More than 50 years after the war on poverty began, and despite the impact public benefits have had in successfully tackling poverty, the persistence and pervasiveness of poverty remains an ever-present barrier holding back large numbers of children and families in America.
While the conversation about poverty’s causes, impacts and proposed solutions has come a very long way, the places where discourse occurs have become very broad and the conversations can often be divisive. So finding the best thinking, the latest research, areas of consensus and actionable solutions can be challenging for those who are working to lift families out of poverty and onto a path toward economic security.
Enter Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, a web-based, one-stop resource for news, commentary, ideas and actions on the connections between poverty and other issues such as education, jobs, criminal justice, housing, transportation, health and more. Spotlight is a nonpartisan communications initiative that brings together data, research, perspectives and bipartisan debate on poverty and opportunity to one place that is both accessible and actionable.
With more than 43,000 monthly website visitors, 20,000 Twitter followers and 10,000 newsletter subscribers, Spotlight has emerged as the nation’s leading platform for bipartisan opinion, news and research on poverty and economic opportunity. Spotlight’s audience includes leading journalists, elected officials from both sides of the aisle and researchers, as well as advocates and leaders of nonprofits, foundations and think tanks actively working to create solutions to raise families out of poverty.
“We will get nowhere, if we can’t find areas of consensus,” said Jodie Levin-Epstein, deputy director at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), the host organization that operates Spotlight. “We have had many comments from our readers and viewers who say they are impressed by the civility of the conversations on Spotlight. They didn’t think that could happen in this political environment.”
CLASP works to advocate for public policies and programs at the federal, state and local levels that reduce poverty, improve the lives of low-income families and create ladders to economic security for all.
“I really appreciate the nonpartisanship of the site,” said Washington Post Opinion Writer Michael Gerson. “I like the focus on problem solvers – it provides a real contrast with the modern partisan media.”
Levin-Epstein highlights the fact that Spotlight’s efforts have led communities across the country to take specific action. For example, during a recent Spotlight audio conference with the Oregon Business Council, members discussed their decision to make creating solutions to poverty one of the council’s top three priorities. In a survey of listeners following the webcast, organizations in Arizona, Maine, Michigan, and St. Louis all indicated they were inspired to begin or refine their own plans for engaging with businesses to address poverty in their regions.
Melissa Broome, deputy director of Maryland’s Job Opportunities Task Force (JOTF), is both a consumer of Spotlight news and a content contributor.
“I trust Spotlight. The newsletter is so well laid out – the news is easy to digest and easily relatable to the issues my organization cares about. And then to discuss Maryland’s campaign for paid sick days (in which JOTF is one of 150 coalition partners) on the Spotlight webcast gave us the ability to speak about the campaign in a slightly different way in order to talk about the positive impacts of the campaign for Maryland’s businesses,” she said.
With a $500,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), Spotlight has begun diving more deeply into the critical connections between racism and poverty, specifically providing capacity to focus special attention on racial equity. The need to build awareness around the intersection of racial equity and the full spectrum of poverty and opportunity issues is the focus of a special Race and Poverty section of the website.
“As an organization focused on increasing access to employment opportunities for low-wage, low-skilled workers, information on racial equity will help us in our work,” said Broome. “The interconnectedness of these issues has always been a priority for us.”
Gerson said, “We need sources for analysis of depth on the connections between race and poverty. We get an urgent wake-up call when something like Baltimore or St. Louis happens, and the discourse is suddenly attuned to race and poverty. It’s a fuse of American life that has been lit – an unfolding crisis in American life. We need sustained attention on these issues.”
“The connections between race and poverty and race and opportunity are undeniable,” said Levin-Epstein. “We look forward to sharing stories and reports from some of the Kellogg Foundation’s grantees who are really driving solutions and leading the conversations about these issues.”
Levin-Epstein encourages all of the foundation’s grantees to consider Spotlight as a resource to inform their work and a platform to share the latest research, stories, and effective outcomes of their efforts nationally and in communities.