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Year in Review: A look back at how opportunity expanded in 2023


Key Points

  • Research has shown that safe communities, stable relationships, and meaningful education and work are essential to making poverty escapable. 
  • In 2023, we focused on helping communities develop solutions and tools to improve public safety, jobs, education and student achievement, and family formation. 
  • Through these accomplishments in 2023, more communities are being empowered to help people imagine and pursue better futures for themselves. 

It seems like everywhere you go these days, people are struggling. You can see it on street corners, in grocery stores, in news headlines, and—most heartbreaking of all—in the eyes of the people who have lost hope.

What they need is opportunity. And that’s exactly what the mission of the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) is built to deliver. As the year draws to a close, let’s take a moment to celebrate the good that has been done to alleviate poverty by removing barriers to opportunity and creating conditions that empower people to flourish and achieve their full potential.

The good news is that research consistently shows that people who experience personal safety, get a good education, find meaningful work, and have healthy, committed relationships only have a 2% chance of falling into poverty. And for those currently living in poverty, these opportunities are the way out to experience freedom and flourishing.

In 2023, GCO celebrated big wins in several key areas that foster community transformation: public safety, jobs, education, and family formation. Here are a few examples of how we’ve helped our neighbors live better and build thriving communities. 

Public safety

Thanks to our public safety research, we convened state policymakers and city leaders in Atlanta and Columbus to look at the causes of increasing violence, and provided a proven set of practical solutions for reducing crime—especially in low-income communities. At the national level, our public safety recommendations were well received in Dallas and Louisville, and an opinion piece we co-authored reached 28.7 million people through Newsweek. Soon thereafter, MSN and other media outlets amplified its reach to another 167.1 million Americans.

And given how important it is for people to live in safe communities where they feel comfortable walking around and living their lives, we also created a resource page on our website so that elected officials, law enforcement, and community leaders can easily find the best practices for addressing crime. 



On the jobs front, our BETTER WORK program continues to help communities build local employment support systems that bring employers, nonprofits, and community partners together to help more Georgians find local jobs. We’ve also joined forces with Lyft to help people get to work and focused on solutions to the benefits cliff challenges that keep many mired in government dependency. 


Safety-net reform

This year, GCO remained on the vanguard of educating lawmakers and the public about the need for reforming the safety net. Broadly, we worked to reveal the challenges posed by benefits cliffs, which discourage people from looking for meaningful work and gaining independence. Specifically, we expanded our impact to Utah, Arkansas, and Missouri, in addition to launching a redesigned benefits cliffs website and calculator that adds Utah and West Virginia to the models.

As we educate states and businesses about the benefits cliff problem within the welfare system, we are also developing solutions that equip them to do something about it. This year, we released our first report focused on benefits cliffs solutions, which focused on fixes for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).



Our efforts to expand educational opportunity have given nearly 84,000 Georgia kids access to the schooling option that best fits their needs. And we led efforts to advance a groundbreaking school choice bill through the state senate. This means there’s strong momentum going into 2024 to expand education options for 500,000 more students stuck in Georgia’s failing schools. We also updated our Education Guide for parents and received the Lilburn Middle School Business Partner Recognition Award for partnering to deliver free relationship education classes for parents and students.

See How The Georgia Center For Opportunity Is Expanding Hope In 2024!

See How The Georgia Center For Opportunity Is Expanding Hope In 2024!



For families, parents continued to graduate from our Strengthening Families Program. And GCO kicked off our Raising Highly Capable Kids (RHCK) program with a vision-casting meeting attended by more than 20 community organizations. By reaching into homes, schools, and faith-based groups, RHCK teaches parents how to raise responsible, caring kids—and turns local communities into nurturing places where healthy families help people escape poverty. An example of how RHCK brings key stakeholders together to foster thriving families is the Lilly Endowment grant that introduced the Parents First Initiative to Lawrenceville.


National and state impact

Finally, GCO had a number of important wins with far-reaching, favorable media coverage on topics we care deeply about. This means that our voice was out there advancing importance conversations about human flourishing. For example, The Wall Street Journal ran our opinion piece calling out pre- and post-COVID crime comparisons for what they really are—an excuse not to blame bad public safety policies. And RealClearPolicy ran an article on our ideas to make safety nets more successful at turning welfare into work support.

Beyond these, GCO’s views were featured in important conversations about Georgia’s position among the leading states for economic freedom and why people remain trapped in poverty when there are so many public assistance programs. And for those concerned about rising crime across the nation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution carried our must-read piece on public safety.


Wrapping up

Of course, these are just a handful of GCO’s successes in 2023. Yet each win adds to the legacy we are building to help our neighbors enjoy meaningful and productive lives in safe, vibrant communities that value work, education, and family. We’re proud of our successes this year, and we look forward to continuing to advance common-sense policy solutions in 2024 that bring greater peace, dignity, and freedom to individuals and families across Georgia and beyond.

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