Since I’m in Austin today and tomorrow for the 2010 RAISE Texas Action Summit, this seems like an excellent time to write an introductory post about the group itself, since it’s not yet a household name but totally should be.

RAISE Texas is cross-sector coalition of orgs (and individuals) working to advance asset-building programs and policies. But what’s asset-building, you ask? Check out the official summary of the coalition’s policy agenda:

RAISE Texas is working to expand economic opportunity for all people in Texas by advocating for change in state and federal policies through bi-partisan support in the following four areas:

  • Matched Savings: We develop legislative strategies to provide matching funds for the new Texas Tuition Promise Fund (pre-paid college tuition plan), the Texas College Savings Plan, and local IDA programs around the state. Learn more about matched savings policies in Texas.
  • Community Tax Centers: We encourage support for Community Tax Centers and support legislative efforts to increase Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) uptake in our state and to provide funding for community tax centers. Learn more about the EITC and Community Tax Center policies in Texas.
  • Payday and High Cost Lending: We promote oversight of payday and other high cost lending in the state of Texas, through state policies and local ordinances. We encourage the development and availability of alternative short-term loan products. Learn more about current actions against the high cost of lending in Texas.
  • Access to Education: We work to build support for policies that facilitate broader access to post-secondary education and training. Learn more about expanding access to education in Texas.

These four campaigns all share the goal of building a more financially stable community, one in which each successive generation is more capable of economically supporting itself, by intervening at points that make a difference in whether a family can sustainably get and stay out of poverty or whether a kid will have a better chance at economic security than his parents did. It’s a hand-up, not a hand-out, as they say. Asset-building is also about improving equality of opportunity, making sure that hard work pays off, and giving our neighbors a way to stay free of the predatory lending debt trap.

CFED's Andrea Levere speaking at RAISE Texas opening receptionI should point out that RAISE Texas is by no means the only group working on asset-building. It’s a national movement, and many of those organizations I’ve linked to over there in the sidebar work on issues/programs connected to asset-building, whether or not they use that particular label. CFED and their fantastic Scorecard project would be a great place to start if you’d like to learn more.

And that brings us nicely back to this year’s RAISE Texas summit! CFED President Andrea Levere spoke tonight at the lovely opening reception at the UT Austin Alumni Center, lauding RAISE Texas for its multi-pronged and bipartisan approach to advancing economic opportunity. I am VERY MUCH looking forward to the main event at the LBJ School tomorrow! There are some fantastic speakers scheduled, some new projects I’m excited to learn about, and sessions for small groups to work on the four campaigns discussed above.

CPPP's Don Baylor speaking at RAISE Texas opening receptionIf it’s not obvious by now, RAISE Texas’s efforts are very near and dear to my heart. I worked on some element of (what became) all four campaigns during my year as an intern at CPPP with Don Baylor. So if you or your organization would like to collaborate on any of these issues with a statewide network of fellow advocates and stakeholders, please do join us! Or, of course, if you’d like to ask me anything, fire away in the comment box below or tweet at me or email me (gmail: juliamontgomery) or employ whatever other communication method tickles your fancy. :)

More tomorrow after the summit, hopefully!