Our Shared Vision
People living in high-poverty areas with a dearth of good schools know all too well the challenges their communities face. But outside experts, however well intentioned, often ignore these local voices in their search for fixes.
The Charles Koch Foundation’s partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) is designed to redress this imbalance. Established in 2016 with a grant of $25.6 million from the Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries, TMCF’s Center for Advancing Opportunity (CAO) brings together students and faculty from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with community members to study and collect data about problems in criminal justice, education, and entrepreneurship and formulate locally informed solutions to them.
Removing barriers to opportunity for every American has long been a touchstone for Charles Koch, and he hopes that this partnership—based on listening at the ground level—can serve as a model for how to bring people together to solve problems. “I’m particularly excited about this partnership because we have a very divided country now,” he says. “Our belief is that if we’re going to have a successful country in the future, we’re going to have to unite people.”
CAO researchers will base their proposals on polling data collected through Gallup’s TMCF/Koch Opportunity Index. As TMCF President Johnny Taylor explains, the Index “is a first-of-its-kind polling tool that is going to go to members of fragile communities and ask them, ‘What are the obstacles to you achieving the American Dream?’”
Many of the HBCU scholars come from fragile neighborhoods themselves, notes Taylor. “They are uniquely positioned to understand and address the barriers people in their communities face.”