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$335 million place-based Blue Meridian partnership effort gets major boost from Steve and Connie Ballmer aiming to break cycles of poverty
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$335 million place-based Blue Meridian partnership effort gets major boost from Steve and Connie Ballmer aiming to break cycles of poverty

Place-based partnerships in three U.S. cities aggregate $335 million for community-driven plans designed to break cycles of poverty

In the United States, where you are born and raised too often determines your future social and economic success. Historic inequities across communities continue to limit upward mobility for too many young people and families.

To address this enduring challenge, place-based partnerships in Dallas, Spartanburg, and San Antonio raised a total of nearly $335 million in partnership with Blue Meridian Partners, as well as local and regional funders.

Their collective efforts and these new commitments serve as an indicator of the power and potential of the growing field of place-based partnerships—a community-led, outcome-driven model focused on breaking cycles of poverty.

Local leaders in Dallas, Spartanburg, and San Antonio are pace setters in a national movement and act as community agents of change, applying a rigorous methodology to leading place-based partnerships. Each of the three communities developed multi-year plans for how they will begin to improve critical economic and social mobility outcomes, from “cradle to career,” working at the regional and neighborhood levels. Local leaders leveraged dozens of partners in plan design and galvanized local funders to support their vision. Together, these place-based partnerships are expected to unlock billions in additional public and private funding within the next decade.

In Dallas County, TX, The Commit Partnership and Child Poverty Action Lab’s Opportunity 2040 Plan has raised $120 million. The plan aims by 2040 to cut by half the number of children living within poverty while doubling the number of young adults attaining a living wage.

In Spartanburg County, SC, Movement 2030, led by Spartanburg Academic Movement, raised $100 million. The initiative will ensure by 2030 that 65% of the county’s children enter school ready for success, up from 48%; and increase the percentage of high schoolers who enroll in postsecondary education from 59% to 70%.

In San Antonio, TX, the Future Ready Bexar County Plan, anchored by UP Partnership, raised $114 million to support plan implementation. The plan seeks to increase the percentage of Bexar County high school graduates enrolling in a postsecondary degree or credential program from 50% to 70% by 2030, and to scale three pillars for success – Healing, Access, and Voice – for and with young people.

Leaders from each community reflected on the historic nature of these investments:

“To arrive here, we collaborated with trusted partners and developed a long-term roadmap of reinforcing interventions that will benefit our entire Dallas County community,” said John McPherson, President of the Opportunity 2040 Fund. “While we know that this work will take more than a decade to be fully realized, this significant investment will help sustain our collective focus on strong schools and strong communities, and enable us to continually adjust based on data and experience.”

“Movement 2030 is our community’s plan to prepare every child for school success, to give every graduating student the opportunity to earn a degree or certification, and to provide resources to historically underserved neighborhoods,” said Dr. Russell W. Booker, CEO of the Spartanburg Academic Movement. “Through the support of our local and regional funders and especially the Duke Endowment, the plan is a clear roadmap and empowers Spartanburg to align our initiatives effectively and advance our collective mission so that everyone can thrive here.”

“More than 90 local institutions made concrete commitments to the Future Ready Bexar County Plan.   Alongside young leaders, these institutions are advancing a movement that will increase the economic mobility of our region,” said Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, Ph.D., CEO of UP Partnership. “The financial support of our local funders and Blue Meridian Partners is like jet fuel for our collective progress.”

Blue Meridian Partners, a national collaboration of results-oriented philanthropists, committed $150 million divided equally among the three communities as part of its Place Matters portfolio, of which Ballmer Group is an anchor funder. Funding from Place Matters catalyzed additional local funding tied to each community’s unique multi-year plan, bringing the total to nearly $335 million. The portfolio seeks to address previous barriers to sustainable, systemic change at the community level, including local organizations’ limited access to adequate and aligned funding as well as to supportive tools and resources like planning, data analysis and use, policy development, talent, and technology.

“This Place Matters investment reflects Blue Meridian’s belief that place-based partnerships have the potential to significantly improve outcomes for young people and families,” said Jim Shelton, President and Chief Investment and Impact Officer at Blue Meridian Partners. “We are excited about the shared vision held by leaders in each community and how they leveraged our capital to galvanize the resources they need to thrive.”

