Below, Deb Smolover and Shirley Sagawa of America Forward respond to David Brooks’ most recent New York Times column.
“In his most recent New York Times column, David Brooks called on President Obama to build an “Opportunity Coalition,” eschewing the stalemated legislative atmosphere in Washington to form a “bipartisan groups of mayors, business leaders, legislators, activists and donors into permanent alliances and institutions that will formulate, lobby for, fund and promote opportunity and social mobility agendas for decades to come.” This is an idea with great potential, and it’s fair to say that the social enterprise movement, broader and better organized than ever before, has moved in this direction already.
We also believe it is important that we not lost sight of, or give up on, promoting opportunity-focused national public policy, which is a critical lever in the effort to increase social mobility at scale. President Obama used his State of the Union address to touch on some interesting related concepts, including the College Success Initiative, workforce development and job training, and access to early education programs. “Opportunity is who we are,” President Obama said. “And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.”
Republicans in Congress have also touched on advancing opportunity, which suggests to us that there are legislative areas where both parties can work together. In our recent op-ed for The Hill, “The Untold Story on Upward Mobility,” we highlighted a few key areas that are ripe for bipartisan action. The CAREER Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the SKILLS Act all contain language and ideas that bridge the partisan divide. Bipartisan support is also growing around Pay for Success, National Service, and other approaches, suggesting it is possible to reform the architecture of opportunity around proven principles of innovation, rewarding results, and engaging diverse sectors to solve some of our nation’s biggest problems.
Smolover is the executive director of America Forward, a public education initiative of the venture philanthropy organization New Profit Inc., and leads the America Forward Coalition of over 50 innovative organizations achieving results in education, workforce development, and poverty alleviation. Sagawa serves as the senior policy adviser to America Forward and teaches social innovation policy at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown.
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