What is Opportunity

Our Approach

Since OpportUNITY began in 2014, every plan, action, success, and challenge has been collaborative.

Small changes lead to long-term transformation. It starts with dedicated work groups focused on tackling specific barriers to poverty—and all of us doing our part!

Our Story


The OpportUNITY Journey

We UNITE

We Unite

In June 2014, more than 100
community members came together to learn about central Iowa’s strengths and the struggles of those living in poverty. The group represented four sectors in equal number: business leaders and philanthropists, government and school leaders, nonprofit and faith leaders, and community members who have lived with the stresses of poverty.

We engaged a lived-experience group, which included single parents, low-wage and low-skilled workers, immigrants and refugees, young people, and those burdened with too much debt. They provided tangible and real-life accounts of the challenges of living in poverty.

We STRATEGIZE

We Strategize

In June 2014, more than 100
community members came together to learn about central Iowa’s strengths and the struggles of those living in poverty. The group represented four sectors in equal number: business leaders and philanthropists, government and school leaders, nonprofit and faith leaders, and community members who have lived with the stresses of poverty.

We engaged a lived-experience group, which included single parents, low-wage and low-skilled workers, immigrants and refugees, young people, and those burdened with too much debt. They provided tangible and real-life accounts of the challenges of living in poverty.

We TACKLE

We Tackle

Many of those who attended the summits, as well as other stakeholders in the community, joined work group meetings for each priority area of the plan and provided additional input into the action steps needed to meet targeted performance measures. The final draft of the OpportUNITY plan reflected the work most crucial to making progress in an 18-month period.

The work groups continue to meet regularly to implement the action steps needed to meet established goals in each area. Each work group has identified the most effective ways to approach their work, including collaborating with other community groups, revising goals and action steps to address evolving community needs, and forming subroups to better manage workloads

We EVALUATE

We Evaluate

Along the way, we are evaluating our work to keep moving toward success. This plan is our renewed commitment to achieving our vision. We have laid the groundwork for the next 2-3 years that will drive our collective efforts.


 

If central Iowa’s population remained the same, 52,030 more people would have had to become financially self-sufficient this year to reach the Income goal for 2020 of 75%.1

We are making progress

The percentage of families in Polk, Warren, and Dallas Counties who are financially self-sufficient increased to 65.9% in 2016 from 65.2% in the previous year, according to the latest U.S. Census data.

This gain means more central Iowans can pay for basic needs and begin to build assets and thrive. It’s the first increase central Iowa has seen since 2012.

 

Our Successes

In 2016, 11,003 more central Iowans were
thriving than the year before.

self-sufficient chart

U.S. Census data also showed:

  • 1,265 fewer individuals were living below 100% of poverty, a change to 11.1% of the population from 11.5% in the previous year.
  • 355 fewer individuals were living between 100%-184% of poverty, a change to 12.3% from 12.6%.
  • 1,264 more individuals were living between 185%-249% of poverty, which has not changed from 10.6% of the population.3

We attribute these positive changes to our community’s commitment and collaborative work to tackle the critical issues that cause people to live in poverty.

While we have experienced successes and frustrations since OpportUNITY began in June 2014, the number of individuals and organizations invested in fighting poverty continues to grow, and progress is being made through small actions that have a huge impact on central Iowans.

For example:

  • Three new mobile food pantries were launched in Polk and Dallas Counties to increase access to food through the actions of the Food Insecurity work group.
  • In 2018, through advocacy efforts, $7.6 million was added to the state budget to expand Child Care Assistance to working families who faced the loss of benefits with a small increase in pay.
  • The Iowa Legislature repealed a law that automatically revoked driver’s licenses of non-driving drug offenders. This removed a huge barrier for citizens returning from prison.

What makes us proud of Central Iowa?

Greater Des Moines (DSM) is receiving top rankings in many categories, recognizing our community’s many strengths as a region. Here are some of the latest accolades:

  • #1 State in the Country – U.S. News & World Report, 2018
  • #1 Best Place for Millennials to Live in the Midwest – Growella, 2017
  • #1 Best Affordable Place to Live in the U.S. – U.S. News & World Report, 2017
  • #3 Best Place to Live with a Low Cost of Living – Business Insider, 2017
  • #3 Most Popular City for Millennial Homebuyers – LendingTree, 2017

JOIN THE FIGHT

Click the button to join a work group, or get additional information about the OpportUNITY initiative.