Thank You For a Life Full of Purpose and Friendship
Over the 27 years that I have worked at Prosperity Now, I have often been asked why I have stayed so long. My answer is deceptively simple: I have never found a job that offered more meaningful work PLUS the chance to work with better people. It is precisely for these reasons that I express my deepest appreciation and gratitude to our staff and community as I prepare to step down as President and share my vision ahead.
I have had the extraordinary privilege of dedicating my career to expanding economic justice and opportunity. Prosperity Now was founded forty years ago with a mission of reducing wealth inequality—although no one really knew what that meant or how do it at the time. Yet this vision has fueled four decades of program and policy innovation driven by a growing field of practitioners, policymakers, funders and investors who believed that all people should have the ability to build financial stability, wealth and prosperity. Today, I want to share my thanks and admiration for all you have done and for all you will do in the future.
In our early days, I cheered as CFED’s Development Report for the States changed the metrics for evaluating state economic development policy from rewarding the states with the lowest taxes to those who make investments in human, physical and financial capital that empower all to flourish. I supported the development of the Prosperity Now Scorecard, now the premier benchmarking tool for evaluating both outcomes and policies at the state and local level. I watched in awe as our staff has succeeded in disaggregating data by race, disability, gender and geography to measure the breadth and consequences of the racial wealth divide and other disparities in our communities. And the ultimate value of this data was how thousands of our colleagues educated their legislators, organized policy campaigns and broadcast the findings to build the political will necessary to attain financial well-being for all.
At the same time, organizations large and small were changing lives by testing savings products, designing financial coaching programs, delivering financial capability services, building credit scores and providing tax preparation services:
- More than two decades ago we implemented national demonstrations to test matched savings for children and adults; today we are creating the next generation of incentivized savings with the flexibility to provide for emergencies or home ownership, the ability to utilize mobile technology or a local bank branch, and financial education integrated into schools or the workplace.
- In 2001, our investment in a small pilot program to provide mortgages to owners of manufactured homes in resident-owned communities in New Hampshire led to a national initiative to transform the marketplace for manufactured housing. It has now been scaled by two social ventures that provide thousands of residents with affordable housing in financially stable communities.
- Our adoption of a coalition of community tax providers five years ago has grown into a vibrant network with over 4,000 members who recently achieved an extraordinary victory with the passage of Taxpayer First Act that formally codified the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program as law for the first time in 40 years.
These are just a few of the accomplishments of the staff and alumni of Prosperity Now working in partnership with more than 22,000 members of the Prosperity Now Community and other stakeholders in our field. The opportunity to work, learn and become friends with so many of you has brought great joy and meaning to my life. I have heard from many of you—in emails, cards, tweets and poems—since I announced my decision to step down last October. I told you then and I will say it again that while I am leaving this job, I will never leave my commitment to the mission of this field or the friendships that have grown over the past three decades. I am thrilled that Gary Cunningham has agreed to bring his talents and vision to lead the next phase of Prosperity Now’s journey, and I look forward to supporting his leadership.
The challenge ahead is clear: what must we do to reverse the growing economic inequality in this nation beyond what we are doing today? How might I leverage my passion for finance to invest equity in those organizations that can make these changes—especially those directly addressing the racial and gender wealth gaps? This is the question that I am asking myself, and there is no one better to help me find the right answer than all of you.
Thank you for your friendship and for creating a transformative social movement dedicated to building financial well-being for everyone.
Andrea Levere, President Emerita, Prosperity Now
P.S. I've offered some of my final thoughts and insights related to the asset-building field and the “unfinished business” we still have to do here.