The Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI) was launched by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo as an effort to reduce financial hardship in 16 high poverty communities across the state.

As part of this effort in Buffalo, the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County was named convener of the ESPRI steering committee and task force, while the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo was named co-convener.

Phase I of ESPRI focused on assembling a plan for reducing financial hardship in the community. A major portion of this planning phase was robust community outreach directed by Make Communities and NeuWater & Associates. This outreach effort intentionally and strategically sought the voices of community members who have experienced or are experiencing financial hardship as well as those living in high poverty neighborhoods, and engaged a team of Open Buffalo’s Emerging Leaders to meet community members where they are.

Through a series of community forums, community based events, community pop ups, in person and on-line survey collection, more than 900 individuals submitted feedback, totaling roughly 250 hours of time dedicated to providing feedback from the community. This report would not have been possible if not for the generosity of this time on the part of these community members.

What emerged from this feedback is both a complex picture of financial hardship, and a nuanced view of the causes of — and opportunities to address — these interwoven challenges.

Make Communities led survey creation, data analysis, demographic and economic data compilation and summary and authored the final report for the ESPRI steering committee and task force.

Read more about Buffalo’s Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative,  or download the summary engagement report, or the full community engagement report.