Cortland County is working to become an Opportunity Community

The Opportunity Community Model

Cortland County is working to become an Opportunity Community – what does this mean?

The Opportunity Community (OC) model is a national movement designed to create the types of communities we all want to live in. This can be achieved by increasing prosperity for the people living in the crisis of poverty. Dr. Donna M. Beegle combined her experience of living for 28 years in extreme migrant labor poverty, with 20 years of studying and working with communities to create a research-based model for assisting people to move out — and to stay out — of poverty. At the core, the (OC) model addresses seven key issues that prevent us from reducing poverty:

  1. No clear definition of poverty.
  2. Varying views of the causes of poverty.
  3. Education about poverty and its impacts on people provided by the media which promote stereotypes.
  4. Resolutions, actions, programs, funding allocations and policies are created without the voices of people from generational, working class, immigrant, and situational poverty.
  5. Efforts to eradicate poverty are isolated and focused on (at best) assisting people to cope with current poverty conditions.
  6. The “Deficit” model is the primary framework for addressing poverty.
  7. Economic development is misaligned with the human capital available.

The OC model employs a comprehensive approach that builds on the existing strengths of people in poverty, business, social service, education, healthcare, justice, faith-based organizations and community members to make a difference for their region. This model has similar components as the Collective Impact process, Tamarack’s Vibrant Communities Model, and the Circles Campaign for engaging diverse support from the community. However, the OC model goes beyond building collaborations and partnerships. At its core, the OC model:

  1. Serves people from generational, working class, situational, and immigrant poverty.
  2. Provides structure for a better-connected community network resulting in a more effective and efficient poverty-fighting system.
  3. Provides community-wide education to increase awareness and understanding about the real causes of poverty — educating people living in poverty (Neighbors) and volunteers (Navigators and Specialty Navigators) — then connecting Navigators and Neighbors in strong relationships.
  4. Trains community professionals to serve as Specialty Navigators and support the efforts of Navigators who are working to access resources and opportunities for their neighbors.
  5. Increases engagement of sectors of the community not previously involved in fighting poverty.
  6. Builds capacity of helping professionals who serve people in poverty.

Steps in Becoming an Opportunity Community


  • Leadership For Change Summit – March 18, 2019- brings together community leaders to better understand the many different types of poverty and how they impact our neighbors and our efforts to break barriers. Leaders gain tools for channeling their existing resources and human capital in ways that assist people to move out of poverty. More than 40 Cortland Leaders participated.
  • Prosperity Summit – May 9, 2019 – engages all community sectors to gain shared language and understanding of poverty, dispel stereotypes and judgment, and to gain buy-in for the implementation and sustainability of the efforts to assist our neighbors out of poverty.


  • Navigator TrainingSeptember 5-6, 2019 – Navigators are community members who receive training through the Opportunity Community Model to understand the experiences of poverty, learn the causes of poverty, and gain communication and relationship building skills. Navigators commit to work with a neighbor for a period of a year to assist with access to resources and offer support.
  • Opportunity Community Education Program – October 26, 2019 – a six hour for neighbors currently living in the crisis of poverty. Neighbors will gain a deeper understanding of their skills, knowledge, and experiences that can be turned into ways to earn a living. The principles involved throughout this day include: Removing the paralyzing shame associated with poverty; rebuilding the hope that poverty steals; and removing the isolation of poverty by building networks and access though Navigators, Specialty Navigators, and a poverty-informed community.

For more information on how you can be involved in this effort contact Joyce Allen at 607-753-6781