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AFN and it's members are committed to expanding opportunity and prosperity for everyone.  Our shared economic prosperity depends on an expanding and inclusive economy which allows workers to earn a living that provides disposable income for investment in assets.
Given our changing demographics, expanding opportunity means affirmatively reversing the legal and systemic bias of the past with investments that intentionally close the racial and ethnic wealth gaps and help those with the desire, talent and will to succeed by connecting them to the necessary tools and products.  This effort requires parallel avenues to be holisitic, patience to see the results over time, and creativity to reverse systemic bias and barriers­­-after all that is a key role for our philanthropic sector.
In AFN's just released Strategy Spotlight, "Prisoner to Proprietor", AFN highlights funders and organizations who are providing former prisoners a successful re-entry into society and making participation in the economy a reality with an innovative, effective, if selective, strategy. Too many people of color, especially men, go to prison only to return to the community with huge legal and systemic hurdles that stand in the way of participating in the economy.  AFN's highlighted strategy works with the formerly incarcerated to become entrepreneurs.  The results show exceptionally low recidivism, and more importantly, successful men and women as employees and business owners employing others.
To confront the disturbing reality and consequences of the racial and ethnic wealth gap, philanthropy will need to keep investing in, and replicating, innovations that work to move households of color to real opportunity for prosperity.  

Joseph A. Antolín 



Chicago Foundation for Women Supports Passage of Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

Chicago Foundation for Women supported numerous organizations working to en sure thousands of nannies, house cleaners, home care workers, and other domestic workers in Illinois have the same employment protections as workers in other industries. 

Groups including   ARISE Chicago Latino Union and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law  worked in  coalition  for five years for the law's passage, which was recently signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner. The new law ensures that all domestic workers receive the state minimum wage, protection against sexual harassment, and a day of rest for workers employed by one employer for at least 20 hours a week. The law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2017.  


Investing in Business Ownership for Former Prisoners Helps Narrow Racial Wealth Gap

The formerly incarcerated face multiple obstacles and a lack of economic opportunity as they navigate re-entry. Business ownership and self-employment can play a crucial role in supporting formerly incarcerated individuals, particularly people and communities of color who are disproportionately affected by incarceration rates.

AFN's latest Spotlight brief, Prison to Proprietor: Entrepreneurship as a Re-entry Stratgy; Narrowing the Racial Wealth Gap,  shows how the formerly incarcerated face multiple obstacles and a lack of economic opportunity as they navigate re-entry.  It examines the crucial role business ownership and self-employment play in supporting formerly incarcerated individuals, particularly people and communities of color who are disproportionately affected by incarceration rates.

Programs featured in this brief [make a hyperlink to brief PDF] show promising strategies that provide the formerly incarcerated with the tools to support themselves and their families through business ownership. Evidence from these programs show lower recidivism rates which translate to reduced costs to government and society.

Funders play an important role in reducing the racial wealth gap and strengthening families by investing in business development and ownership opportunities that build hope and opportunity for the formerly incarcerated.



Webinar: AFN presents Early Distribution of Scholarships and CSAs
Join AFN and experts for a presentation on using early distribution scholarships to expand the impact of Children's Savings Accounts.

Benita Melton, Education Program Director with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, will moderate presentations by Martha Kanter, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Education at New York University and former Undersecretary of Education, and Patty Grant, Executive Director, Community Foundation of Wabash County.


6th Annual Asset Building Symposium Breakfast - Fostering Economic Equity In A Changing Bay Area

November 3, 2016  |  8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
Join Bay Area funders, nonprofits, public agencies, and policymakers for a conversation over breakfast around fostering economic equity in the Bay Area's rapidly changing economy. This event is designed to bring together the Bay Area asset-building field, from the experts to the newbies!

Our morning plenary will feature a " State of The State" update on key statewide asset building policies being proposed or implemented, and how you can take action to support these initiatives.   Following the plenary, we'll break into Conver-sessions. Di srupt the traditional, panel-led break-out sessions to elevate local perspectives in audience-driven conversations.
Conver-Session topics will include:
  The Changing Landscape of Low-Wage Work
  New Ways to Connect Health & Wealth
  Closing the Racial Wealth Gap through Microenterprise
  Homeownership in a Rapidly Gentrifying Environment
For more information, please contact Mona Masri, Western Region Program Officer, Asset Funders Network,



Mark your calendar for the Asset Funders Network 2017 Grantmaker Conference, May 2-4, 2017, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

AFN's unique funders-only conference brings together a diverse group of national, regional and community-based funders concerned about a common goal - providing individuals, families and communities with greater economic security and opportunities for growth.

