenges. Leslie received her BA from the University of California, Berkeley and MBA from Georgetown University.

Fela Thomas, Sr. Program Officer (People Pathway), San Francisco Foundation 
Fela Thomas is a Senior Program Officer, People Pathway at the San Francisco Foundation.  Fela aims to support the resourcing of work that is going to continue to nurture the people, the institutions and the movements to bring about a just transition in this world. Fela also helps to hold the work and individuals that are connected to the People Pathway in advancing the economic security of low-income Black, Indigenous and People of Color in the Bay Area. Fela does this by listening, learning, and working with people engaged in that work, centering the people and communities closest to the problems.

Rani Langer-Croager , Co-Founder and CEO, Uptima Entrepreneur Cooperative
Rani Langer-Croager founded Uptima Business Bootcamp to address the challenges of traditional entrepreneurship programs and business accelerators in providing accessible education and mentorship to a diverse group of entrepreneurs. Rani has drawn on more than 15 years of experience advising organizations on strategic and financial planning, capital raising and mergers and acquisitions to develop the model for Uptima. Prior to co-founding Uptima, Rani was a member of the founding team and vice president at Altius Education where she raised over $30 million of capital to fund development of the company’s educational ecosystem.

Rani began her career as a successful investment banker and has led and participated in over 30 financing, merger, acquisition and joint venture transactions, representing over $15 billion in value, for leading technology companies. She has extensive experience supporting very early stage entrepreneurs as an organizer, coach and judge for numerous hackathons and startup challenges.

Matt Gereghty, Hasta Muerte Coffee 

Target Audience

This program is open to NCG members only. 

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