We have identified five areas where we hope to help others expand and extend their work:
Closing Data Gaps
One of the biggest gaps local leaders have acknowledged is the need for good data on many of the fundamental factors contributing to poverty in America. We don’t know what characteristics of neighborhoods have the greatest impact on increasing mobility. We don’t know what causes violence to go down in some cities, but not others. The economic mobility field needs more and better information to diagnose specific barriers to mobility and then develop interventions that work.
We’ve funded work to measure eviction rates for communities across the country for the first time. Now advocates can better allocate resources to help tenants, and policy makers can design policies that balance the interests of tenants and landlords.
We’ve also funded research that allows us to track how economic mobility varies neighborhood by neighborhood. This has produced powerful findings: even when children grow up in the same neighborhoods with parents earning very similar incomes, African-American boys still fare worse in later life than white boys in almost every single neighborhood in the U.S. This work is already leading to practical new interventions on the ground, such as helping families already moving relocate to higher mobility areas that are not dramatically higher cost.
Empowering Local Actors
Many communities around the country are trying hard to respond to the daily realities of poverty. But local leaders are often disconnected from each other, from state-of-the-art knowledge and from funding. We believe we can help address that isolation.
Our strategy aims to: systematically engage local leaders to find out what works and what gets in the way when tackling poverty; partner with local and national funders to incentivize and support the most innovative ideas to help local communities; and connect local leaders with experts to help them navigate their challenges.
Improving Coordination and Leverage
Because poverty is linked to a range of factors, such as health, housing, race, gender, family and jobs, we need much better coordination between sectors. Nonprofits, government, philanthropy and business also have to work together.
We plan to invest in: a hub to connect practitioners with funders so the best ideas are brought to life; partnerships with other funders around the development of new technologies and tools to help service providers with their jobs; and hosting opportunities to connect funders to communities and those in poverty so there is an ongoing exchange of information about what is needed, what is working and what is not.
Analyzing the New Economy
Working class jobs in the industrial economy used to pay a living wage. Working class jobs in the modern-day economy do not, and in many cases, they also don’t offer benefits, job security, full-time work or career opportunities. Our grantmaking is focused on five issues: 1.) understanding what career pathways and interventions lead to upward mobility; 2.) defining what attributes make a job a “good” job from the perspective of both workers and employers; 3.) encouraging employers to adopt practices that help workers address the challenges they face in and out of the workplace, build inclusive talent pipelines, and make sense for the business; 4.) helping workers access supports that make stability possible and ultimately lead to economic mobility and security; and 5.) investing in viable job-training models that reach non-college educated workers.
Increasing Public Understanding
Much of the language that is used – and what people who influence policies and programs believe about poverty – is often informed by misperceptions about why people are poor and how they become prosperous. This often leads to solutions that are misaligned and limit progress.
We will fund comprehensive research to identify the most accurate and salient messages about poverty and mobility, as well as strategies to help leaders and people start using this more accurate, constructive narrative to effect change.