Since OpportUNITY began in 2014, every plan, action, success, and challenge has been collaborative. Small changes lead to long-term transformation. It starts with dedicated work groups focused on tackling specific barriers to poverty—and all of us doing our part!
In June 2014, more than 100 community members came together to learn about central Iowa’s strengths and the struggles of those living in poverty. The group represented four sectors in equal number: business leaders and philanthropists, government and school leaders, nonprofit and faith leaders, and community members who have lived with the stresses of poverty. We engaged a lived-experience group, which included single parents, low-wage and low-skilled workers, immigrants and refugees, young people, and those burdened with too much debt. They provided tangible and real-life accounts of the challenges of living in poverty.
Working together, this group of experts and advisors began by dividing the work of addressing poverty in central Iowa into key areas of focus. These priority areas formed to basis of the OpportUNITY plan, and the work groups that would move forward to develop specific strategies to address the challenges we face in each area. The eight priority areas are New Iowans, Re-Entry, Food Insecurity, Child Care, Housing, Adult Education & Jobs, Education: Pre-K through High School, and Transportation.
Many of those who attended the summits, as well as other stakeholders in the community, joined work group meetings for each priority area of the plan and provided additional input into the action steps needed to meet targeted performance measures. The final draft of the OpportUNITY plan reflected the work most crucial to making progress in an 18-month period.
The work groups continue to meet regularly to implement the action steps needed to meet established goals in each area. Each work group has identified the most effective ways to approach their work, including collaborating with other community groups, revising goals and action steps to address evolving community needs, and forming subgroups to better manage workloads.
Along the way, we are evaluating our work to keep moving toward success. This plan is our renewed commitment to achieving our vision. We have laid the groundwork for the next 2-3 years that will drive our collective efforts.