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“We See Hope.” 100+ Leading Social Entrepreneurs Urge Presidential Candidates to Invest in Learning, Livelihoods, and Government that Delivers

America Forward’s policy briefing book offers a comprehensive blueprint to advance equity and expand opportunity in America. 

January 22, 2020 (Washington) – Problem solvers whose work touches 9 million lives across 15,000 communities in America have released a new vision and policy briefing book for the 2020 Presidential candidates and current policymakers. 

The book, entitled “United to Move America Forward: A Policy Playbook From 100+ Social Innovators To Advance Equity And Opportunity In America,” was released under the auspices of the America Forward Coalition, a group of more than 100 social entrepreneurs leading powerful, innovative change-making programs and advocacy efforts on the ground across the country.  “At a time when our nation feels desperately fragmented, we see hope. The America Forward policy playbook, ‘United to Move America Forward,’ offers 35 game-changing policy proposals for advancing equity and expanding opportunity in America.  The transformational policy ideas in the book stem from the ground-breaking work of over 100 social innovators leading results-driven organizations that are solving America’s biggest problems in communities across the country every day,” said the group’s leader Deborah Smolover, Executive Director of America Forward and a Managing Partner at the venture philanthropy fund New Profit.

The policy briefing book is intended for candidates and policymakers at all levels of government who are committed to harnessing the power of government to transform local results into lasting national impact.  Noting the continued and growing challenge of inequality in America, and its debilitating consequences for our nation’s future dynamism and competitiveness, the America Forward briefing book focuses its policy recommendations on three critical areas:

How children learn 

Advances in neuroscience and other areas over the last decade have dramatically increased our understanding of how children – especially children who have experienced poverty and trauma – learn and develop. As a result, a new movement to revolutionize learning and make education more equitable has taken root. To maintain and build on this momentum, the briefing book suggests bold policy changes including:

  • A place-based “Early Childhood Accelerator Fund” that makes grants to states in partnership with persistently poor communities. The fund would spur the development of early learning systems that have a place for every child (including those whose families cannot pay), meet their needs, recognize the primary role that families play, and provide ongoing professional development.

Jack McCarthy, President and Chief Executive Officer of AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation noted “In the past twenty years, we have learned a great deal more about how young children’s brains work. It has opened up exciting possibilities for early learning experiences while also highlighting the effects of early trauma on teaching and learning. There is a tremendous need to catalog, align, document and integrate the standards, curriculum, professional learning, and progress monitoring tools to support high-quality early childhood teaching and learning at scale. Cities need incentives to invest in innovative demonstration projects that increase access to effective early learning models that provide young children with the attributes and skills to thrive in schooling, like early childhood teacher residency programs, innovative funding for early childhood facilities and technology that serves as a force multiplier for teaching and learning.”

How people and families can thrive in the Future of Work

The seismic shift in the economy and workforce has the potential to yield huge opportunities, but there is also a very real risk that underserved people and communities will be left further behind. A paradigm shift is underway in how we think about preparing people to navigate this change, focused on new approaches to skill-building and creating alternative pathways to careers. The briefing book offers concrete policy ideas that will strengthen this effort, including:

  • Reframing the “future of work” discussion to include talent in the social sector, which is badly needed and critical to preparing and supporting workers in other fields. We can do this by scaling national service, providing free college to financial aid-eligible students who commit to work in shortage fields like nursing, teaching, or social work or underserved communities, and opening up the constricted public-sector talent pipeline to innovators, as well as those with relevant lived experience and proximity to major social challenges.

How government can rebuild trust and accelerate change 

Government agencies continue to operate under a set of norms that focus on compliance rather than outcomes, resulting in disconnected programs that can’t evolve to achieve better results. For any of the transformative advances above and elsewhere to succeed, government needs to evolve and play a strong role, and the briefing book suggests myriad ways it could do so:

  • By incorporating outcomes-based funding in every federal program, implementing performance-based payments that are contingent on achieving measurable outcomes, not complying with rules or counting the number of people served, in every major formula and discretionary grant program. 

“America Forward today reaffirms the importance of tying public dollars to measurable outcomes,” said Jake Segal, a Vice President at Social Finance. Social Finance is a member of America Forward’s Coalition and a leading Pay for Success innovator and practitioner. “This book builds on recent progress with a vision that puts Pay for Success approaches into dozens of federal programs, builds capacity for evidence-based solutions, increases equity, and quantifiably improves the lives of families across the country.” 

The America Forward Coalition will be engaging directly with the Presidential campaigns on these important issues, building on similar efforts that have been undertaken during every Presidential election cycle since being founded in 2008. To date, the Coalition has achieved notable successes.  To date, America Forward has:

  • Advocated successfully in making $1.7B in federal funding per year made available to outcome-driven programs
  • Crafted the first federal tiered-evidence innovation fund (the Social Innovation Fund), and influenced the creation of a White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation during the Obama Administration
  • Played a lead role in advocacy around successful legislation including: the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (2009), the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (2014), the Every Student Succeeds Act (2015), the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (2018), and the Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act (2018) 

To read America Forward’s “United to Move America Forward Policy Playbook” click here. For more information about America Forward, visit www.AmericaForward.org.

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