10:01 AM

Ohio State University partnerships offer solutions to middle-class challenges

Three projects move forward to finalist stage in Alliance for the American Dream competition

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Challenges facing middle-class families abound, and The Ohio State University is working with community partners to develop innovative ideas to solve those problems, thanks to a collaboration with the Alliance for the American Dream. The alliance at Ohio State was launched in May, when university and central Ohio leaders met to analyze problems and brainstorm solutions to obstacles faced by middle-class families.

The alliance was created by Schmidt Futures, a venture facility for public benefit by Eric and Wendy Schmidt. Schmidt Futures awarded Ohio State a $1.5 million grant to generate ideas to raise the net income of 10,000 middle-class families in central Ohio by 10 percent by 2020 in two rounds of competition.

Six Ohio State teams, comprising faculty, students and community partners, have developed detailed proposals that utilize new technology and innovative thinking to solve challenges including developing job skills, accessing support services, home ownership, farming, rural mobility and tools for job and education matching.

The three projects selected to move forward to the final round are:

  • Connect for Success. This systems-based approach advances economic mobility by removing barriers that compromise educational attainment in order to provide the 10 percent reductions in cost and/or additional income to 10,000 households aspiring to sustain middle class status. The idea is to provide advising and technology to facilitate matching students to services and opportunities that decrease costs incurred during their time in school and to improve and hasten access to employment after graduation. Columbus State, United Way, JobsOhio and Ohio State will serve as the partnering organizations, and will enable students to overcome non-academic barriers to meeting educational and employment goals.
  • The Power of Home. In America, home ownership is the gateway to wealth and improving life outcomes such as health and educational attainment. Yet, becoming a home owner is not a guaranteed pathway into the middle class. Unexpected costs and life events put many new homeowners at risk of economic instability, default and foreclosure within the first years of ownership. The Power of Home leverages established public, private and nonprofit partnerships to use homeownership as a springboard for increasing income, reducing expenses and building a sustainable bridge to the American Dream for households at risk of falling out of the middle class. This statewide initiative focuses on leveraging an innovative, interactive online platform with a powerful assessment tool and connection to two Pathways – Power Up Home and Power Up Income – to help new homeowners realize the economic potential of their home and build strong communities.
  • Engaging Blockchain Technology for Asset-Based Community Development teamEngaging Blockchain Technology for Asset-Based Community Development. The project proposes to seed a six-city local food production and marketing network in central Ohio that will yield millions of dollars in combined produce sales, local business income and enhanced quality of life with continuous yields year after year. It will foster true social mobility and genuine equality of opportunity through an innovative approach to local economic development and collaborative design. Using Blockchain Technology to create an Industry 4.0-style farmer cooperative, it will create a system where hundreds of city lots growing produce intelligently and in coordination can actually grow and sustain new markets to meet a growing demand for locally or organically grown products.

The Alliance for the American Dream is a network of communities, each anchored by a public research university, that will provide access to capital and access to market for new ideas to support distressed communities locally. Partner universities include Arizona State, Ohio State, and the universities of Utah and Wisconsin.

Final presentations will be made in Arizona in late January.