Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

OPEN swimming upstream and downstream—Olivia Ding

OPEN devoted most of this month to the planning and logistics of OPEAS, which I’m happy to say, turned out to be a great success.

OPEA 2014-1

After the noise died down, the 350 gift bags removed from the office, and all the leftover alcohol was delivered to our generous sponsors, we had time to clean up and shift gears to our next move. Some days it’s still hard for me to wrap my head around what OPEN does, let alone pitch it to the public in a way that covers the breadth of our work. Our daily work is hard to explain because we don’t directly tutor children or rebuild schools with bricks and volunteers. It’s confusing to grasp because we work to empower the community to realize better outcomes in the education system. This month was important for me personally, to get in the weeds of our mission statement and see a tangible example of how OPEN’S promises transmit into action.

OPEA 2014-209

I was enlightened after attending a policy committee meeting that discussed the implications of a new house bill: a bill that would essentially repurpose funds to pay debt and support school facilities. The language however, does not clearly emphasize that the funds are reallocated, not coming from new taxes, a distinction that many might miss if they don’t follow the issue closely. I was decidedly confused after reading 9 pages of this act, and couldn’t tell if this was good or bad news. I could not tease out the consequences of this bill without hearing the interpretations of OPEN board members on this meeting. It occurred to me then that the average community member would probably react the same way; many would never even read the document, let alone vote for or against it.

This is where OPEN’s role came into clarity. I discovered that a good part of our work targets upstream policy by using downstream tactics to bring the community to the table. To this end, we are disseminating a flier that highlights the key points and implications of this bill, translating the urgency of this message into layman’s language, stating our support for it, and offering recommendations on how to carry the bill forward (because as it currently stands, there is much room for improvement).  If it passes (with the support of the community), we plan to send detailed suggestions to legislators and bill-supporters to ensure that the outcome taps the most efficient use of taxpayers’ money. In other words, we see the bill as a fantastic opportunity with hugely untapped potential. There is all too little community discussion around this opportunity, and we hope that through our communications, we can help change that by encouraging an increase of informed voters.

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This entry was posted on November 26, 2014 by in VISTA Field Reports.

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