Results for America

The Opportunity Accelerator

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

The chances of achieving the American Dream -- moving from a childhood of poverty to a middle-class adulthood -- has been in decline for 50 years. Social entrepreneurs and philanthropists have risen to address this challenge, but the number of people they serve is small compared to the scale of the problem. To increase upward mobility at the scale needed, we must transform the way governments invest the over $1 trillion that federal, state and local governments spend each year on vulnerable populations, especially the key cradle-to-career interventions that research indicates are important contributors to upward mobility.Given that governments fund the most important contributors to upward mobility, the Opportunity Accelerator will change government funding flows -- and governments’ tools and capacity to use these dollars well -- in ten of America’s distressed communities, providing examples to all American communities for how to help children born into poverty move up the economic ladder.

Problem Statement

The chances of achieving the American Dream—moving from a childhood of poverty to a middle-class adulthood—has been dwindling for over 50 years. Research shows that despite significant public and private investment, the place where a person grows up and his/ her/their race and ethnicity significantly impacts upward mobility.This decline is driven by multiple factors, including global macroeconomic forces, structural racism, and the complexity of influencing human behavior and social environments. To increase mobility, communities must invest more effectively in cradle-to-career interventions that research -- like the Social Genome Project - indicates are the most important contributors to a child moving from poverty to the middle class. Community collaborations and social entrepreneurs are mobilized to address many of these social needs, but their footprint does not match the scale of the problem. Philanthropic resources will never be sufficient to meet the needs of entire communities. Moreover, even the highest impact community initiatives are working on the margins rather than transforming the core public systems.To address the challenges at scale, improving the impact of government is the most critical and ripe opportunity. Governments are the biggest investor, spending over $1 trillion each year to improve the lives of the most vulnerable Americans. Yet, governments are not accelerating economic mobility at the pace and scale that our nation needs. The reason: they are not incentivised to fund what works; governments are not using modern tools and systems; and government employees lack the skills and capacity to make data-informed decisions for their residents.

Solution Overview

Governments play vital roles in either funding or directly providing services that drive mobility: early childhood supports; K-12 education; helping vulnerable young adults reconnect to work or school; access to higher-education; workforce training; and access to safety-net benefits to stabilize a family. Improving the impact of these government investments is a ripe opportunity for our nation.The most effective way to improve the impact is to: Change incentives: Through massive funding levers, federal and state governments can create incentives for local governments to fund higher-impact, evidence-based interventions key to upward mobility. Build results-oriented tools and capacity: Governments can build and adopt tools that will help them better understand economic mobility problems in their communities, including using performance management systems, data analytics and user-centered design technologies, and reward outcomes through results-based contracts. Create a skilled public workforce with a culture of results: Building the skills of the existing local and state government workforce to make data- and evidence-based decisions about human capital investments will increase the impact of these interventions and services and spur upward mobility. Through targeted support of governments the result will be: Ten replicable examples of population-level progress in America’s distressed communities in those areas research has identified as most important to upward mobility (e.g. kindergarten readiness);At least $150 billion in government funds and services are being delivered in more effective ways; and New problem-solving, results-oriented capacity in ten communities, their states, and in key federal agencies to use government levers to accelerate economic mobility.

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