Michigan League’s new Prosperity Coalition will serve as a catalyst and convener, bringing together leaders to influence policies that promote greater prosperity for all people in Michigan – including children. The coalition will hone messages and coordinate advocacy, working toward making economic security and racial equity a reality in our state.
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes your program innovative, effective or remarkable?
Michigan League for Human Services CEO and President Gilda Jacobs:
Basically, the Prosperity Coalition is pulling together various organizations and networks – bringing them to the same table to talk about our shared goal of reducing poverty in our state, ensuring economic equity in our state, and looking at our work through a racial equity lens.
What’s unique is that we haven’t had anything of this scope in Michigan – ever. We had an effective coalition, the Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition, where we brought people from the faith community, direct services, the private sector, the public sector and the business sector. Bringing them all together very effectively showed us that with current data and the correct message, there is a lot of power in being able to provide a collective voice. The Prosperity Coalition expands and grows that concept. It is expanding the scope of what other organizations have done, but with a broader view of making certain that all people in our state have the tools to have better lives.
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
We are still very much in the infancy stage. But the best lesson is that there are so many organizations that recognized the need to have this table. We just had our first leadership meeting and everybody sitting around that table brought so much of their own perspective. We have 26 people on the Leadership Council at the table, but it’s still in formation. They are from all different organizations – a combination of various faith groups, labor, business, homeless shelters, human services, healthcare, children’s organizations, education, minority groups and many other areas.
At the end of the meeting, we agreed on a mission, vision and our direction. People are really hungry for that, and we could all get along. It was great.
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
So far, there hasn’t been a hardest lesson because the coalition is too new. We do want to make sure that we’re not leaving people behind – that we reach out to as many organizations and people that we can. We don’t want people to have hard feelings; we want everyone to be included as we move forward.
The very breadth and scope of what we’re trying to do makes us stand out because we can bring so many different voices to the table.
What really differentiates this program?
What differentiates us is that a lot of the partners that are involved with us and in this sector have their own mission and things that they do. What brings all of these people together is a shared mission and shared vision that is broad. And, by taking that shared vision, we’re able to have a much greater collective impact as we try to impact public policy down the road. The very breadth and scope of what we’re trying to do makes us stand out because we can bring so many different voices to the table.
How will that look down the road?
We plan to have programming for the entire coalition during the year. We will have speakers doing training in advocacy, messaging, and race equity. We will provide timely information, news and action alerts to our members. We’ll be able to provide people with the tools they need to be better at all of this. Messaging, in particular, will be an important part of what we do, so that we have common ways to talk about the issues. And the Leadership Council will meet during the year. We will grow and evolve and change depending on the current needs and on what we’re going to do in the future. The nice thing is, as we form this, it is a living group, and I imagine that it will ebb and flow with change as we move forward.
What are the keys to success for your program?
The keys to success will be the ability to share our common vision, impact public policy, communicate and message, and ultimately give people the tools they need in the trenches to be good advocates for the things that are important to them and obviously important to the coalition.
What do you foresee as the greatest outcome for the Prosperity Coalition’s work in the years ahead?
I would like to see the leadership of the Prosperity Coalition brought in on the front end when policy decisions are being made. I would like to see the Prosperity Coalition help create public policy that addresses the needs of economically vulnerable children and families in our state.
And I would like to see the Prosperity Coalition help create public policy that addresses the needs of economically vulnerable children and families in our state. If we can help drive good public policy, then I’ll know that we’ve been successful.