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Some of the Foundation-Building Efforts

Some of the foundation-building efforts over the last year include:

Guidance was provided by key thoughts from individuals who attended the 2014 Summit:

  • No one decides to live in poverty
  • Get to know people in poverty and care about them as individuals
  • We need jobs that pay livable wage
  • There is no such thing as poverty, just 100 different reasons why people are poor.
  • We need to develop a plan and sustain action, not just be well meaning people talking about it
  • There is no silver bullet, if there was we would have end poverty a long time ago
  • It will take lots of different changes to move the needle on poverty
  • Youth need mentors- better chances for them to be successful

The Leadership Roundtable has met every other week since late June 2014. The 14 member team is made up of interested individuals representing business, schools, government, non-profit, and lived experience with poverty. The work of the group has included: building a membership database sharing and celebrating quick wins and inspired efforts in the community, informing the membership throughout the process through newsletters and presentations, developing an OpportUNITY website and building momentum as we move toward building and implementing a community plan.

A group of 46 community members representing business, philanthropy, government, schools, non-profit, faith and people living the stresses of poverty conducted Listening and Learning Sessions to find:

  • Characteristics of the life they want to create.
  • What is helping them to create that life?
  • What is getting in the way of creating that life?
  • What would help people most, to get out of poverty?

These community members engaged over 184 individuals in 22 group and 31 individual sessions between October and December of 2014. The majority of session participants were currently living in the stresses of poverty in Polk, Dallas and Warren Counties of central Iowa. A report was prepared summarizing major themes from the listening and learning sessions and is included in the Appendix of this plan. This report will help all of us look at the kind of community we want to live in, what is going well for some people and what challenges some people face. Each of us can find some small or large actions we can take to allow more people access to greater opportunities in our central Iowa community.

  • Close to 900 concerned people have signed on to support the OpportUNITY work including people from all walks of life, from all corners of our community. Regular newsletters updated all individuals on the list and expanded their knowledge and understanding about the work being done and the depth and impact of poverty in our community.
  • Individuals took their part in reducing poverty seriously and demonstrated their commitment in meaningful ways such as a local business owner who went back to work the next day after participating in the Summit and gave a long-term, low-wage employee a substantial raise.  Another participant accepted the challenge and wrote an editorial for the Des Moines Register, making a difference by using her skills and work platform. A member of the Leadership Roundtable connected with a participant and has committed to being her mentor after she graduates.
  • The Opportunity Leadership Team and the Opportunity housing subcommittee had the privilege of meeting with metro housing experts on August 13, 2014.  The purpose of the meeting was to increase the shared understanding of affordable housing opportunities in the community and determine next steps on developing a collective strategy to create prosperity for all. The Housing Team studied existing regional organizations discussed their projects & initiatives to help the housing workgroup identify “WINs”.
  • The Data Work Groupresearched, reviewed and synthesized data to support the poverty reduction work in the year ahead. The first major task was to review the poverty data to identify ways in which this information may affect our work.