October 25, 2018

Opportunity360: Strengthening Opportunity Pathways Requires Deep and Strategic Community Engagement

Opportunity360 anniversary recap

Enterprise is celebrating the one-year anniversary of Opportunity360 – releasing more data on our platform, providing additional resources to engage in community change, and building the capacity of communities all across the country to strengthen the pathways to opportunity.

As I have said before – Opportunity360 was created based on the radical proposition that we needed a new, more comprehensive way to think about opportunity as a way to move beyond the notion that accessing opportunity is merely a question of one’s hard work, level of perseverance or grit. For us, this means changing the narrative around opportunity (and how housing fits) and deepening how our sector understands community engagement.

Changing the way that people think about and engage residents about opportunity, especially as it relates to affordable housing, is tough work.

It has been difficult to garner public support for housing (especially affordable housing) policies that advance more equitable outcomes in our nation. This is in part because housing is a complicated issue.

How housing gets produced, by whom, under what conditions, and with what costs (why affordable housing often outprices private sector housing)? These are tough issues to cover. It is not surprising that housing is poorly understood by public audiences and that even the most seasoned policy experts struggle to explain the nuances. While some places have been able to benefit from high-cost housing markets driving greater public interest in housing, many housing practitioners across the country still face significant head-winds as they try to mobilize support for even the most basic housing policies.

The good news is that over the past two years, Enterprise has been working with a set of partners across the country to help build the capacity of the sector to better engage community residents. We partnered with the FrameWorks Institute to conduct research to help housing practitioners better understand the importance of framing as part of their work to advance opportunity through affordable housing.

The first paper in the series, You Don’t Have to Live Here, has become almost a staple in our industry for understanding how our messaging, when not strategically framed, can fail to deliver the support we need. We are pleased that this work has been well received and that there is a strong appetite to learn more, to get further guidance on critical policy priorities that now top our “to-do” lists, and to create overarching narratives that can withstand the political head-winds of the day.

We have also worked with our partners at Place Matters to develop a more robust set of resources to help housing and community development advocates better engage residents. A webinar we hosted with Place Matters earlier in the year brought hundreds of people to the conversation – many of them asking for more guidance and support around community engagement.

In that spirit, we are pleased to release additional resources produced with these partners to provide additional guidance on how affordable housing messaging can be transformed for greater effect and how we can further engage our communities in action.


Finding a Frame for Affordable Housing
Findings from Reframing Research on Affordable Housing and Community Development. This research report outlines the findings from a series of interrelated investigations aimed at finding effective frames on affordable housing.


Piecing it Together: A Framing Playbook for Affordable Housing Advocates
To help ensure that affordable housing advocates can effectively deploy the research recommendations, this companion playbook translates the findings into a “how to” framing guide and clear set of “do’s and don’ts” for communications practice.


Community Engagement Toolkit
Produced with our partners at Place Matters, Opportunity360 released an online database of tools, best practices and case studies to highlight the importance of engaging community residents as key partners in affordable housing. The resources are presented in a user-friendly format that is relational, searchable, filterable and keyword-enabled.


Equity, Opportunity and the Regional Planning Process: Data and Mapping in Five U.S. Metropolitan Communities 
Spotlighting work in five communities, this report, prepared by the Smart Growth Center at the University of Maryland, explores how regional and opportunity maps have been useful in catalyzing community and stakeholder engagement on equity issues.

Taken together, we know that these resources will help housing advocates across the country better engage, partner and communicate effectively about the work to transform our communities and the lives of those who live there.

It’s only when we engage communities as thoughtful partners in our work, do we get the results at the heart of our missions – smarter investments, thoughtful solutions, and stronger communities. These are the building blocks of opportunity and the hallmarks of the work that Enterprise is striving to advance.


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