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Mark Edwards
Mark Edwards is the Executive Director of Opportunity Nation, a national, bipartisan campaign that is devoted to expanding economic mobility and closing the opportunity gap for more Americans. Opportunity Nation advocates bipartisan policy change at the federal level and promotes public and private sector engagement. The campaign also seeks to accelerate the good work being done on the ground with data-rich tools and resources, specifically the Opportunity Index, a unique measure of a region’s economic, educational and civic health.

Opportunity Nation launched publicly to critical acclaim in November 2011, landing on the cover of TIME Magazine and its first national summit included speakers such as Pastor Rick Warren, Angela Glover Blackwell, US Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), Arianna Huffington, Michael Gerson, Serena Williams and others all focused on developing an opportunity agenda. Opportunity Nation’s 2012 Summit featured US Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA), Jordin Sparks, Judy Woodruff and other notable Americans.

Through his twenty-three years on the board of Horizons for Homeless Children, Mark came to believe the time had come for a national campaign that would dramatically increase economic opportunity for millions of Americans. Though Horizons for Homeless Children is one of the nation’s largest and most successful providers of early education and family services for homeless children and families, only 1,000 Boston-area children can be served each year. He learned that one organization alone couldn’t create the level of systems change necessary for significant improvement.

He envisioned a national effort that would increase awareness of opportunity-related issues; encourage collaboration among public and private sectors to amplify and accelerate their work on the ground; and advocate bipartisan federal policy changes designed to improve the lives of Americans on a sweeping scale.

In 2009, Mark embarked on a national listening tour to lay the groundwork for the Opportunity Nation campaign. He visited with hundreds of nonprofits, community organizations, policymakers, businesses, students and concerned citizens, learning about the country’s biggest barriers to increasing opportunity. One young woman living in a low-income neighborhood told Mark, “I think my zip code matters more than my GPA.” A whole generation of young Americans feared their geography condemned them to an inescapable economic fate. Sadly, statistics and research confirmed these fears.

With the support of over 250 cross-sector coalition partners and bipartisan support, Mark publicly launched Opportunity Nation in 2011 at a national summit in New York City to tackle the lack of economic mobility.

Prior to Opportunity Nation, Mark was the managing partner of Edwards & Company, Inc., a marketing and communications company focused on elevating educational institutions and nonprofit organizations. He is a trustee of America’s Promise Alliance and serves on the board of directors of Phillips Exeter Academy, Harpoon Brewing Company, Berkley College of Music, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and Horizons for Homeless Children.

Mark is a graduate of Harvard College and lives in Massachusetts with his wife and three children. He bikes to work daily, and enjoys backpacking and other outdoor activities. Follow Mark on Twitter at @medwardsnow.

Entries by Mark Edwards

A Rare Bipartisan Bill Passes Congress

(0) Comments | Posted July 9, 2014 | 7:39 PM

In a time of fractured politics, the reauthorization of major federal legislation designed to help millions of Americans, buoyed by support by both Democrats and Republicans after 18 months of tough negotiations, is truly a cause for celebration. It's also an invitation to redouble our efforts to work together across...

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Engaging Youth Is Key to Their Success and Ours

(0) Comments | Posted June 13, 2014 | 11:31 AM

Where you live, what you can do and whom you know have always mattered when it comes to moving up the economic and social ladder. Fair or not, geography, ability and influence have long affected how far many Americans get in life.

But with a sluggish recovery, an increasingly competitive...

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The Crisis We Can't Afford

(0) Comments | Posted March 25, 2014 | 11:36 AM

One of the most promising experiments in American education is taking root in Chicago's South Side. The Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy is a new type of public school designed to achieve two of our country's most urgent goals: help more young adults gain the skills they need...

