Thursday, September 7, 2017, Norwalk, CT — Last year Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s colleague, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, held a community event featuring Dr. Robert Putnam speaking about America’s growing “opportunity gap,” highlighted in his landmark 2015 book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. This event was attended by hundreds of Connecticut foundations, community and nonprofit leaders, and elected officials.
There is no idea more fundamental to our national identity and values than the notion that everyone has a shot at achieving the American Dream. But opportunity is increasingly out of reach for millions of young Americans. This threatens not only their well-being but the shared health and vitality of American communities, including our own.
In 2016, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation became a charter member of the Community Foundation Opportunity Network (CFON), a collaboration among 40 community foundations across the United States to narrow that “opportunity gap” so that all children in America have the chance to achieve their full potential. The Network includes America’s leading community foundations, from New Hampshire to Georgia to Illinois to Seattle, and includes three additional in Connecticut community foundations: The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, and Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
Last month, Foundation Vice President Karen R. Brown, joined with 50 other members of CFON in Chicago to outline the group’s progress over the past year and chart a course for the future. CFON members discussed the roles and responsibilities of the group’s five standing committees including the steering committee, the knowledge, learning and impact committee, the policy and advocacy committee, the networks and partnership committee, and the messaging and external communications committee. Fairfield County’s Community Foundation currently serves on four of these committees including the steering committee, policy and advocacy committee and messaging, knowledge, learning and impact committee, and external communications committee.
The event featured a discussion on the opportunity gap with Richard Reeves, a scholar and author of the recently released book Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do about It, and Dr. Robert Putnam.
Putnam’s Our Kids is the basis for a new video series that will include a four-hour PBS series for broadcast in late 2018 or early 2019. The airing of this program on our local PBS affiliate as well as other activities will provide opportunities for us to collaborate with our fellow Connecticut-based community foundations to highlight how we are working together to reduce the opportunity gap in our state.
This is another example of the Community Foundation’s commitment to creating new collaborations and partnerships to strengthen and support our region. We will continue to provide regular updates of CFON-related activities and opportunities and how Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is applying some of these efforts to further the work we are doing in our communities.