Opportunity Accelerator Launched to Help Governments Drive Economic Mobility and Advance Racial Equity

In a new collaboration, Results for America, 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 will help governments work with place-based partnerships and residents to remove barriers to upward mobility and improve life outcomes

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Results for America announced the Opportunity Accelerator (OA), 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 to help governments promote economic mobility, reduce racial disparities in outcomes and improve the wellbeing of their residents.

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. This opportunity gap is a national crisis. The Opportunity Accelerator will support governments to help residents meet the life milestones vital to upward mobility by increasing the impact of the over $2 trillion U.S. governments spend each year to open opportunities.

The Opportunity Accelerator will work with governments to build their capacity to collaborate consistently with place-based partnerships and directly with residents to identify barriers to economic mobility, jointly design programs and solutions that meet the needs of impacted residents and make sure those programs and solutions deliver on outcomes that reduce inequity and increase community wellbeing. 

The OA will initially work in five communities to help local governments advance programs that reduce systemic barriers to residents reaching key milestonesacross life stagesthat lead to upward mobility. With the insights gained from these communities, the Opportunity Accelerator will scale successful practices to hundreds of governments nationwide, with the vision of strengthening the wellbeing of millions of residents. 

During the test phase of the project, the Opportunity Accelerator:

  • Worked with the City of Memphis and Shelby County, TN, to codesign solutions with a target population of young people ages 18-24, in order to reach and recruit more out-of-school youth to take advantage of WIOA-funded Workforce Mid-South programming.
  • Supported Alameda County, CA, in gathering feedback that will translate into a more inclusive outreach strategy for RFPs, with the goal of increasing access to government contracts for smaller and minority-owned organizations.  
  • Assisted Bexar County, TX, in creating a data infrastructure that will collect, analyze and share data that is needed to evaluate program effectiveness, identify resident-centered outcomes and engage community stakeholders, with the goal of improving services for Latina women who are living in poverty.

“Governments at all levels can use their resources and services to open opportunities and dismantle the systemic inequities that have held back communities, especially communities of color, for generations,” said Jennifer Park, the Executive Director of the Opportunity Accelerator, who has helped lead Results for America’s work with local governments. “The Opportunity Accelerator aims to transform the way governments work by building a new model where the people served by government programs help redesign them to actually work. We must build systems that create thriving communities and boost economic mobility for residents.” 

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.”

From the OA collaborative organizations:

Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University

“Public sector leaders need demographic data to inform their decisions and improve services and outcomes for our most vulnerable communities,” said Amber Ivey, Director of the ​Center for Government Excellence. The Practice Manager for Economic Mobility Courtney Bettle added: “Now more than ever, government and community leaders must be committed to working in deep collaboration with agencies, social service providers, and impacted residents to implement bold program and policy solutions that will close the racial-wealth gap and create long-term financial well-being for all.”

Code for America

“This partnership gets to the heart of our work to help government work for everyone in the digital age—starting with the most marginalized groups of people,” said Hashim Mteuzi, Code for America Director of Civic Tech Partnerships and Fellowships. “We believe the solutions to service delivery inequities start with including those who have been excluded. This collaboration puts marginalized communities at the center of service design, helping to chip away at systemic barriers and improve community wellbeing. We’re thankful for the opportunity to expand this critical work through the Opportunity Accelerator.”

Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab

“The GPL is committed to helping governments build socially-just service systems that reduce racial disparities and promote economic opportunity,” said Kailey Burger Ayogu, the GPL’s Managing Director. “The Opportunity Accelerator will work with governments to enable them to connect directly with residents and community-based organizations to design and implement services that achieve greater economic mobility. We are excited to be a part of this collaborative effort alongside cities and counties that are ready to chart a new path forward in engaging residents and delivering on a shared vision of wellbeing.” 

Haywood Burns Institute

“Opportunity Accelerator provides local governments with the chance to reimagine how they work with communities, particularly communities of color, to achieve racial equity by eliminating the structural barriers arising from a national history steeped in structural racism,” said the Executive Leadership Team at the W. Haywood Burns Institute.  

About the OA collaborative organizations:

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. 

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, 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. 

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.

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, 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. 

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