A new initiative to support governments in their efforts to promote economic mobility and reduce racial disparities in their communities.
The chances that a child born into poverty will move to a middle-class adulthood have been declining for more than 50 years. According to groundbreaking research by Harvard Economist Raj Chetty and Opportunity Insights, the zip code where a person grows up, as well as their race and gender, significantly impacts their upward mobility.
Government has been investing in programs and initiatives to promote economic mobility and address racial inequities. However, these are complex issues rooted in historical structural racism. To promote economic mobility and racial equity, government must be able to collaborate with its community to identify and implement the most effective and equitable solutions.
Led by Results for America, the Opportunity Accelerator (OA) initiative is a new collaboration with the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, Code for America, the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab, and the W. Haywood Burns Institute that supports government in promoting economic mobility, reducing racial disparities, and improving the wellbeing of their residents.
The OA seeks to work with government to build its capacity to collaborate with community partners and directly with residents to identify barriers to economic mobility, co-design programs and solutions, and ensure those programs and solutions deliver on outcomes that ultimately increase community wellbeing. The initiative will help government gain a comprehensive understanding of and strategic planning towards an equitable population-level outcome, such as:
- connecting young people who are not in school or employed to mentorship programs and apprenticeships to improve quality employment opportunities;
- providing employment services, benefit access, or income support to recently housed homeless individuals and families to enable a path to self-sufficiency;
- offering quality child care or after school programs to Black and Latino caregivers with young children to enable them to gain or maintain employment.
For government leaders, the initiative offers coaching and expertise for key stakeholders to support acceleration towards shared community-centered priorities. Through the initiative, participants will receive customized support and technical assistance to:
- Comprehensively plan towards an equitable population-level outcome such as collecting, analyzing and sharing data, setting a shared vision and defining metrics, developing and implementing effective and equitable strategies, programs, and services that center the priorities of the community, shifting and allocating funding to “what works,” and establishing systems and policies that ensure sustainability;
- Better understand and address structural racism and the ability to embed racial equity and wellbeing principles across government;
- Build trusted relationships and establish structures to better collaborate with community partners and residents to further understand problems and identify solutions;
- Collaborate with different levels of government and agencies within the same government to implement more effective solutions.
Government teams involved in the project will receive tailored support and technical assistance from up to five OA partner organizations until December 2023 to help develop and implement the project that contributes to drive an equitable outcome associated with economic mobility. Depending on the government needs and capabilities, government teams can receive technical assistance in areas such as strategic planning, implementation management, racial equity coaching, impact measurement, data practices and systems, improving procurement processes of services and goods and promoting user research and user-centered design, among other areas.
Government partners will be asked to commit to the following:
- Promoting economic mobility, racial equity, and centering community voices.
- Collecting, using, and sharing data that allows government to track and be transparent on programs progress, analyze impact indicators related to economic mobility, and evaluate changes to racial disparities.
- Ensuring that the government departments or programs have the staff capacity and resources to receive OA’s coaching and technical assistance (i.e. engage in bi-weekly working meetings with the OA and set aside 1-2 hours over two weeks to work in this initiative. Those 1-2 hours can be spent designing resident-centered activities, reviewing materials, or participating in training and workshops).
To be considered for selection, governments will:
- Be located in any state except California, Tennessee and Texas (given that the OA has already started partnerships in those three states).
- Not have elections and scheduled changes in chief executives before the end of 2024.
Governments that meet the above requirements are highly encouraged to apply.
How to apply
The application consists of two stages:
Complete and submit this online application by Friday, October 14, 2022. Applicants should propose opportunities that will advance equitable population-level outcomes, assert their vision for impact, and demonstrate their commitment to economic mobility and racial equity.
The application should be completed by the head of the government department or office that will lead the project that requires OA’s support. Mayor or Chief Executive approval is required. We encourage the engagement of program-level staff to generate responses.
Joint applications are encouraged. Applications may be submitted by two or more departments/offices of the same government unit (e.g. a city’s workforce department and human services), departments from different government units (e.g. workforce departments from both city and county), or in collaboration with community partners (i.e. place-based partnerships, regional backbone organizations, non-profit workforce board).
