Leading On Opportunity

FFTC partners with city, county to tackle upward mobility

When professors from Harvard and University of California Berkeley published a study that ranked Charlotte 50th out of 50 major U.S. cities in terms of upward mobility, Charlotte’s leaders were given a wake-up call.

These results sparked a united desire among business, faith and civic leaders to understand the causes for a lack of economic mobility in our region, and to develop actionable steps to improve opportunity for all children and youth.

Foundation For The Carolinas, through its Robinson Center for Civic Leadership, helped mobilize the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force, a group of 20 diverse and dedicated volunteers led by Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown and Dee O’Dell. They spent nearly two years listening to members of the community and seeking knowledge from experts to understand the structural challenges that face our community. In March 2017, they released a comprehensive report outlining their findings and recommendations.

The Task Force identified three key determinants of economic mobility and two cross-cutting factors they believe are most likely to have the greatest influence on the opportunity trajectory for our children, youth and families.


  • Early Care and Education: Expanding access to quality child care and public pre-K programs and promoting positive early brain development
  • Career and College Readiness: Advancing educational and skill development of all our young people to ensure they are well prepared for family-supporting jobs and careers
  • Family and Child Stability: Strengthening families so all members are safe, healthy, financially secure and supportive of a child’s development

Cross-Cutting Factors:

  • Impact of Segregation: Acknowledging the significant role segregation and racialization have played in our current opportunity narrative and committing to breaking down those barriers
  • Social Capital: Ensuring all children, youth, and families have relationships in the community to connect them to information, ideas, resources, support and opportunities

The Task Force passed the baton to a newly formed Leading On Opportunity Council, which will create the structure and strategy to implement the 21 strategic priorities, 91 key recommendations and more than 100 implementation tactics. Heading the new Leading on Opportunity Council are co-chairs James E. Ford (Public School Forum of North Carolina) and Andrea Smith (Bank of America). Members of the council include: Task Force Co-Chairs Garmon-Brown (Novant Health) and O’Dell (US Bank), Jesse Cureton (Novant Health and One Charlotte), Kandi Deitemeyer (Central Piedmont Community College), amalia deloney (Community At Large), Dena Diorio (Mecklenburg County), Patrice Funderburg (Community At Large), Marcus Jones (City of Charlotte), Michael Marsicano (Foundation for the Carolinas), Ray McKinnon (Community At Large), Mujtaba Mohammed (Community At Large), Edwin Peacock (Community At Large), Crystal Richardson (Community At Large) and Federico Rios (Community At Large).

In early 2018, Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter was announced as Executive Director of the Leading On Opportunity Council.

This work was a community partnership between Foundation For The Carolinas, the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Charlotte Will and the John M. Belk Endowment.

Leading On Opportunity

Robinson Center for Civic Leadership