By providing the latest research, insights, evaluation and guidance, this conference brings unparalleled perspective as well as opportunities to learn from each other and foster new partnerships.


Asset-Building's Very Own, José Quiñonez Wins 2016 MacArthur 'Genius'

"We have this notion in our society that poor people are poor because they are broken, or bad, or making bad choices. 

Here is a successful program based on completely different assumptions about poor people, that there is something good and honest in them, to survive and thrive regardless of the obstacles."
José Quiñonez
Congratulations to AFN partner and one of asset building's most important innovators, José Quiñonez of Mission Asset Fund, for receiving the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Award.  His commitment to helping low-income communities, which are so often excluded from the mainstream banking system, earned him $625,000 in the form of a MacArthur grant. 

What many may not know is that José Quiñonez   
crossed the border from Mexico to Calif ornia when he was only 9 years old, accompanied by his five siblings, driven out of his home after the death of their father and mother. Three decades later at the age of 45, this "Genius Award" comes as a tribute to Quiñonez's work on connecting low-income immigrants to mainstream financial services.
AFN is proud of the partnership we have shared with José. For years, MAF has been one of AFN's collaborators in identifying, developing and sharing promising strategies that ultimately help families and communities shift from getting by to getting ahead.  

Congratulations, José!  Well deserved!

LEARN MORE about  José Quiñonez  
READ Jose's earlier interview with The Wall Street Journal
CHECK OUT Mission Asset Fund
READ about MacArthur Fellows Program and what it means to be "Genius" 


New Study Shows Success with LISC Financial Opportunity Centers

An indepen­dent study by the Economic Mobility Corporation has found th at clients of LISC's Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs) are more likely to be employed year-round, to reduce non-asset related debt a nd to build positive credit histories than comparison group participants. 

These findings offer concrete evidence that LISC's FOC model is successful in helping low-income people reach their financial goals and create a brighter future for their families. The evaluation was conducted as part of a grant from the Social Innovation Fund to implement evidence-based solutions.
60% of Americans are Spending All or More than Their Income

New research from FINRA Investor Education Foundation's Financial Capability in the United States 2016 report shows that Americans' satisfaction with their personal finances has nearly doubled from 16% in 2009 to 31% in 2015. 

Unfortunately, the same report fou nd that just 40% of Americans are spending less than their income.

Studies Discredit State Policies That Punish Poor People for Saving Money

Proponents of asset tests argue that the tests save states money and shrink welfare rolls. New research suggests otherwise.   READ news coverage by "Governing"

READ CFED  work on asset limit policies
Report Looks at How Arkansas Families Grow Their Assets

Ar kansas has a long history of poverty, but even families living above federal p overty levels frequently struggle to make ends meet and build assets. 

These "struggler"  wages are above minimum wage, but still too low for families to reach financial stability. He lping this group build assets is essential to creating a strong middle class, encouraging entrepreneurship, and building a more competitive workforce.

A rkansas Advocates newly released, "Helping Arkansans Build Assets," takes a closer look at the history of asset building in Arkansas, and addresses policy recommendations to give all Arkansans a brighter future.



Black-White Wage Gaps Expand with Rising Wage Inequality

The distance between what Whites and Blacks earn is larger than it's been in almost 40 years according to a report just released by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington, D.C.

And the major reason?  Not education. Not work experience. Not whether you live on a farm or in a downtown apartment complex. It's discrimination, and it's born out in the data.
"The way that we measure discrimination in this report," said Valerie Wilson who analyzes race and the economy for EPI, "is that it's the portion of the gap that remains after we control for all the other factors that would reasonably influence one's earnings."
READ the story reported by NPR
DOWNLOAD the report
The Gap: Without Change, Black and Latino Families Won't Match White Wealth

A new CFED report released in August looks at the country's racial wealth gap, finding that if current public policies stay the same, it will take more than two centuries for black families to accumulate the same amount of wealth that white families have today. For the average Latino family, it'll take 84 years.

The study, entitled "The Ever-Growing Gap: Without Change, African-American and Latino Families Won't Match White Wealth for Centuries," gives suggestions to close that divide. Some of these policy recommendations include expanding eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit, removing barriers to retirement savings, and ensuring every child in the country has a Children's Savings Account.

