Nine Flashes of Insight from the Prosperity Summit Lightning Talks

During the first night of the Prosperity Summit, nine speakers gathered to share insights on subjects ranging from the relevance of manufactured housing to the importance of financially empowering domestic violence survivors. The talks provided a platform for diverse voices and topics important to the asset building field to share their challenges, creative solutions and nuggets of wisdom with attendees of the Prosperity Summit. Here is a taste of what each speaker had to say.

“If you expect me to pay, you need to give me the ability to pay.”

Rosazlia Grillier, Co-President of POWER-PAC Illinois and COFI, rallied the audience with her enthusiasm and lived experience. As a parent advocate, Rosazlia shared experience on her work to help families, especially families of color, fight the troublesome cycle of debt in Chicago.

“We need to change our national culture to think about thriving rather than merely surviving.” 

William Elliot, professor at the University of Michigan and the Founding Director of the Center on Assets, Education and Inclusion (AEDI), spoke on the importance of Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs) as an asset-building strategy to fight poverty. The talk drew from his book, Making Education Work for the Poor.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. But it's time to teach him how to own the fish pond.”

Impassioned and animated, LaTousha Daniels, President and CEO of the Miami Children’s Initiative, showed listeners the grave economic disparities happening in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. She spoke to the work of her organization, which offers educational programs for children, social services and initiatives to promote community cohesion.

“By incorporating the positives of both traditional and non-traditional work, we can create more meaningful jobs that support financial security.”

Next up to the stage was Keyarash Jahanian from Commonwealth, who spoke on his recent paper, “The Changing Nature of Work: Amplifying the Voice of the Financially Vulnerable Worker.” He noted that lower-wage and untraditional, lower-wage workers both want similar things: their jobs to meet their basic needs (steady income, good benefits, safety on the job, etc.) as well as their higher needs (respect, honesty and transparency, etc.). Though more untraditional work has provided workers with more choice, Keyarash argued, we still need to improve work quality for all lower-wage workers.

“Now is the time to scale employee ownership and create quality jobs.”

Complementing Keyarash’s talk, Alison Lingane of Project Equity next spoke on “The Silver Tsunami” and how we can use employee ownership to improve the job market. With a combination of historical and empirical research as well as personal testimonials, Alison demonstrated how shared entrepreneurship leads to quality jobs and improves economic outcomes for workers.

Live on Wednesday Night . . . A Community-Based Participatory Action Research Model!

Next to take the stage was our only two-speaker talk: a short talk show hosted by Patricia Colemon and Annie Jones-Barnes of Colemon and Associates. Full of witty banter and quips, their discussion covered their work implementing a community-based participatory action research model to address the racial wealth divide in Tacoma, Washington.

Mobile home parks are disproportionately located in commercial areas, making them the first victims of urban growth.”

Esther Sullivan, a professor at the University of Colorado Denver, discussed her research on manufactured housing in her new book, Manufactured Insecurity: Mobile Home Parks and Americans’ Tenuous Right to Place. Manufactured housing provides many Americans with the ability to own their own home but is threatened by the negative attitudes of the public and developers who wish to build upon the land mobile home parks occupy. Esther discussed her lived experience in mobile home parks that were being torn down, the real consequences of this for the residents of these parks and real solutions that groups like ROC USA are implementing to make homeownership affordable and attainable for all.

We need the asset building movement to be responsive to the needs of one out of four women in the US, and we need the anti-domestic violence movement to integrate financial capacity into its work.”

Sonya Passi, Founder and CEO of FreeFrom, delivered an impassioned and captivating talk on the importance of financially supporting victims of gender-based violence. Too often, domestic violence survivors are limited financially, Sonya argued, and we need to make safety attainable through financial empowerment and independence.

“The headwinds of the racial wealth gap are not in the ether, but in institutions, policy and racial stratification.”

Thomas Shapiro, Director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy and Professor at Brandeis University, concluded the Lightning Talks with a summary of his book, Toxic Inequality. Citing data and historical context, he demonstrated how racial inequality in the United States is not new and has in fact been growing for years. He emphasized the importance of closing the widening racial wealth gap, a sentiment that was echoed throughout the Prosperity Summit.

Stay tuned for videos of all the Lightning Talks! 

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