Working to help vulnerable families – particularly, low-wage workers – is a focus of the US Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation. Otis Rolley, senior vice president, leads the effort.
He explains, “We know that they are vulnerable because there are systems in place that have created policies and practice that really cut them off from opportunity. What we try to do through our grantmaking – both on the policy side and on the practice side – is create opportunities for them to achieve economic security and to have a pathway towards economic mobility.”
WorkingNation sat down with Rolley at the Milken Institute Global Conference 2021 in Beverly Hills as part of our #WorkingNationOverheard interview series. With Charting a New Course as the guiding theme, thought leaders and innovators shared ideas about the changing economy, worker development, education, tech, philanthropy, and more.
Rolley notes that the systems that have created disparity require comprehensive solutions. “We’ve recognized that a lack of access to capital and credit is what’s helping to create the wealth and income gap that exists in our country. We collect data and amplify the analysis of that data around banking institutions and corporations and how they are playing, and whether they are playing fair or not.”
Working toward eliminating that lack of access to capital, the Rockefeller Opportunity Collective earlier this year increased its committment to support BIPOC-owned businesses from $12 million to $15 million. The funding will be allocated to a collective of partners, including government agencies and nonprofits, in 12 cities with a focus on helping Black and Latino business owners. Says Rolley, “Contextualized technical assistance that really gets to the heart of the issues (faced) by some of these small businesses and entrepreneurs can really help them to grow.”
“On the economic policy side, we support – at the state level and the federal level – policies such as earned income tax credit and child tax credit. We also fund work that helps to amplify local voices in participation to create a much, much more progressive tax code,” he adds.
Rolley emphasizes COVID-19 has exposed not just economic disparity, but also in physical, mental, spiritual health, as well. He says, “You can’t have a country thrive and succeed if a large portion of members of that society are left at the very bottom. If you want full participation in our success, and you want us to actually be a strong and competitive nation, there can’t be such a gap as what exists right now.”
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