Thanks to your support, Georgia Center for Opportunity is making significant progress in removing barriers to opportunity through Research & Development, Policy Advancement and Delivery. Please review highlights from 2013 and preview our work for 2014.

RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT HIGHLIGHTS

Central to GCO’s Breakthrough Process is the Research & Development Working Group. Each team is an expert panel from fields of government, academics, business and non-profits that convenes to evaluate research, field studies, public hearings and best practice observations to recommend evidence-based solutions to policymakers and service providers. Here are a few 2013 highlights from our current Working Groups:

Prisoner Reentry: Launched in July 2013, the team’s sixth meeting is scheduled for December 2013. The team has: visited five Georgia state prisons and two drug courts, conducted nearly four dozen interviews and completed initial research; developed policy recommendations on ways to improve employment opportunities for ex-offenders and presented the recommendations to the Governor’s Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform; and presented details of prisoner reentry work to a gathering of 70+ individuals in Washington, DC, who represent leading think-tanks from around the country and world, members of Congress and congressional staffers.

College & Career Pathways: Led by PhD researcher Eric Wearne, the College & Career Pathways team officially kicked off in November 2013. The team has: conducted dozens of interviews with education experts in Georgia, completed initial research and is currently narrowing its research agenda in this critical work.

Alternatives to Medicaid Expansion: This Working Group is in early stage development with an official launch targeted for January. The team is: conducting initial research on Georgia’s Medicaid program, including the details of Medicaid expansion, and expert interviews are in process.

POLICY ADVANCEMENT HIGHLIGHTS

GCO has made an impact through Education Advocacy during the 2013 legislative session resulting in two reforms signed into law:

  • Tax Credit Scholarship Program reforms, including expansion of the cap to $58 million per year.
  • Special Needs Scholarship reforms, including three specific enrollment opportunities each year.

Additionally, we spoke before the Georgia Senate committee to help prevent horseracing in Georgia and our VP of Policy Advancement, Eric Cochling, continues to serve on the Governor’s Task Force on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.

As part of our Grassroots Outreach efforts, the Policy Advancement team has:

  • Recruited and trained advocates on topics including: how to talk with a legislator, how to use social media, op-ed and blog writing and interviewing skills for print and broadcast media.
  • Organized the 2013 School Choice Celebration and Rally, drawing over 2,000 people (mark your calendars – the 2014 School Choice Rally is scheduled for January 28, 2014 at the State Capitol).
  • Participated in several panels on education reform, including the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus annual conference and Heartland event at the National Conference for State Legislatures.
  • Launched Georgia Parents Alliance, an effort to engage over 10,000 parents online to support school choice and reform (see www.georgiaparentsalliance.org).

BREAKTHROUGH DELIVERY HIGHLIGHTS

This past year our Breakthrough Delivery team has consulted with partner organizations such as Arete Scholars Fund and Every Woman Works to improve their delivery capacity, focusing on organizational branding, programs, operations and funding development.

We have established Breakthrough Norcross, a Collective Impact initiative uniting more than 30 partner organizations that serve the Norcross school cluster (includes students living in Peachtree Corners) to develop a shared vision for change: every child in the Norcross cluster will succeed academically, enter into a meaningful, self-sustaining career and develop into a contributing member of the community.

  • Breakthrough Norcross has more than 30 non-profit organizations committed to the Collective Impact initiative and others who have shown interest. In early 2014 we will approach more local businesses to join as partners.
  • The collective partners have identified key outcomes and corresponding metrics at each stage of a child’s life (e.g., early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence) that cumulatively lead to academic success, and will next research evidence-based interventions and programs available to bring about better outcomes at each stage.
  • If local organizations and programs that deliver desired outcomes do not exist in the Norcross community, the Breakthrough Delivery team will incubate programs to deliver services designed to bring about needed change.

2014 PREVIEW

As we move forward to 2014 we plan to continue the important work started in 2013 and launch several new initiatives:

  • Research & Development plans to assemble Working Groups that will focus on Stronger Families and Entitlement Reforms.
  • Policy Advancement will advocate for the reforms proposed by the Prisoner Reentry and College & Career Pathways Working Groups.
  • On the education front, Policy Advancement will pursue the establishment of Opportunity Scholarships that greatly expand the choices available to students in Georgia.
  • GCO will also pursue Benefit Corporation legislation in Georgia. This is a new corporate structure that allows social entrepreneurs to access venture capital while remaining true to their purpose (creating positive social benefit) and producing financial returns for investors. B-Corps are a promising platform for job creation, investment opportunities and growth of high-impact organizations focused on a range of social goods.
  •  The Breakthrough Delivery Team plans to launch up to two additional Breakthrough Communities here in Georgia and are already in initial talks to start these collective impact initiatives.