Our Impact from Pathways to Progress

December 13, 2023
Brandee McHale, Head of Community Investing and Development at Citi and President of the Citi Foundation

In 2014, the Citi Foundation launched Pathways to Progress (Pathways), a job skills-building initiative to address the persistent issue of youth unemployment. At the time, our goal was to provide $50 million across 10 cities in the United States reaching 100,000 young people. 

Fast forward to 2023 – the Citi Foundation has invested more than $300 million globally in workforce preparation and entrepreneurship. But how did we get here? And what have we learned along the way? 

A hallmark aspect of the Pathways to Progress evolution has been the way we have sought to learn from our grantees, co-create programs that address critical needs, and listen to young people and the data. 

In addition, we have been able to bring Citi’s resources in service of the Foundation’s philanthropic dollars and grantees. This included bringing in Citi subject matter experts to lead workshops, convenings and support grantees through technical assistance; engaging over 10,000 Citi colleagues to volunteer as mentors or coaches and equipping young people with skills and knowledge to pursue successful careers; funding research that elevated young people’s voices; and leveraging Citi’s communication platforms to highlight the work of non-governmental organization (NGO) leaders and young people’s stories globally.

As we grew the reach and scale of Pathways, we also evolved our approach to grantmaking alongside it. Over the years, we placed greater emphasis on bringing young people and community leaders voices into our strategy formation, on being a stronger partner by increasing the flexibility of our grants so they can better build the capacity, agility and sustainability of our grantees partners, and issuing a series of Request for Proposal (RFP) programming in the U.S. for a more equitable approach to sourcing ideas for funding. In 2020, the effects of the pandemic, coupled with a focus on racial justice in the U.S. pushed us to rethink our approach at an even faster pace. Which is why we announced a $100 million expansion to support young people facing an uncertain and challenging economic future, focused on young people from underserved communities globally including young people of color in the U.S. 

We also had to rethink how we fund community organizations. The pandemic brought forth unprecedented challenges in delivering job skills programs. The Citi Foundation responded by providing flexible support to Pathways grantees so they could pivot their operations. We focused on building collaborations with community organizations on mutual trust and worked closely together to help ensure young people received the support they needed to prepare for an increasingly challenging economy. 

While we’re proud of our impact and evolution, our team is most proud to witness the tangible impact our grantees had on the young adults they served – including Rehab, a Syrian refugee who started a sewing business to support her family, Rafael, an entrepreneur based in Vietnam finding ways to make prosthetics more accessible to amputees, Karla, a young woman of color in Maryland entering the tech industry, or Juwon, a British apprentice, who is on her way to a career in the financial services industry thanks to the combination of an internship and mentorship. 

When we first launched Pathways, we set out to support the next generation. This generation is here and the young people we’ve supported throughout these years are now shaping the world. Their stories show us that, through trust, collaboration and incorporating youth voices, we can all help build more resilient and equitable communities. 

For a summary of our impact and learnings, read the Pathways to Progress Impact Report.