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Empowering Local Innovation: The Seeds of Economic Transformation

Even as the U.S. economy enjoys one of the longest expansions on record, millions of Americans remain economically vulnerable—one crisis away from economic calamity, unable to access opportunity, and with limited mobility.

These challenges are usually approached as national phenomena. We talk about wage growth at the national level and the unemployment rate for the entire country. We look to the Federal Reserve for macroeconomic guidance on interest rates and watch Congress quarrel over taxes and food stamps, also at the national level. But economic vulnerability and insecurity are not uniform: they differ from Detroit to Dallas, and California to Connecticut.

States, counties, and cities—and their nonprofit and for-profit partners—are important seats of innovation when it comes to reducing economic vulnerability and boosting economic resilience.

Millions of Americans remain economically vulnerable—one crisis away from economic calamity, unable to access opportunity, and with limited mobility.

Over the course of several months the Bipartisan Policy Center sought out examples of local and regional innovations with support from The Rockefeller Foundation. With assistance from the National Association of Counties, we connected with county executives, nonprofit leaders, and for-profit executives to learn more about how they’re addressing economic vulnerability in communities both large and small, urban and rural. Through these conversations we uncovered impressive policies and programs that:

  • Have an impact in reducing economic vulnerability or boosting economic mobility
  • Are capable of being scaled or replicated elsewhere
  • Are consensus-driven, even in an era of polarizing partisanship

From this work, we see that counties are remarkably creative in their use of assets (both financial and non-financial), their collaboration across organizational lines, and their problem-solving efforts. They are also on the front lines of service delivery for many federal and state programs.

 At the Bipartisan Policy Center and The Rockefeller Foundation, we’re interested in lifting up these community-driven solutions and we see the value that the federal government can bring to helping test and, where appropriate, scale or replicate those local innovations.  Monday, on June 25th we will host an event to showcase these solutions and discuss how we can leverage our federalist system to spread innovations more broadly.

In parallel, we’ll publish a series of blog posts to highlight a few examples of innovative local efforts we looked at in our research: a county-level effort to address the opioid epidemic; efforts by community colleges to help their local regions; and, innovations by credit unions to expand financial security. Stay tuned!

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