Agents of Change
Creating pathways of opportunity for all.
Within a generation,
every child in Charlotte-Mecklenburg will have an equal chance to achieve social and economic success.
In 2014, the Chetty Study ranked Charlotte last among the 50 largest US cities and Mecklenburg 99 out of 100 counties in upward mobility. Access to economic opportunity in Charlotte-Mecklenburg is far too often aligned with the zip code where one lives.
And Charlotte-Mecklenburg responded.
We are a community that cares about all our children - regardless of their income, background, race or zip code - and where all of our children feel they belong, have big dreams and have the opportunities to achieve their dreams.
Leading on Opportunity was created in March 2017. Our Leading on Opportunity Council is led by James E. Ford and Andrea B. Smith. The Council was formed in September 2017 to implement the recommendations of Leading on Opportunity's Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force Report, led by Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown and Dee O'Dell, who convened in 2015 to study economic mobility challenges in our region.
Our first Executive Director Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter joined Leading on Opportunity in February 2018 successfully leading efforts through the first phase of Leading on Opportunity's implementation through January 2020 championing the vision, establishing infrastructure, core values and implementing a racial equity framework. Brian Collier, Executive Vice President at the Foundation For The Carolinas and Co-Author of the report, is temporarily stewarding the work moving forward in 2020.
As charged in the Leading on Opportunity Report, we take a systemic approach to addressing the key determinants of early care and education, college and career readiness, and child and family stability, while simultaneously focusing on the cross-cutting factors of segregation and social capital.
Our Core Values
Diversity & Inclusion
We honor differences and center on diverse community voices to shape our work where everyone belongs.
We recognize our shared humanity and inherent dignity, working towards shared understanding.
We authentically connect and build relationships across all sectors of our community.
Challenge the Status Quo
We courageously disrupt systems to create new possibilities for opportunity.
We acknowledge everyone starts in different places and commit to improving outcomes so all children, youth and families rise.
Our Operating Principles
- We honor the fidelity of the work of the Opportunity Task Force in seeking systemic change to improve outcomes.
- We acknowledge power dynamics openly and ensure work is intentional in deploying an equity lens.
- We model respect for diverse opinions and engage in robust and candid discussion with a goal of achieving collective wisdom.
- We recognize the respect and trust placed in our work by the community and strive to ensure decisions are made with the highest degree of integrity.
- We openly communicate the decisions of the Council.
- We work alongside the community to mobilize resources and implement community-driven responses to recommendations of the Opportunity Task Force.
- We leverage media strategically to amplify awareness of our shared humanity and drive action towards increasing social and economic mobility.
Boldly Influencing Systems Change
Inspiring collective action across community.
How We Work
Rooted within a racial-equity framework, we share a mission to create pathways of opportunity so every child, youth and family in Charlotte-Mecklenburg can rise. Through Leading On Opportunity's community-informed strategies: we ENGAGE diverse voices uplifting community; we AMPLIFY stories and data shifting the narrative and celebrating community success; we INFLUENCE policies and practices building public will and shared community accountability ultimately resulting in transformative CHANGE.
Our community’s greatest leverage for tackling intergenerational poverty and breaking down barriers to economic opportunity will come from focusing on systemic and structural change.
The Impact of Segregation
Data clearly emphasizes Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s profound segregation by both race and income, and how significant a barrier it is to opportunity.Learn More
Early Care & Education
A child’s earliest years have a profound and lasting impact on their school success, their career success, and their lives.Learn More
College & Career Readiness
Two of every three new jobs now require some level of postsecondary education—training credentials, an associate degree, a four-year degree, or higher.Learn More
Child & Family Stability
Common sense suggests and research confirms that children and youth do best in stable households where they know what to expect and where they feel safe and secure.Learn More
Just as segregation cuts across all the determinants, social capital also carries tremendous power to influence outcomes in each of the areas.Learn More
We are grateful to so many organizations that support us in our mission.