Dedrick Asante-Muhammed, the director of the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at the Corporation for Enterprise Development, and Chuck Collins, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, were two of the report's authors.

  READ the report


Americans Building Towards Retirement

Most Americans with retirement savings build up their nest egg through workplace savings programs.

Nearly half of all U.S. workers do not have access to any type of employer-based account. Instead, these workers - who tend to work for small businesses at below-average wages - are left to fend for themselves.

States concerned about the huge gap between the amounts their citizens are currently saving and what they'll need for a secure retirement have pursued solutions of their own. California, Illinois, and Oregon have led the way by devising state programs that automatically enroll otherwise uncovered workers into an IRA-like product (often called "auto-IRAs,"), and other states such as Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Utah are considering similar arrangements and other approaches to expand coverage.

Employers cannot match employee contributions to state automatic individual retirement accounts (auto-IRAs), according to an August 25 Department of Labor (DOL) final rule that provides a road map for state auto-IRA laws to avoid Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) preemption.

The rule "is clearly intended to give a green light to state programs and eliminate ERISA fears," said Joshua Gotbaum, a guest scholar in economic studies with the  Brookings Institution. However, the rule's limitations on employers' involvement in s tate auto-IRAs prevent employers from contributing to them. "This means that individual employees can save but will remain at risk of saving too little or running out of money  by living 'too long,' " he said.


Welfare Reform Turns 20!

Last month, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity 
Reconciliation Act, the law that created the Temporary Aid to Needy Families or TANF program (affectionately known as welfare reform) turned 20. Below are some quick hits of the headlines that were garnered across various media outlets.

In an op-ed for the  Hill , Melissa Boteach and Rebecca Vallas discuss the work that still needs to be done in repairing the social safety net and the dangers in modeling other programs after TANF.

As a result of welfare reform, the amount of money states spend on cash assistance levels varies.  NPR's Pam Fessler and Chris Lehman examine the difference between two states in particular (Louisiana and Oregon) to see how TANF recipients make ends meet.

Ohio governor  John Kasich pens an op-ed for the New York Times on what needs to be done in order to fix the holes in TANF's programming-calling for increased state level autonomy.
The welfare program hasn't been updated since it was first passed 20 years ago-that needs to change according to the  Washington Post Editorial Board .

In a series of nine charts, the Washington Post's  Max Ehrenfreund details how welfare reform has impacted the lives of those in poverty.

Writing for the Atlantic , Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer call welfare "a shadow of its former self." The pair document the rise in extreme poverty and the lengths to which parents have to go in order to provide for their families. What is the cause of TANF's downfall? Too much state flexibility.


Lack of Progress on Child Poverty Reduction Prompts the Formation of New National Coalition

Amid alarming new Census data showing that nearly one in five children live below the
 federal poverty line, a coalition of national and state broad-based, child-focused organizations, has formed the  U.S. Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), a similar iteration of a group that successfully lobbied for policies that cut child poverty by half in the United Kingdom in 2009.

To ensure that child poverty reduction is prioritized in Congress and the next administration, CPAG will advocate for the adoption of a National Child Poverty Target to guide future budget and legislative decisions. Through the establishment of a child poverty target, the UK cut its own child poverty rate (measured in U.S. terms) by 50 percent during the effort's first decade (1999-2009). By contrast, the U.S. child poverty rate increased by nearly 18 percent, from 16.2 percent in 2000 to 19.7 percent in 2015.


The Middle Class Finally Gets a Raise

Americans have waited long, long time for economic news as good as the one they got earlier this month: Last year, for the first time since the Great Recession, incomes rose for the middle class.

The 5.2% surge in real median household income reported for 2015 by the  U.S. Census Bureau was the fastest  rise ever, lifting the nation's income midpoint by $2,800, to $56,500. 

Income gains were nearly across the board in ages, ethnicity, household t yp es and regions. The income gap between women and men was the lowest on record . The poverty rate was down by more than a point, as was the percentage of Americans lacking health insurance.

With the exception of rural Americans, whose stagnant income was an outlier,  2015 was a milestone , and for those of us in the business of helping advance economic opportunity and prosperity for low and moderate income people, this is something to celebrate.

