A Funder Gets Behind an Innovative Approach to Matching Young People With Jobs

The Rockefeller Foundation has been dedicating a ton of money to finding jobs for young people around the world. Its Digital Jobs Africa program links unemployed young people in Africa with global companies looking to fill information communication technology (ICT) jobs. A key idea, here, is connecting corporations offering digital scut work like data entry and low-end transcribing with young people who have the skills and who are more than willing to do the work. The foundation’s efforts in the U.S., meanwhile, involve pushing employers to open more doors for disadvantaged young people, including encouraging businesses to look past credentials to focus on actual skills. 

Related: Rockefeller Pushes for Success Skills Building for South African Youth

Rockefeller's employment work is notable for its emphasis on innovative approaches to a problem that has often thwarted both foundations and government agencies. Its support of the company Knack is just another example of the foundation’s willingness to fund untested—and potentially high risk—solutions to the world’s youth unemployment problems.

Rockefeller awarded Knack a $1 million grant in support of the company’s job-matching technology aimed at hooking up disadvantaged young people to jobs in the U.S, South Africa and India. While there is some geographic crossover here, the grant was awarded out of the foundation’s U.S. Youth Employment initiative.

So what is Knack’s high-risk, high-reward effort to help young people find jobs? Well, it involves playing a few simple computer games. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill computer games, however.

Knack uses mobile games to assess players’ strengths and abilities. While the users are plugging away at what may see like a mindless computer game, Knack’s algorithms are crunching data based on the gameplay to identify players’ capacities and potential. The users are then matched to job opportunities based on “their potential rather than their credentials.”

While the company does charge a small fee for many businesses, it is free to all schools and students.