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State of the Union 2014: Building an Opportunity Nation

(0) Comments | Posted January 29, 2014 | 10:49 AM

"And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all - the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead." President Obama, State...
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President Obama, Here Are Five Ways to Help 6 Million Young People

(0) Comments | Posted January 22, 2014 | 2:39 PM

Next Tuesday, President Obama will lay out his vision for the country, and Republican leaders will respond with their own ideas during the State of the Union Address and response. We hope to hear concrete proposals from both sides of the aisle to engage, educate and employ young people, and...

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The War on Poverty 50 Years Later -- Time to Focus On Youth

(0) Comments | Posted January 15, 2014 | 1:21 PM

The mixed legacy of 50 years of our War on Poverty has sparked a lot of partisan bickering in recent weeks. A wiser response is to put aside stale arguments and launch a collaborative effort to lift up a critical segment of our population. Together we must ensure that our...

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Disconnected Youth: A Challenge for Our Country, But One We Can Tackle

(1) Comments | Posted November 5, 2013 | 11:46 AM

There are one in seven young people ages 16-24 who are not in school nor working. The country is beginning to talk about these 5.8 million young people -- the so-called "disconnected youth"-- thanks to new data from the the 2013 Opportunity Index and Measure of America's report...

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Jane and John: What Their Lives Tell Us About the American Dream

(1) Comments | Posted October 24, 2013 | 11:04 AM

John and Jane represent two of the estimated 11,000 babies born in the United States each day to parents who want their children to reach their potential and thrive. Like generations before them, these families share a belief that by working hard, John and Jane will get a fair shot...

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Changing the Game

(0) Comments | Posted September 22, 2013 | 12:19 PM

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

Attempting to get one sector to play by the rules of another is one way to win the game. But what if we could change the...

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Every Student Deserves the Opportunity to Succeed This School Year

(0) Comments | Posted September 5, 2013 | 12:04 PM

Nearly 50 million U.S. elementary and secondary students have headed back to school this week for the start of a new school year. These children and young people will head to class carrying backpacks and an immeasurable, invisible weight -- their parents' hopes that they will acquire valuable skills and...

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We Know Geography Matters Too Much: It's Time to Change That

(5) Comments | Posted July 26, 2013 | 10:56 AM

Opportunity Nation is thrilled about Monday's front page New York Times story "In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters", which brought into sharp relief one of the most troubling facts of American life today -- all too often your zip code determines your economic destiny. This harsh reality contradicts...

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Invest in Our Youth Now: Why 16-24-year-olds Matter to All of Us

(0) Comments | Posted July 18, 2013 | 9:00 AM

In the United States today, 6.7 million young adults ages 16 to 24 are not in school and are not working -- a tragic loss to them personally and to our country's economic competitiveness. The costs are also high to U.S. taxpayers. Disconnected youth cost $93 billion annually...

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Time to Reauthorize the Federal Education Law

(1) Comments | Posted June 18, 2013 | 3:56 PM

As Americans, we know that education is the gateway to opportunity. Until fairly recently, it was one policy area on which the U.S. Congress was able to work across the aisle, compromise and pass legislation. But in the current political environment of gridlock and partisan divide, Republicans and Democrats are...

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What Did Obama and Rubio Agree on Last Night?

(2) Comments | Posted February 13, 2013 | 1:26 PM

At Opportunity Nation we were thrilled to hear President Obama's plan in his State of the Union address to rebuild ladders of opportunity in communities that have been left behind, strengthen pathways for young adults, and promote postsecondary educational success.

Both parties recognize that opportunity and social...

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Voting for Opportunity - Five Questions for our Candidates

(1) Comments | Posted October 10, 2012 | 11:56 AM

Opportunity and social mobility have defined America. It is a core value of our nation that where you start in life should not determine how high you climb. But that ideal is at risk of disappearing.

Today, the zip codes where people are born too often determine their destiny,...

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The American Dream Needs a Jumpstart

(14) Comments | Posted September 14, 2012 | 11:49 AM

In 1931, the great American writer and historian James Truslow Adams coined the term "the American Dream" in his novel, The Epic of America. This dream, Adams declared, was predicated on life being "better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability of achievement regardless...

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