The Oregon Prosperity Agenda is a bold approach to creating a robust, thriving economy by removing barriers to overcoming poverty and empowering citizens to maximize their potential. The Initiative is working to ensure that people who are currently struggling to feed and shelter themselves and their families have access to critical resources. At the same time, it is taking an unprecedented approach to addressing the long-standing, systemic root causes of poverty so that far fewer people fall into its grasp. The Prosperity Agenda is led by First Lady Cylvia Hayes with the full support and participation of Governor Kitzhaber.
The quantitative goals of the Prosperity Initiative include:
• Reducing poverty from its current level of 17.5 percent to below 10 percent by 2020 and below
5 percent by 2025.
• Raising income levels to above the national average by 2020.
• Significantly reducing income inequality by 2025.
But the vision goes far beyond numbers. The main goal of the Oregon Prosperity Agenda is to create an economy that works for every one of us; an economy that is clean and sustainable and that provides opportunities for people – regardless of income, ethnicity, geography or gender – to achieve economic security and prosperity.
Success for the Prosperity Initiative will mean that all Oregonians have comfortable homes and enough to eat. All of our children, regardless of income levels, are getting a first-rate education. People in entry-level jobs have clear, navigable pathways to well-paid positions. Entrepreneurialism and innovation are thriving. Income inequality is shrinking dramatically.
We will be successful when nobody has to experience that uncomfortable helpless feeling of just stepping past a person who doesn’t have enough to eat or a place to sleep. We will have a sense of community and unity, knowing that we took on a bold mission and it is working. We all have enough. We all have dignity. We have dreams and aspirations and the belief that we can achieve them. Oregon is strong and vibrant because we have tapped the vast potential of all our people.
In order to turn this vision into reality, the Prosperity Initiative must become much broader than a First Lady’s project, or even an endeavor of state government. It must also gain the support of, and be shaped by, outside partners, rather than the expected and highly committed poverty advocates and low-income service providers. To this end, the Prosperity Initiative is actively engaging diverse partners, including the business community, American Leadership Forum Senior Fellows Network, agricultural sector, Regional Solutions Teams, state and local economic development organizations, local elected officials and community leaders. We are even engaging the Federal Reserve. As part of this work, the Oregon Business Council has become strongly engaged, and has added the goal of reducing poverty to below ten percent by 2020 as one of the top 3 goals of the Oregon
1) Meeting Current Needs
Oregon has a tremendous network of food banks and affordable housing facilities. The community organizations serving our low-income citizens are an inspiration and, given the tremendous state budget constraints, their services have never been more important. First Lady Hayes, Governor Kitzhaber and staff are supporting these organizations through the following measures:
• Raising awareness about these critical organizations and how people can support them in communities across
• Prioritizing state funds for critical support programs.
• Recent expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
2) Preventing Poverty in the First Place
While we are working to help the people who need help right now, we are also taking innovative actions to address the root causes of poverty and clear away systemic barriers to increasing prosperity.
• Educating people about the crisis and costs of poverty
While the human tragedy of poverty should be obvious, the full economic costs are poorly understood.
Children growing up in poverty have lower earnings as adults, poorer health and are more likely to be involved in
crime. Society bears these costs through higher health care, police and incarceration expenditures, and foregone
economic activity.1 Failing to address hunger costs Oregonians $2.1 billion annually, primarily from health care
costs associated with poor nutrition and educational losses for kids who are too hungry to concentrate.2 Poverty
is estimated to cost the U.S. approximately $500 billion annually.3
• Developing strategic partnerships
• Embedding poverty reduction strategies into the 10-Year State Budget Plan and the Governor’s education and
health care transformation initiatives.
Governor Kitzhaber’s top first-term priorities address poverty’s root causes. Reducing health care costs will
people forced to choose between rent and medical bills, freeing up resources for other issues.
public education by strengthening early learning will increase support for at-risk families. Kids
learn better when
they've eaten breakfast and slept in a bed the night before. The 10-Year State Prosperity Plan
is becoming an important tool for understanding the full implications of policy and budget decisions.
The Oregon Prosperity Agenda is implementing several projects.
• Prosperity Plan Launching Document
This is the first comprehensive poverty reduction plan in Oregon state history. As a starting point, the First Lady’s
Prosperity Team (a diverse group of public, private, service
providers, poverty advocates and business
representatives) took all the intended outcomes and recommendations that had been put forward in the 10-
Year Budget Plan
and applied a poverty reduction lens to them. The full plan will be completed by late 2014.
• Opportunity Communities and Poverty Simulations
Working with renowned poverty expert Donna Beegle, the Oregon Prosperity Agenda is implementing a series of
Prosperity Summits and Opportunity Conferences in communities across Oregon. Through this work, community
members who are currently not in poverty, sign up and are trained to become Navigators and commit to working
with community members who are in the crisis of poverty (known as Neighbors). The Opportunity
Conferences serve the
Neighbors, providing education on the systemic barriers to overcoming poverty and
connecting them to Navigators.
The poverty simulations are experiential sessions designed to educate participants about the everyday realities
of poverty. During the simulation, participants walk in the shoes of someone experiencing poverty. These
simulations enable people to identify personal assumptions and stereotypes and to gain a deeper insight into
the challenges and stress associated with poverty.
• Kiva Oregon
Kiva is an international organization that enables people to become investors in low-income entrepreneurs,
starting with loans as low as $25. Traditionally, Kiva has operated only in developing countries. Recently, Kiva
established a presence in the United States, including Oregon. Now, Oregonians will be able to invest in
fellow Oregonians starting with as little as $25. Learn more at zip.kiva.org.
• Oregon Solutions Prosperity Project
Oregon Solutions is a proven approach to convening diverse, sometimes adversarial, stakeholders around
complex community economic development projects. In the Prosperity Project, several hard-hit Oregon
communities will be targeted for assistance. Analysis of the poverty characteristics and mapping of community
assets and opportunities will be conducted. Then the Oregon Solutions process will be applied to working with
the community to implement strategies to reduce poverty. So far, projects have been conducted in Malhuer
county and Josephine and Jackson counties.
Martin Luther King once said that if we didn’t talk about race we would have racism. Similarly, poverty will not go
away if we ignore it. The Oregon Prosperity Agenda is spotlighting these issues, with a goal of maximizing our
potential and making Oregon a more prosperous place to live and do business.
For More Information:
Cylvia Hayes, First Lady of Oregon: 503-373-7489 or firstname.lastname@example.org
1. National Center on Family Homelessness. America’s Youngest Outcasts 2010. Needham Heights, MA.
2. Center for American Progress. Donald S. Shepard, Elizabeth Setren, and Donna Cooper. Hunger in America;
Suffering We All Pay For. October 2011.
3. Center for American Progress. Harry Holzer; Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Greg J. Duncan, Jens Ludwig.
The Economic Costs of Poverty in the United States, Subsequent Effects for Children Growing Up Poor. 2007.