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The Inclusive Economy

What’s That We Hear? A Field of Advocates Ready to Make Financial Security a Reality for All

By Fran Rosebush and Leigh Tivol on 02/09/2017 @ 09:00 AM

Tags: News

Ever have a gut feeling you need to talk to your friends? That’s how we felt after November’s election—that we needed to connect with our partners to hear how you’re doing and what you’re thinking about the changes on the horizon. So, that’s exactly what we did. We segmented the country into regions and enlisted the help of the Assets & Opportunity Network Steering Committee for a series of calls to get a pulse on our partners’ priorities and concerns, give people the opportunity to hear from one another on opportunities to work together, and learn more about how we can best support your efforts. As always, you showed up, ready to connect.

Last month, we brought about 400 practitioners, advocates and researchers together for eight “Virtual Regional Listening Sessions.” Through these sessions, we gathered data and feedback on national trends, regional priorities, emerging leaders and feedback on how to best work together moving forward. By the end of the sessions, we learned an enormous amount, and we’d like to share those takeaways with you.

Identifying National & Regional Trends

We learned that most people are concerned about the future of public and private funding for family financial security solutions. How will we help low-income families stay in their home? Save for college? File their taxes accurately and for free? Given that many of the social safety programs we value might make their way to the chopping block, there is a great deal of concern about how critical services will be delivered.

We also learned that there is an increased desire among nonprofit practitioners to engage more deeply in advocacy. There are a variety of ways CFED intends to offer more opportunities to engage more deeply in advocacy, but if you’re looking for an easy way to start, you can sign up to stay informed on key issues and share stories about the needs in your community.

On a related note, we learned that many advocacy groups are increasing their focus on state-level policy opportunities in the midst of federal uncertainty. Expanding tax credits for working families, reducing eligibility barriers to public benefit programs and strengthening consumer protections all sit atop these groups’ agendas.

Across every region, groups expressed a desire to connect more—people want to plug in, stay informed and ready themselves for action. Groups are also looking at the broader economic security picture and thinking about how to lock arms with folks in “adjacent” fields, such as environmental advocates, health care providers, criminal justice reform allies and more. One easy step for connecting with new partners: find your state’s Assets & Opportunity Network Leader.

At a national level, the listening sessions also made clear that three of CFED’s four federal policy priorities—expanding affordable housing, protecting the social safety net and ensuring strong consumer protections—were also the top issues in each of the eight regions. Our fourth priority area—turning the tax code right-side up—was not identified as a top-three priority, but has important implications for all aspects of our collective work to expand economic opportunity. Learn how here.

Finally, alongside these national trends were a number of nuances between regions, each of which are listed in this findings document. That there were so many unique priorities at the regional level in addition to the shared priorities among all regions suggests that there is a pressing need to more deeply understand the unique contexts that vary from one region to another.

What’s Next?

First, we want existing and potential new partners alike to know that we’re ready to stand with you. We’re eager to help prepare the increasing numbers of advocates who want to ensure financial security and economic inclusion is truly a reality for all. In this spirit, look out for new advocacy trainings and tools in the coming months. In the meantime, sign up for one of our four federal policy campaigns or check out the latest state- and local- level data on financial security.

Second, we look forward to working with the Assets & Opportunity Network Steering Committee to develop a plan to continue these regional dialogues. Almost 90% of all survey respondents said they’d like to continue these regional discussions. This means we have clear marching orders, and we’re using your feedback to refine these conversations to ensure they can best meet your needs. Stay tuned for future opportunities to connect with peers regionally.

Finally, we are committed to developing communications and messaging resources related to our shared policy priorities, as these will be critical to showing why these priorities are essential for expanding economic opportunity for all families. For example, we heard that there is a need for clear messaging on why turning the tax code right-side up is critical, how our policies will help close the racial wealth divide, and how all of these policies fit into our broader Household Financial Security Framework. If you have messaging and communications suggestions, resources or tools to share, please email assetsandoppotunity@cfed.org!

The Virtual Regional Listening Sessions were such a valuable way to hear from our partners across the country, and we learned so much about local and regional priorities and how we can better connect our partners. But we’re just getting started, and your contributions are key to strengthening our networks and our efforts.

If you weren’t able to join a session but want to share your thoughts, suggestions or ideas, please email assetsandopportunity@cfed.org. If you want to learn about future opportunities to engage, sign up for email updates.

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