In addition to receiving initial planning support from Blue Meridian, all three place-based partnerships are members of the StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network, providing a rigorous approach to developing the capacities and resources essential for improving outcomes.

“We continue to be inspired by the potential that place-based partnerships can unlock for communities across the country,” said Terri Ludwig, President of Philanthropy at Ballmer Group. “As more and more communities adopt the place-based partnership methodology, they transform their challenges through collaboration and with community leaders at the center. We are deeply supportive of this methodology and believe it can truly be an important lever for change.”

Leveraging lessons from years of investing in social and economic mobility, Place Matters’ investment strategy takes a uniquely comprehensive approach to supporting the power of place as the nexus of progress: in addition to providing capital to nearly 20 place-based partnerships focused on improving life outcomes, Blue Meridian is also investing in the capacity of leading national organizations, like William Julius Wilson Institute and StriveTogether, to support the infrastructure and enabling conditions required for place-based partnerships to succeed.

“The geography of your birthplace should not dictate your destiny,” said Geoffrey Canada, Founder of William Julius Wilson Institute and President of Harlem Children’s Zone. “Investments such as in these three communities will begin improving social and economic mobility outcomes, but we know this is just the start. Only when we can match the resources to the scale of the problems will we see real, lasting change for our young people and families in communities across the country.”

Blue Meridian Partners is a pioneering philanthropic model for finding and funding scalable solutions to problems that limit economic and social mobility for America’s young people and families in poverty. In order to meet the scale of the problem, we provide transformative capital paired with capacity building support and strategic advice, empowering visionary leaders to dream bigger and vastly expand their impact, influence, and reach.

Our Place Matters portfolio aims to break the link between geography and destiny—first, we invest in place-based partnerships, through which local leaders collaborate on outcomes-focused interventions that foster equitable, intergenerational change within their communities; second, we invest in the capacity of other leading national organizations to provide critical infrastructure and enable the right conditions for these place-based partnerships to succeed.

Ballmer Group under the leadership of philanthropists Steve and Connie Ballmer is committed to improving economic mobility for children and families in the United States, funding leaders and organizations that have demonstrated the ability to reshape opportunity and reduce systemic inequities.

They focus on multiple impact areas and systems that can impact economic mobility – such as early learning, K-12 education, college and career pathways, housing, behavioral health, and criminal justice – and we support leaders and organizations that focus on undoing systemic racism and the barriers it has created.

Ballmer Group is both a national and regional funder – they have a presence and invest deeply in southeast Michigan, Washington state, and Los Angeles County. Ballmer Group was co-founded by philanthropist Connie Ballmer and her husband Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, founder of USAFacts, and chairman of the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Commit Partnership and the Child Poverty Action Lab, each data-centered and results-oriented civic infrastructure organizations, have collaborated to establish the Opportunity 2040 community investment plan and supporting Phase 1 Fund. This collaboration, grounded in the imperative of sustained, reinforcing investment in both stronger schools and stronger communities, aims to meaningfully advance economic mobility in Dallas County over the course of a single generation.

Central to the Opportunity 2040 plan are the use of robust data insights, human-centered design principles, community engagement, systems-level thinking, and targeted, sustained philanthropic interventions to improve the impact of public programs and funding, particularly for the region’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods and students. Learn more at commitpartnership.org, childpovertyactionlab.org, and opportunity2040.com.

The Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM) is a nonprofit organization working to improve economic mobility, anchored in building equity and academic achievement across Spartanburg County, SC. Led by SAM, Movement 2030 is a community-wide plan with the goal of improving school readiness and post-secondary attainment for thousands of Spartanburg residents across the county. Movement 2030 is coordinating critical resources and existing efforts among over 30 local foundations and nonprofits, educational- and faith-based institutions, and businesses to create the conditions for children and families to succeed in life, no matter where they are born and raised.

Founded in 2009, UP Partnership is a San Antonio-based nonprofit that convenes partners in Bexar County that provide healing, access, and voice to local young people to create equitable systems and ensure that all young people in Bexar County are ready for the future. UP Partnership believes that making sure all of our young people are future ready is our entire community’s responsibility. Led by the UP Partnership, Future Ready Bexar County is a community-wide plan that aims to prepare all young people in Bexar County for the future by emphasizing three crucial pillars for in-school and out-of-school success: healing; access; and voice.


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