From the Director – September 2018

By Janet Byrd

Happy September! There’s a hint of fall in the air, election season is in full swing, and RE:Conference is coming right around the corner!

Many of us at NP are focused on the coming election, and the choices that face us on the ballot. Neighborhood Partnerships is active in the campaign to pass Measure 102, which will support the creation of new homes across Oregon. We’ve also endorsed the housing bond for the Metro area, Measure 26-199. And, we’re strongly urging you to take a stand for fairness and vote No on Measure 105.

This week I’m spending my work week a bit differently. I’m in the Washington DC area with several members of the NP staff. We’re attending the Prosperity Summit, and being both stimulated and challenged. We are being challenged to examine our impact as individuals and organizations on the racial wealth divide, to build program infrastructure that will help people build assets for themselves and their children, to build relationships and community, and to use the power of new technology to increase both our impact and efficiency. And we are being stimulated by the many wonderful partners from Oregon and around the country who are here sharing examples, ideas, and motivation.

The Summit is just beginning as I write this, but already I’ve been challenged by Dr. William Elliott, now at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. An expert on Children’s Savings Accounts, he is best known for his research demonstrating the incredible and life changing impacts of children growing up knowing that they have even small amounts of money set aside for college. Dr. Elliott challenged a group gathered to discuss the future of children’s savings to go further than that, in order to really make a difference in the racial wealth and opportunity gap we see embedded in our communities. He challenged us to build the universal, opt out infrastructure we’ve been designing, and to find ways to fund the accounts for kids who need them with enough money to really make a difference. He has some ideas about how to do that, too – we’ll be talking about those more once we’re back in Oregon.

The session with Dr. Elliott was another reminder that the challenges we face aren’t simple, but they are solvable. To build assets, to create housing opportunity, to address the racial inequities pervasive across Oregon, we need to embrace the challenge, embrace the complexity, and keep examining our impacts on the communities most in need. A good idea is not enough. We need policy that builds on the experiences of our partners, and we need programs that work in real life as well as on paper. We look forward to continuing this work with all of you.