Credit: Super Tiny Magnet

On June 24, 2020, Lever for Change announced the five finalist teams that will advance in the Economic Opportunity Challenge, a competition for a $10 million grant to improve economic opportunity for low-income individuals within the United States.

Selected from a pool of 160 applicants, the finalists represent projects focused on workforce development, asset building, and policy. One of the finalists will be selected as the $10 million Economic Opportunity Challenge recipient in November 2020, and each of the other four finalists will be awarded $100,000.

The five finalists are listed below in alphabetical order (follow links to their Bold Solutions Network profile pages for more information):

  1. Chicago Asset-Building for Children (Chicago ABCs) (video)
    Chicago ABCs will braid three proven strategies: child savings accounts, cash transfers, and visiting nurses in a dual generation approach to propel 4,600 families to economic security.
  2. Making Freedom Free: Bail and Economic Mobility in the South (video)
    The Bail Project will provide free bail assistance and wraparound services to low-income individuals in 20 jurisdictions across the country and advocate for systemic changes to the pretrial system.
  3. Moving Families Out of Poverty Permanently (video)
    FII-National will partner with the City of Chicago to move low-income families out of poverty, permanently. FII will invest directly in the existing strengths and solutions of low-income families and their communities, and remove the deficit-based criteria traditionally used to access support.
  4. Proven Pathways to Transformative Careers in Tech (video)
    Per Scholas, a leading technology workforce development organization, will join The Financial Clinic and MDRC to propel 20,000+ low-income individuals into the middle class by helping them launch successful tech careers.
  5. Skills for America's Future: Changing Lives Through a Jobs-First Model (video)
    Skills for Chicagoland’s Future will drive economic mobility in 17 cities by placing 10,325 low-income individuals into meaningful employment over the next five years

Designed to help mitigate the increasing income inequality in the U.S. over the last half-century, the finalists’ proposed solutions will be even more critical given the devastation of COVID-19 on the U.S. economy and its disproportionate impact on low-income communities. "Each of these potent solutions addresses the critical challenges we are facing in this moment – high unemployment, an historic recession, and deepening racial and economic inequality. The prospect of helping one or more of these projects to achieve scale is energizing,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change.

Over the next three months, the finalists will receive technical support to revise and strengthen their proposed solutions. “We are excited to work with the organizations as they use the planning grants to advance and further refine their projects to address the enormity of today’s challenges,” Dr. Conrad added.

Additional information about the award and process can be found in the press release.