The Southern Economic Advancement Project (SEAP) began in March 2019 with the aim of filling gaps in state and local policy research in the South. We wanted to ensure our work would be useful to existing efforts as we planned our research agenda. Thus, we embarked on listening sessions with nonprofit organizations in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina as well as one-on-one conversations with regional and national allies, asking these three questions:
- What are the top economic security challenges in your community?
- What are the top challenges for organizations working within your policy area?
- What are solutions or room for growth in the policy infrastructure?
In all, our conversations included more than 60 organizations regionally and nationally. They included statewide policy and advocacy organizations, local direct service organizations, small town organizers, grassroots groups, faith-based coalitions, funders, and national think tanks. Within economic security, these organizations cover a wide array of issues, including housing, wages and work, youth development, agriculture, rural development, small-town community development, finance, and more. We offer this brief to lift up the voices of nonprofit leaders working in the area of economic security in the South. We remain committed to filling policy research gaps; however, we now know that the need for capacity-building and network-building is equally great.