By Janet Byrd, Executive Director
The Neighborhood Partnerships board and staff have adopted the statement above as a re-affirmation of the values that drive us to do the work we do. We are privileged to work in communities across Oregon with talented and dedicated partners who make lives better every single day by offering access to services, skills, stable and affordable homes, savings incentives, and supports.
We are always challenging ourselves to do a better job of understanding the barriers Oregonians face as they work to build stability for themselves and their families. We are already working with many of you to help you deliver the highest quality service, to support innovation and adoption of best practices, and to connect you and your great work to what’s happening across the state. We will continue to support advocacy and strategic communications that takes the long view, across political divides and election cycles, aiming to bridge differences and drive policy forward to better serve Oregon. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can be helpful to you in the weeks and months ahead.
Challenging ourselves to do the best job possible has also led us to delve into recent work and research into how policy can best drive equitable outcomes. Last month I shared a link to an article by Angela Glover Blackwell about how policy crafted around an inclusive goal often has unintended and very positive side effects. This week we’re reading a research report by the Institute for Assets and Social Policy and Demos about the racial wealth gap. It provides data on the limits of personal action in reducing disparity, as summarized in this article, The Racial Wealth Gap Is a Policy Problem, Not a Behavior Problem.
The title struck me, because here at Neighborhood Partnerships we believe deeply that we do need to support and drive behavior change around finances. We know that the ability to plan ahead predicts financial wellbeing almost as much as income; that incomes are increasingly variable from month to month or week to week; and that consumers in today’s challenging marketplace need access to good information and support. We also know that these are skills and behaviors that can be taught and learned with the right combination of information, coaching, and incentives.
At the same time, we know that policy design needs to be crafted to meet the needs of very different communities – rural communities, communities of color, coastal communities, for example – and demographics. We know that “universal” policies all too often benefit those who are already better off. We are advocates of what Professor john a. powell of the UC Berkeley Haas Institute on Inclusion calls ‘targeted universalism’. We articulate a universal goal – every Oregon child should graduate from high school. Then we acknowledge that achieving that goal will require a different, targeted strategy in each of the communities that struggle to meet that – different for students of color in Portland than for rural communities such as Reedsport and Fern Ridge.
You’ll see these efforts reflected in our work this year. We’re excited about our opportunities to put these theories into practice, and we welcome your perspectives, your ideas, your support, and your provocative questions.