Oswego County Anti-Poverty Task Force
A Partnership of the County Legislature, County School Districts, and Community Leaders

History of the Project

The Community Health and Poverty Reduction Task Force was organized in March 2015, in response to worsening trends regarding health behaviors, high unemployment and poverty in Oswego County. It was renamed to the Oswego County Anti-Poverty Task Force in June 2016, to simplify the name.

Beginning in early 2014, informal discussions between legislators and school district leaders turned into a request for proposal to study the causes of poverty and to seek solutions. In December of 2014, the Legislature unanimously approved a resolution to engage CZB, LLC of Alexandria, VA, in a contract to provide an evaluation of human services programs and to co-develop new approaches to reverse those negative trends.

CZB's, local experience during the highly successful "Comprehensive Neighborhoods Analysis" project for the Oswego Renaissance Association helped them win the contract award.

By March, 2015, all of the school districts in the County became partners in the project and the Richard S. Shineman Foundation provided a one third grant in support of the study.

Legislature Chairman, Kevin Gardner, appointed four legislators (two from each party) and four school district representatives to a Task Force to steer the project.

The goal was brief, "to improve health and reduce poverty in the County." Rather than be overwhelmed by the scope of that mandate, the Task Force focused on the idea that change was necessary and that wider attention to the problems could only make things better.

They began by seeking a wide range of professionals and experts to become advisors and sought out existing successes and strategies. Between March and September, 2015, CZB staff and Task Force members conducted four Task Force Meetings, 20 focus group meetings, an online survey and over 20 individual meetings with department heads and directors of not-for-profit human services organizations in the County. The focus groups were particularly informative and included a wide range of individuals and disciplines. Concurrent with that person-to-person input, statistical data and research was also collected.

CZB's first draft of "Findings and Recommendations" was distributed in September and contained a diagnosis, poverty reduction principles and the recommendation that the Task Force establish  teams of experts and lay-people to work on specific areas where change was necessary. After establishing teams the task force began to prioritize goals, establish actions and create metrics with which to measure success.

On December 8, 2015, the Task Force rolled out the CZB report titled "An Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Action Plan for Oswego County." The room overflowed with people, standing room only. For nearly two hours the task force shared their strategies to "change the story" in Oswego County from one of negative trends to a story of a community lifting itself up to revitalize. Ideas were presented dealing with virtually every aspect of life -- in our schools and colleges, businesses and non-profits, our faith community and government. Many ideas keyed on increasing collaborations between institutions and the possibility of succeeding was exemplified in the composition of the audience. With a room full of "doers," there was a real sense that this kind of change was possible and the right people were in the room to institute that change.

Implementing this plan won't be easy or inexpensive, but the momentum the Task Force has generated provides a substantial springboard from which to begin. We will focus on collaborations that will break down the barriers that restricted efficiencies in the past. We are building a dynamic self-help system of support through a critical mass of expertise, volunteerism and philanthropy.

Would you like to help? Click here for ways you can become part of the solution.

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