Center for Advancing Opportunity Convenes First State of Opportunity in America Summit

CAO releases national Gallup TMCF Koch survey on education, criminal justice reform, entrepreneurship; features Nobel Prize awarded economist Sir Angus Deaton as keynote speaker

WASHINGTON, DC — The Center for Advancing Opportunity (CAO), founded last year to expand educational, social, and economic opportunities in fragile communities, will kick off its first annual State of Opportunity in America Summit today. The event will feature the unveiling of findings from the new Gallup TMCF Koch State of Opportunity Report – an unprecedented survey of thousands of people living in fragile communities across the US.

The report, a qualitative and quantitative survey, focuses on the perceptions of 6,200 people on the state of education, criminal justice, and opportunities for entrepreneurship in their communities. The perspectives included in the report span urban/rural, racial/ethnic and geographic divides. The findings will inform the research of academics working at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in those same communities as well as faculty across the country from other top institutions.

CAO is a center within TMCF that emphasizes listening and giving voice to members of fragile communities, empowering and informing research, and activating solutions from within these communities. It launched in January 2017 with a $25.6 million gift from the Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), which represents America’s 47 public HBCUs.

“HBCUs have long conducted research in fragile communities,” said Dr. Harry L. Williams, president & CEO of TMCF. “But with the unveiling of the State of Opportunity findings, we have a greater grasp of what residents perceive to be the barriers to opportunity that plague all fragile communities – no matter race or ethnicity, no matter whether they’re urban or rural.”

Taking place over two days, the Summit’s opening plenary on “Life, Death, and Wellbeing in America Today,” will include remarks from Princeton economist Sir Angus Deaton, who in 2015 received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his analysis of consumption, poverty and welfare. The opening plenary will be followed by four panels, each focusing on different aspects of the report and its findings on education, criminal justice reform and entrepreneurship in fragile communities throughout the country.

“This Summit was convened to explore some of the most pressing barriers to opportunity in fragile communities,” said CAO Executive Director Gerard Robinson. “Across the United States are thousands of fragile communities where opportunity is extraordinarily limited.  We are proud to come together at the first annual State of Opportunity in America Summit to hear from members of fragile communities themselves on what they see as their most significant and pressing challenges. Researchers are now able to consider those sentiments when deciding what research to pursue.”

“The Charles Koch Foundation supports professors at over 350 universities working to address the most challenging issues facing society today. As we have expanded opportunities for support, the response from students and professors has been inspiring,” said Charles Koch Foundation President Brian Hooks. “Our partnership with TMCF and its Center for Advancing Opportunity is particularly exciting because it helps to bring important voices into the conversation about how to remove barriers that prevent millions of people in communities across the country from realizing their potential. We’re thrilled to support the world-class faculty and students at TMCF member schools who are doing this important work.”

The Summit’s second day will include four events: a plenary on “The Economics of Opportunity,” a panel on CAO’s HBCU Campus Research Centers, breakout sessions centered on “Dispelling Myths About Fragile Communities,” and a closing plenary.