C lick here to check out some of the media coverage:


Irvine Foundation's New Investment 
Areas Grant Close to $6M

The James Irvine Foundation recently announced four grants awarded through two new grantmaking areas  at the foundation - career readiness and living-wage work, and "voice and influence." To bolster efforts to help low-income working families and young adults succeed in jobs that pay a living wage, the foundation awarded $1 million over two years to the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) to expand its suite of services for the formerly incarcerated, $1 million to ICA Fund Good Jobs to continue its work helping entrepreneurs provide good jobs in low-income communities; and $3.3 million to  Year Up to expand its program offerings for youths. 

And in support of grassroots organizing aimed at increasing the political participation of low-income Californians, the foundation awarded a two-year, $500,000 general operating grant to the  Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) .



Today's Inequality Could Easily Become Tomorrow's Catastrophe

New York Times' Robert Shiller shares how the poor and middle class might end up living in a nightmare world of joblessness and danger unless we act to address the growing wealth.

The Near Impossibility of Moving Up After Welfare

Insights into welfare reform highlight the challenges recipients face in findi ng employment that will lift them out of poverty.

Is the 'Gig Economy' All It's Cracked Up To Be?

The explosion of the "gig economy" - the collection of online platforms that let workers sell their services directly to consumers on their own schedules - has lowered the barrier to entry for workers who need money quickly. The flexibility a gig affords can help individuals make extra money to pay off debt or to pay bills during gaps between jobs.

Gigs aren't replacements for full-time jobs with benefits, and it's worth considering what individuals give up if, increasingly, they are the only options. The problem is that temporary, contract and other "contingent workers" earn less overall than employees in standard work arrangements, the Government Accountability Office reported last year. They're more likely to live in poverty and receive public assistance. They're two-thirds less likely to have a retirement plan at work.

In the meantime, lawsuits continue over whether gig economy participants should be classified as employees or as independent contractors. Some proposals, like one from the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project, argue they should be considered an entirely separate class of worker so they get certain traditional benefits.

"I would like to see workers who are involved in the gig economy receive some o f the same protections that traditional employees receive and coverage under some of the  same laws," says Alan Krueger, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University and co-author of the Hamilton Project proposal.


Innovation Conference
October 9-11, 2016  |  
San Francisco, CA

Technology is changing how we live, work and play.  The Innovation Conference will bring together philanthropists, private foundations, community foundations, corporate foundations and CSR professionals to explore how emerging technologies can be used for social good.

Join Silicon Valley Community Foundation in uncovering how technology is transforming the areas of education, health, jobs and the economy, and big data - and how the philanthropic community can play a role.   APPLY TO ATTEND

Philanthropy Southwest's 68th Annual Conference

The Philanthropy Southwest Annual Conference draws several hundred attendees each year. 

Registration is open to trustees and staff of grantmaking organizations and provides the opportunity to connect with fellow philanthropists located or making investments in the Southwestern United States.   LEARN MORE 

"Getting Your Board on Board with 
Impact Investing"

Taking on impact investing often requires board approval. Yet impact investing is still quite new terrain for many board members. What's the best way to engage board members so that they are supportive of the development of an impact investing approach that best suits your foundation's mission?

Join this program where board members share how impact invest ing unfolded at their foundations. Hear their thoughts on optimal board education and engagement  processes, as well as how to help your board clarify its impact investing goals.   LEARN MORE & REGISTER

2016 Post-Election Briefing

Assessing the new policy and funding environment that will be created after the 2016 elections will be critical as we build compelling and successful agendas for advancing our work to support low-income families, workers and communities. 

Join GIST (Grantmakers Income Security Taskforce) for interactive sessions on:
  • Election outcomes and what it suggests in terms of opportunities 
  • and challenges facing families and communities across the nation;
  • Understanding 2016 American electorate (who voted and why);
  • Implications of the elections for effective communications and 
  • messaging;
  • Roundtable discussions on what this means for our work; and
  • Reflections on opportunities for individual and collective action in philanthropy.  


2017 Funders' Network Annual Conference

Funders from across North America will convene in Minnesota's state capital on the shores of the Mississippi River for learning, networking, sharing, and inspiration.   

Asset Funder Network 2017 Grantmaker Conference

Mark your calendar for the Asset Funders Network 2017 Grantmaker Conference, May 2-4, 2017, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

AFN's unique funders conference brings together a diverse group of national, regional and community-based funders concerned about a common goal - providing individuals, families and communities with greater economic security and opportunities for growth.


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