Will Coley Joins The Opportunity Agenda, Leads New Work on Anti-Poverty

August 30, 2016 Betsy Theobald Richards

Insights from The Opportunity Agenda

When President Bill Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, he wanted to “end welfare as we know it.” That quote perfectly encapsulates the problems this law has had since its outset—“welfare” should not be the enemy, the enemy should be poverty, and the restrictions on economic mobility and opportunity that Americans face as a result of it.

Will Coley

Of course, a bill not designed to end poverty did not end poverty. According to data from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the number of families with children living in poverty actually increased 21 percent between 1998 and 2014. At the same time, the number of all families in the United States increased 16 percent during this period.

Will is now exploring how The Opportunity Agenda can build on the expertise we have developed in collaboration with partners to make a real difference in ending poverty.

There is potential to make a change, though, as many Americans consider poverty to be a significant national problem, even if it is rarely discussed in the current campaign season. A consistent majority of Americans feel that government has a role to play in reducing poverty, and support several high-profile policy solutions. And we have identified the stereotypes and information gaps about causes and solutions that stand in the way of greater support for change. Our task now is to tell a new story, rooted in shared values, that informs, persuades, and activates key audiences. The Opportunity Agenda has been working on this for many years.

Will Coley is working as part of the Opportunity Agenda team to help develop a Communications Hub to amplify the voices of organizational partners and the larger social justice field. It is a new project launching as part of the organization’s economic opportunity initiative. We want to increase the quantity, quality, and coherence of the field’s communication and move priority audiences. The idea is to move hearts, minds, and policy for real change: to eradicate poverty, reform the criminal justice system, and support just and humane immigration reform.

Will comes to this work after many years of producing media, digital strategy, and outreach campaigns for organizations working on immigration reform and human rights. He has created digital storytelling for nonprofit organizations working for social change such as the CultureStrike, Women's Refugee Commission, Detention Watch Network, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Will is also interested in audio. His radio stories have been broadcast on 99% Invisible, the BBC, PRI's the World, KCRW’s Unfictional, Transom.org, and Georgia Public Broadcasting, among others. Will has a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University and completed the Refugee Studies certificate program at the University of Oxford. In 2011, he attended the first-ever Transom Radio Story Workshop.

Will is now exploring how The Opportunity Agenda can build on the expertise we have developed in collaboration with partners to make a real difference in ending poverty. With the support of the JPB and Kellogg foundations, The Opportunity Agenda will connect the work of advocates already working for infrastructure improvements, early childhood services, job quality, paid leave, elder care, Medicaid expansion, legal challenges, criminal justice and civil rights enforcement.

If you want to join us in eradicating poverty, we encourage you to draw from our tools, or to reach out to Will about partnership possibilities.