TOP Report 2020 
“Cornerstones: Economic Mobility and Belonging in Oregon”

As Oregonians, we care about our children. We believe that coming together on issues that matter for our children’s future—and for our future as a nation—is the right thing to do. Helping all children reach their full potential is core to this work.

But despite many efforts, deep disparities exist in every aspect of American life — from health and education to employment and housing — and too many children still lack equitable access to opportunity. We are increasingly aware that where children grow up matters deeply.

The issues our nation is struggling with aren’t new. For generations, opportunity has been limited for low-income children — and in particular, for Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) — due to long-standing, systemic, institutionalized patterns of discrimination and disenfranchisement. In order to dismantle systems of oppression and remove the barriers holding people back, we must identify the role that communities play in addressing these opportunity gaps.

Last year, OCF set out to understand where in Oregon children are getting ahead and where opportunity gaps persist. Through groundbreaking research in collaboration with Harvard-based Opportunity Insights, we wanted to shed light on what it will take to give more children opportunities in communities across Oregon.

The COVID-19 pandemic reached Oregon in March 2020, and the scope, scale and complexity of OCF’s work reflected an unprecedented magnitude of need. Within weeks, we launched what became our largest-ever responsive grantmaking initiative. At the height of the pandemic and its economic fallout, the tragic death of George Floyd — coupled with emerging data that broadly revealed the devastating, disproportionate impacts of the virus on communities of color and other marginalized populations — led protesters to turn out in more than 500 U.S. cities to support Black Lives Matter, now the largest movement in U.S. history. In an unrelenting series of events, wildfires blanketing our state inflicted extraordinary devastation on communities already reeling from COVID-19 and the consequences of racial injustice.

America is currently in crisis. Over the long term, we are also facing a dramatic economic, technological, demographic and cultural transition. These issues are complex, and transition is hard work. As we reflect on what we’ve learned, the uncertainty ahead and our commitment to preparing for the long term, this report speaks even more clearly to the urgency and magnitude of our state’s disparities. It brings socioeconomic data together with in-depth qualitative research to cultivate a deeper understanding of where and why communities are delivering greater opportunity than others. Its findings provide a window into the solutions that improve opportunities for Oregon children and families in diverse communities —rural and urban, richer and poorer. These communities are showing us how to nurture opportunity in our state:

  • Address the affordable housing crisis as a necessary step to increase socioeconomic and racial integration in our communities. OCF is leveraging the power of a statewide network of community partners and donors to catalyze action that will increase housing stability in Oregon. A continuum of approaches, research and investment opportunities allows donors, community leaders, service providers and nonprofits to collaborate on strategic solutions ranging from education and prevention to direct services and advocacy.  
  • Work in and with communities to strengthen social capital and community engagement in myriad ways. OCF supports leadership development, building bridges across divides, and local efforts to address the opportunity gap through community connections, dialogue and collaboration. Our grantmaking will invest in the leadership of Black-led organizations, who are best positioned to build social capital and resilience in their communities.
  • Increase living-wage employment through job creation and training to ensure that adequately trained workers can fill these jobs. Through grantmaking and impact investing, we support BIPOC, woman-owned and rural small businesses. We help ensure communities have skilled workers through grantmaking that focuses on career-connected learning. And we support working families by advocating for public policies like the earned income tax credit, which strengthen the state’s child care system and build family wealth.
  • Invest in education as an opportunity equalizer. Oregon’s landmark 2019 Student Success Act created urgency to ensure that all children are included. We invest in education for BIPOC and low-income students, including through our Black Student Success Initiative and Latino Partnership Program. In addition, we advocate policies for protecting state education equity plans and early learning programs and for supporting culturally specific social-emotional learning and arts education.

OCF will continue to act on these principles through an ecosystem of good that comprises thousands of generous donors who co-invest with the Foundation to achieve a more vibrant state; nearly 1,700 volunteers whose commitment of time and effort allows us to multiply our impact; local, regional and statewide nonprofits that tirelessly serve their communities; philanthropic partners who support promising practices alongside OCF; leaders across the public and private sectors who are building bridges and delivering lasting solutions to Oregon’s challenges; and community members in cities and towns across our state who are joining together to ensure that all our children can thrive.

Communities know best what will help local children succeed. We are committed to giving them the tools and resources they need to do this important work. Because systemic barriers remain for too many low-income and BIPOC children, local efforts must be better supported at the state and national level. Therefore, we will also work with our partners to identify and advocate for policy-level changes and interventions that will give all children in Oregon the opportunities they deserve.

Sonia Worcel

OCF Chief Community Impact Officer