The Ohio State University at Lima

Forum for Alliance for the American Dream brings hope, ideas to build middle class

June 21, 2018

Hope is an essential ingredient to turn any dream into reality. And it was hope, wisdom and resiliency that bubbled to the surface during a recent idea session to find ways to make social mobility possible for the people of Lima and the surrounding region. This community forum was part of a larger initiative known as the Alliance for the American Dream.

“Many of us in our region are deeply committed to finding innovative solutions that will foster greater social mobility, especially as they relate to issues such as educational attainment rates, affordable housing, transportation, childcare, healthcare and workforce development,” said Dr. Joe Brandesky, interim dean and director at Ohio State Lima. “As partners in the Alliance for the American Dream, Ohio State wants to work with local officials and organizations to make a significant difference in the lives of those who are presently struggling with complex socioeconomic problems.”

The Alliance for the American Dream is a partnership program between Ohio State and Schmidt Futures to strengthen the middle class and help move people out of poverty. Launched in Columbus this spring, this project seeks to inspire investment in research and development across public, private and nonprofit sectors, and to build effective partnerships between academic communities and engineers, scientists, policymakers, investors and community advocates. The Ohio State University has set an ambitious goal of raising the net income of 10,000 Ohio families by 10 percent in the next two years.

During the Lima community forum, participants agreed that the community needs to find a way to restore the hope that fuels ambition, growth and the willingness to reach out for the wisdom that will cement a place in the middle class. A recurring theme across the groups was building soft skills like the importance of showing up for work and working hard, effectively communicating face-to-face, and managing a household’s resources.

The most prevalent idea across the groups was developing financial literacy and other life skills beginning at a very young age to ensure long-term financial stability. Sorting out a way to keep families receiving benefits from falling off a fiscal cliff if someone accepts a raise or job also spanned the groups.

The act of developing a list of current programs that are effective and could be expanded brought hope to many of the participants. Collectively, this region is trying a vast variety of projects with an end goal of building a strong workforce living in vibrant communities.

The idea groups had very practical suggestions to encourage the return of the middle class and the economic stability it can bring to the community. For example:

• Expand a program to help people buy low-cost, dependable vehicles that not only get them to work, but also helps build a credit history and encourages sound financial habits.

• Build an agritourism model in a region where urban and rural intersections are plentiful and rural residents are looking for ways to make their farms profitable.

• Create a way to provide reliable, affordable childcare year-round that would remove a significant obstacle to work and social mobility. Putting together the resources of higher education, non-profits and the various workforces from teenagers to seniors could result in qualified child care providers.

Ohio State is one of four public research universities collaborating with Schmidt Futures to launch the Alliance for the American Dream. The other universities are Arizona State University, the University of Utah and the University Wisconsin. Ohio State has a $1.5 million grant to kick start the idea process across the state in communities associated with Ohio State campuses.

In addition to the idea forums, the university is soliciting ideas through an online submission process through mid-July. After the submission process closes, the university will select 10 ideas to further develop. By December 2018, the university will put forth the top three ideas to Schmidt Futures for the next round of funding consideration.