case study

Making the Case for What Affects A Child’s Opportunity to Thrive


Some people can choose the neighborhood where they want to live and raise their families. If you have kids, that choice often hinges on the quality of schools and housing, proximity to parks and green space, whether the neighborhood is walkable and whether you can easily access healthy foods. But many people can’t easily choose their neighborhood. And many families live in neighborhoods where it’s hard for their children to thrive.  

Child poverty expert and researcher Dolores Acevedo-Garcia and her team at Brandeis University have spent the past 20 years collecting data to help policymakers, researchers and public and private stakeholders understand the conditions in neighborhoods that matter for kids by illustrating how those conditions are not distributed evenly. The Child Opportunity Index 2.0 (COI)—an updated version of a data tool released in 2014 and co-funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—measures and maps the quality of resources and conditions in every neighborhood in the United States that affect growth and development. By using a robust data set to illustrate pervasive geographic and racial inequities in neighborhood opportunity for children throughout the US, the COI explicitly shows where the gaps are and sparks action in places like Albany, Chicago and Boston to narrow those inequities and lift barriers to children’s health and well-being. 

Our Approach 

Burness worked with the team at Brandeis to promote the COI 2.0 and tell the story of its impact. We developed messages; produced press materials; engaged national and local media through pitching, direct meetings and an online media briefing; produced a video to show how the COI helped reduce inequities in park access in the city of Albany; and created collateral, including a FAQs document, a summary backgrounder and a blog post for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website.  

Results and Impact 

Our efforts landed stories in more than a dozen major national outlets, including NPRCNNTIMEThe Washington Post, POLITICO, Axios, US News & World Report and Univision. More than 56 local outlets ran stories, and the coverage has sparked a handful of op-eds and editorials about improving child opportunity. Mayor Kathy Sheehan of Albany specifically referenced the COI in her 2020 State of the City address, and she showed the video we produced to her entire staff. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) explicitly cited the COI during a House hearing on the need for affordable and safe housing in the United States.  

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