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Empowering Local Innovation: The Seeds of Economic Transformation

Alyson Wise — Former Associate Director, Economic Equity Opportunity
Michael Myers — Former Managing Director, Communications, Policy, and Advocacy
Sandy Davis — Senior Advisor, Bipartisan Policy Center
Tim Shaw — Senior Policy Analyst, Bipartisan Policy Center

Even as the U.S. economy enjoys one of the longest expansions on record, millions of Americans remain economically vulnerable—one crisis away from economic calamity, unable to access opportunity, and with limited mobility.

These challenges are usually approached as national phenomena. We talk about wage growth at the national level and the unemployment rate for the entire country. We look to the Federal Reserve for macroeconomic guidance on interest rates and watch Congress quarrel over taxes and food stamps, also at the national level. But economic vulnerability and insecurity are not uniform: they differ from Detroit to Dallas, and California to Connecticut.

States, counties, and cities—and their nonprofit and for-profit partners—are important seats of innovation when it comes to reducing economic vulnerability and boosting economic resilience.

Over the course of several months, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) sought out examples of local and regional innovations with support from The Rockefeller Foundation. With assistance from the National Association of Counties, we connected with county executives, nonprofit leaders, and for-profit executives to learn more about how they’re addressing economic vulnerability in communities both large and small, urban and rural. Through these conversations, we uncovered impressive policies and programs that:

  • Have an impact in reducing economic vulnerability or boosting economic mobility
  • Are capable of being scaled or replicated elsewhere
  • Are consensus-driven, even in an era of polarizing partisanship

From this work, we see that counties are remarkably creative in their use of assets (both financial and non-financial), their collaboration across organizational lines, and their problem-solving efforts. They are also on the front lines of service delivery for many federal and state programs.

At the Bipartisan Policy Center and The Rockefeller Foundation, we’re interested in lifting up these community-driven solutions and we see the value that the federal government can bring to helping test and, where appropriate, scale or replicate those local innovations.  Monday, on June 25th we will host an event to showcase these solutions and discuss how we can leverage our federalist system to spread innovations more broadly.

In parallel, we’ll publish a series of blog posts below to highlight a few examples of innovative local efforts we looked at in our research: a county-level effort to address the opioid epidemic; efforts by community colleges to help their local regions; and, innovations by credit unions to expand financial security. Stay tuned!

Local Efforts for Battling Opioid Crisis Offer Innovative Approaches

Tim Shaw, Senior Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project; Timothy Swope, Senior Policy Analyst, Health Innovation Initiative, Bipartisan Policy Center

In at least two areas of the country, health care providers, law enforcement, and others are closely coordinating their efforts which are helping to stem the opioid tide, which has taken a staggering toll on communities, with 116 people dying each day, and 42,249 total deaths in 2016 from opioid-related drug overdoses. This impressive coordination has shown that progress against opioids is possible.

Learn How

Community Colleges Offer Key Partnerships for Expanding Economic Opportunity

Tim Shaw, Senior Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, Bipartisan Policy Center; Dane Stangler

Community colleges enroll four in ten American undergraduate students, and one-quarter of full-time undergraduates. They have come to be seen as integral to addressing some of the most persistent U.S. economic challenges, including retraining workers and helping rebuild the bridge to middle-class jobs in many areas. While community colleges can’t expand economic opportunity on their own, the United States will not likely make much progress on inequality and mobility without the key role played by these schools.

Find Out How

Innovations in the Financial Sector Support Economic Resilience for Families

Tim Shaw, Senior Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, Bipartisan Policy Center; Dane Stangler

Financial innovation is not only the domain of big corporations, it can also involve local organizations trying to find ways to lift the financial outlook for individuals and families. Efforts to make financial innovation help economic mobility require public policy support to grow and expand. Federal and state government should work together to ensure that innovations can develop across the country to help build up the resiliency and predictability of people’s finances.

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