Building a More Inclusive Workforce

In the summer of 2012, the Disability Funders Network invited the Council to participate in a Capitol Hill forum for foundations and corporate funders with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to address the continuing employment challenges people with disabilities still face many years after the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Exacerbated by the loss of one million jobs for these workers during the Great Recession of 2008, Senator Harkin expressed a desire to engage the foundation sector around the need for more awareness and creative solutions to this national challenge. 

In the fall of 2012, the dialogue was expanded to include the National Governors Association (NGA), The Chicago Community Trust, and the U.S. Business Leadership Network, a corporate nonprofit, representing 5,000 businesses, that helps business drive performance by leveraging disability inclusion in the workplace, supply chain, and marketplace. Governor Jack Markell of Delaware, the 2013 Chair of the NGA, offered his signature initiative of employment of people with disabilities as an organizing framework for future collaborations between States, corporations and businesses, and the foundation sector.

The National Summit on Building an Inclusive Workforce was held in May 2013 in Wilmington, Delaware. Led by Governor Jack Markell, the meeting was co-hosted by the Council and the US Business Leadership Network. The unprecedented convening of 170 people included representatives from 46 foundations, 26 corporations, and Administration officials from the US Departments of Education, Labor, Transportation and Defense, as well as the US Office of Personnel Management. The event offered a unique opportunity for foundations to engage with businesses and public sector officials in identifying strategies that would lead to significant positive impact on the workforce participation of people with disabilities in the next three years.

What is the role of the Council?

  • Work collaboratively with national business, academic, and public sector leaders to increase the awareness of the philanthropic sector about  the depth of the disability unemployment problem and
  • Create a venue for foundations to participate in the development of a set of cross-sector common priorities that could advance a renewed national vision of employment success for all people.

How can you get involved?

Contact Stephanie Powers at


Access the diversity and inclusion resources on our site.