New Non-Profit, The Opportunity Institute, Takes Unique Approach to Social Mobility

Focusing on Education and Related Strategies, From Early Childhood Through Early Career

Press Contact: Kristen Carriker

Berkeley, California, February 16, 2016—The Opportunity Institute, a new non-profit organization founded by leaders in the education and early childhood policy fields, launched today with a mission of promoting social mobility and equity. It brings together four established efforts for a unique approach to policy and social change.

The organization will focus on educational opportunities and related social policy challenges, beginning with infant development and continuing through PreK-12 education, postsecondary education, and into early career—when family economic security should provide the foundation for the next generation. Throughout this cycle, The Opportunity Institute will develop and promote evidence-based, pragmatic policy solutions. It will also participate directly in efforts to win changes in government policy and to address implementation problems.

“This new organization is combating the cycle of poverty with a cycle of opportunity, attacking the obstacles to success at critical stages in life,” said Christopher Edley, Co-Founder of The Opportunity Institute and former Dean of UC Berkeley Law School. “At The Opportunity Institute, our approach to complex challenges is unique. We work across traditional issue silos and disciplinary perspectives, using an exceptionally broad range of tools to promote change at the local, state and national levels.”

“The progress can’t all originate in Washington,” said Ann O’Leary, Co-Founder of The Opportunity Institute and former Senior Vice President at Next Generation. “States and communities have tremendous opportunities to implement new policies that will drive social mobility, lower barriers to success, and reduce inequality.”

Adding to its uniqueness, The Opportunity Institute will employ an exceptionally broad set of tools—including policy research and dissemination, on-the-ground demonstration projects, legal analysis, public education campaigns, coalition building, public-private partnerships, and technical assistance to officials.

The Opportunity Institute unites leaders and experts from four pre-existing projects in distinct fields: Too Small to Fail focuses on early childhood development; Partners for Each and Every Child addresses PreK-12 education; California Competes works on higher education; and Renewing Communities is defining how postsecondary education can create opportunities that ameliorate the effects of mass incarceration.

Finally, because of its emphasis on developing effective coalitions and networks, the organization is already collaborating with scores of partners and allies in non-profits, business, and government, all focused on driving innovative and equitable change.

“Every child needs access to a quality education, clean air and water, and economic security in order
to realize their full potential. Yet today, too many children grow up in poverty and without the basic building blocks of opportunity and prosperity,”
said Tom Steyer, Opportunity Institute Board Chair. “As chair of The Opportunity Institute, I will work to ensure that every child gets a fair shake at a brighter future.”

The Opportunity Institute board includes nationally recognized leaders who believe in the unique approach
the non-profit is taking. Members include: business leader and philanthropist Tom Steyer (Chair); former
U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich; Thomas Saenz, President of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF); Bob Shireman of The Century Foundation; Laura D’Andrea Tyson, former chief economics advisor to President Bill Clinton; Mark Yudof, UC President Emeritus; Heather Boushey, Executive Director and Chief Economist of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth; Alida Garcia, Coalitions and Policy Director at; Nadine Burke Harris, founder and CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness; former New Mexico Governor and U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson; Bert Lubin, President of the UC San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, and UCSF Dean of Pediatrics; Lenny Mendonca, partner emeritus at McKinsey & Co.; and Kim Belshé, former Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency and Executive Director of First 5 Los Angeles.

The work of The Opportunity Institute includes, for example:

  • Public education campaigns to support early learning such as the “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign;
  • Partnerships between prisons and colleges to create pathways from incarceration to careers;
  • Research and dissemination of workplace policies that help families provide a good start for their kids, with a focus on families in vulnerable situations and immigrant families;
  • Policy strategies to promote college access, improve college completion, and facilitate smooth transitions to the workforce;
  • A network of state-based hubs of researchers and advocates to drive PreK-12 education reform, including issues related to the teacher pipeline, school finance, English language learners, and accountability.

The Opportunity Institute is co-founded by Christopher Edley, former Dean of UC Berkeley Law, and Ann O’Leary, former Senior Vice President at Next Generation. The founders have extensive experience working at the highest levels of policy and politics, including as senior advisors in the White House, in Congress and in presidential campaigns. 

For more information about The Opportunity Institute, visit