Press Release
Competition Update

FIVE FINALISTS ADVANCE IN THE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY CHALLENGE, A NATIONAL AWARD FOR A $10 MILLION GRANT TO IMPROVE THE ECONOMIC HEALTH OF LOW-INCOME FAMILIES

June 24, 2020

Chicago, IL, June 24, 2020 – Lever for Change, an affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, today announced the five finalist teams that will advance in the Economic Opportunity Challenge, a competition for a $10 million grant to improve economic opportunity for low-income individuals within the United States.

Selected from a pool of 160 applicants, the finalists represent projects focused on workforce development, asset building, and policy. One of the finalists will be selected as the $10 million Economic Opportunity Challenge recipient in November 2020, and each of the other four finalists will be awarded $100,000.

The finalists are now featured in the Bold Solutions Network, a searchable online collection of highly-rated, rigorously-evaluated proposals that emerge from each of the competitions managed by Lever for Change. Links to the finalists’ Bold Solutions Network profile pages and application videos, along with other project information are provided below (in alphabetical order by project title):

1. Chicago Asset-Building for Children (Chicago ABCs) (video)

  • Organization: Chicago Community Trust, Chicago, Illinois
  • Proposed Work Location: Chicago, IL
  • Project Description: Chicago ABCs, a coalition made up of the Chicago Community Trust, Heartland Alliance, Community Organizing and Family Issues, Family Independence Initiative, Chicago Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office will braid three proven strategies: child savings accounts, cash transfers, and visiting nurses in a dual generation approach to propel 4,600 families to economic security.

2. Making Freedom Free: Bail and Economic Mobility in the South (video)

  • Organization: The Bail Project (TBP), Los Angeles, California
  • Proposed Work Locations: Southern jurisdictions including Fulton County, GA (Atlanta)
  • Project Description: TBP will provide free bail assistance and wraparound services in six additional jurisdictions in the South and advocate for systemic changes to the pretrial system

3. Moving Families Out of Poverty Permanently (video)

  • Organization: Family Independence Initiative (FII), Oakland, California
  • Proposed Work Location: Chicago, IL
  • Project Description: FII will partner with the City of Chicago to move low-income families out of poverty, permanently. FII will invest directly in the existing strengths and solutions of low-income families and their communities, and remove the deficit-based criteria traditionally used to access support

4. Proven Pathways to Transformative Careers in Tech (video)

  • Organization: Per Scholas, Bronx, New York
  • Proposed Work Locations: National
  • Project Description: Per Scholas, a leading technology workforce development organization, will join The Financial Clinic and MDRC to propel 20,000+ low-income individuals into the middle class by helping them launch successful tech careers

5. Skills for America's Future: Changing Lives Through a Jobs-First Model (video)

  • Organization: Skills for Chicagoland's Future, Chicago, Illinois
  • Proposed Work Locations: Erie County, NY; Wayne County, MI; Suffolk County, MA; Denver County, CO
  • Project Description: Skills for Chicagoland’s Future (SCF) will drive economic mobility in 17 cities by placing 10,325 low-income individuals into meaningful employment over the next five years

Applications were evaluated during a three-month review process by more than 120 philanthropic and civic leaders, and subject matter experts with experience in economic development, public policy, youth opportunity, economic justice, and regional planning, among others. Applications were evaluated based on four criteria: magnitude of impact, strength of evidence, likelihood of success, and potential for scale.

Designed to help mitigate the increasing income inequality in the U.S. over the last half-century, the finalists’ proposed solutions will be even more critical given the devastation of COVID-19 on the U.S. economy and its disproportionate impact on low-income communities.

"Each of these potent solutions addresses the critical challenges we are facing in this moment – high unemployment, an historic recession, and deepening racial and economic inequality. The prospect of helping one or more of these projects to achieve scale is energizing.”

Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change

Over the next three months, the finalists will receive technical support to revise and strengthen their proposed solutions. “We are excited to work with the organizations as they use the planning grants to advance and further refine their projects to address the enormity of today’s challenges,” Dr. Conrad added.

In addition to the Economic Opportunity Challenge, which launched in October 2019, Lever for Change is also managing the following competitions:

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