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February 13, 2013 / Christian Clansky

A Voice from Philanthropy: “Opportunity” knocks

By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Last night, like many of you, I listened to President Obama report to Congress and to America on the state of our country. He touched on many issues, but the overall frame that resonated with me was opportunity. He said, “ It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government…opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation” and that “we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.”

Those sentiments capture what I see happening in philanthropy in our region. Funders are looking for ways to align their investments to promote opportunities. They are recognizing that opportunities for a quality education, opportunities for a job with a future, opportunities for that symbol of the middle class, a home, and opportunities for solid health care are all connected to each other and to moving citizens into the middle class.

What used to be siloed issues now come together in funders’ thinking as evidenced by their work on things like community wealth building, affordable housing, and farm-to-table initiatives. Under these umbrellas, multiple issues “converge,” a term that is increasingly the term of art, and addressing them together is a powerful recipe for success.

Like the president last night, funders are talking about increasing opportunities and growing the middle class. They are no longer talking about alleviating poverty. The “war on poverty” is a dated approach focused on deficits. Instead, funders are far more committed to building on the community’s assets. They are committed to expanding opportunity.

Philanthropy and government are both dedicated to improving our country – and it seems that we’re already talking the same talk. Now, how can both sectors capitalize on this, well, opportunity?

Related:  Obama, in State of the Union, makes case that middle class is job one (WaPo, 2/12)

Related: Full text and video of the State of the Union address

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