The OA will conduct interviews with select applicants and key community stakeholders.
We invite you to stop by our Zoom Office Hours on October 4 anytime between 12:30 and 2 pm EDT to ask questions about the initiative and how to apply.
The OA will assess the following components:
Opportunity for impact
1. Proposal related to economic mobility, racial equity, and/or the wellbeing of residents
2. Well-defined focus population
3. Clear population-level outcomes
4. Connection to OA offerings
Readiness to implement
5. Available resources, funding, and staffing
6. Able to identify key stakeholders (both from government and community)
7. Existing relationships and collaboration with community partners
8. Clear identification of project champions
9. Enabling local political climate and executive political will
10. Able to identify challenges
Experience on core OA capabilities:
11. Commitment and experience on racial equity
12. Willingness and experience in partnering with communities
13. Willingness and experience in collaborating with other governmental entities
- October 4: Zoom Office Hours, 12:30-2pm EDT
- October 14: Application deadline
- By October 28, 2022: Governments notified for interview stage
- Weeks of October 31 – November 11: Interviews
- By November 18: Final two governments notified acceptance into program
- OA Support Duration: December 2022 – December 2023.
Please feel free to send any questions or concerns to [email protected].
The collaboration is supported by Blue Meridian Partners, a national philanthropic organization that finds and funds scalable solutions to the problems that limit economic mobility and trap America’s young people and families in poverty.
“Transformative work is being driven across the United States by communities, and we believe in the power of local leaders to address racial disparities and realize social and economic mobility across their regions,” said Melinda Pollack, Managing Director at Blue Meridian Partners. “The impact of these community-level efforts can be catalyzed further through partnership with skilled and responsive national organizations committed to centering the unique cultural context of communities. That is why we’re excited to support the emergence of the Opportunity Accelerator to help drive toward the outcomes we collectively seek in place and at scale.”
About The Collaborators
Results for America:
Results for America is helping decision-makers at all levels of government harness evidence and data to make progress on our greatest challenges. Our mission is to make investing in what works the “new normal,” so that when policymakers make decisions, they start by seeking the best evidence and data available, then use what they find to get better results.
Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University:
Founded in 2015, The Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) at Johns Hopkins University, supports and coaches leaders and their teams to build a data-driven public sector that fairly and justly uses data, research, and analytics to better understand complex issues, engage residents, and implement policy interventions that lead to equitable outcomes and transforms the standard of living for underserved residents. We distill best practices from around the globe and offer technical support to help city leaders improve data and performance management. GovEx invests in communities by also providing in-depth training courses to educate government staff, at all levels, on the value of data in providing equitable services.
Code for America:
Code for America, a nonprofit founded in 2009, believes that government can work for the people, and by the people, in the digital age. We work with government at all levels across the country to make the delivery of public services equitable with technology. Together with thousands of volunteers across over 80 Brigade chapters in the U.S., we work with community organizations and governments to build digital tools, change policies, and improve programs. Our goal: a resilient government that effectively and equitably serves everyone.
Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab:
The Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab (GPL), based in the School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government, supports state and local governments across the country in designing and implementing solutions to pressing social problems. The GPL has conducted more than 200 projects in 35 states, helping innovative state and local government leaders improve the results they achieve for their residents. An important part of the GPL’s research model involves capturing the insights, tools and practices that are gained through these hands-on projects and sharing them with government leaders across the country.
W. Haywood Burns Institute:
The W. Haywood Burns Institute (BI) is a black-led national, non-profit with a diverse team of bold visionaries. Always challenging racial hierarchy and the social control of communities of color by the justice sector and other public systems, BI employs strategies and tactics to establish a community centered approach to transformation that is anchored in structural well-being.
Blue Meridian Partners:
Through its Place Matters portfolio, Blue Meridian aims to improve economic and social mobility in communities across the US through investments both in place-based partnerships and in supports to catalyze their success.