A funder collaborative led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced grants totaling $2.8 million in support of efforts to elevate and amplify diverse voices and broaden the national conversation around poverty and economic mobility.
With funding from Omidyar Network and the Gates, Robert Wood Johnson, James Irvine, W.K. Kellogg, Raikes, Winthrop Rockefeller, and Schultz Family foundations, grants of $100,000 were awarded through the Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge to twenty-eight projects focused on changing the dominant narratives around poverty and opportunity and providing a more accurate account of the reality of poverty in America, why it happens and to whom, and how to address it. Over the next eighteen months, grantees will collaborate and learn from one another and receive coaching and technical support as they incubate their projects, with an eye toward production and distribution of prototypes by the fall of 2021.
Selected from more than twelve hundred applicants, the grant recipients include Arrowhead Business Group Foundation (Fort Apache, Arizona), which will ask Native Americans living in reservation settings to explain how Native Americans became the poorest and most invisible people in the United States; the Institute for Policy Studies (Washington, D.C.), which will work with the Poor People's Campaign to help people from low-income communities craft op-eds designed to raise awareness of the structural and historical barriers to economic mobility in the United States and demand policy action to address those barriers; and Partners for Rural Transformation (Berea, Kentucky), which will share and highlight the stories of people living in poverty across geographically, culturally, and racially diverse rural communities.
"Research shows that our country's history of structural racism spanning generations denies economic opportunity to entire communities and subsequently robs them of their health," said RWJF managing director of program Jennifer Ng'andu. "In particular, Black and Latino Americans often live in conditions that move them further from opportunity and into the position where they are forced to make impossible choices about basic needs like food and shelter. This has become most apparent as the COVID-19 epidemic plays out, where families are negotiating between their family's well-being and jobs with inadequate protections and pay."
"Equitable access to opportunity will not be possible until we address misconceptions, racial bias, racism, and stereotypes and move to action guided by shared values, history, systemic solutions, racial equity, and human dignity," said Ryan Rippel, director of the Gates Foundation's Economic Mobility and Opportunity program. "[W]e will not change complex systems if decision makers are not following the voice and insight of those facing marginalization and victimization as a result of our economy and our institutions. One way to accomplish this is by ensuring that the actual stories of those who experience poverty are front and center with the goal of compelling new levels of action."
(Photo credit: Poor People's Campaign)