COMMUNITY-BASED LEADERS: A NEW VISION

The Campaign has long supported grassroots groups tackling the structural barriers to reflective leadership. But in 2018, we had an epiphany: Our grantees were doing something different than preparing future candidates for elected office. Instead, their programs were producing civic leaders able and eager to challenge the status quoin broad range of roles. While some run for office, others channel their newfound knowledge and network of support into advocacy, activism, campaign management, and other forms of community engagement.

Thus emerged our new understanding of community-based leadership. Inspired by what we witnessed on the ground, we committed to funding more organizations with a comprehensive, holistic vision of civic leadership development, whose work is aimed at fundamentally shifting how political power is distributed and exercised.

Today, we are proud to fund five civic leadership development programs that feature community-based recruitment of reflective leaders, preparation for a broad range of roles in the political sector, the cultivation of shared values and political analysis, and a deep commitment to shifting who controls key levers of power.

 

MEET OUR GRANTEE-PARTNERS

Michigan United, a vibrant coalition of more than 50 civil rights, labor, and faith groups, helped us understand civic leadership development as a catalyst for systemic social change. In 2018, Michigan United prepared 40 aspiring community leaders to run for office and manage campaigns, while positioning itself as an effective gateway to political power, supporting candidates underestimated and overlooked by the political establishment. Its ambitious vision includes a multi-week classroom course on history, policy, and government, and a groundbreaking “governing table” enabling local reflective politicians to network and support each other as they serve in elected bodies where few allies can be found.

 

As Washington State’s largest immigrant and refugee grassroots advocacy organization, OneAmerica’s core purpose is building power in immigrant communities through organizing, leadership development, and building multi-issue, cross-racial grassroots movements to drastically improve the lives of people of color in Washington State. OneAmerica helped make its state’s voting systems more fair and reflective including passing the Voting Rights Act. To build on that victory, its priorities include positioning candidates who are immigrants and people of color to run for and win elected office; disrupting and influencing traditional political gatekeepers; building a holistic civic leadership development program that can promote systemic change; and ensuring that those most impacted by issues get to define and drive the solutions.

 

Progressive Maryland Education Fund advocates for fair wages, criminal justice reform, and environmental justice. It also has a deep commitment to redress the low voter engagement and lack of reflective leadership caused by systemic racism and inequality. In the aftermath of the killing of Freddie Gray, Progressive Maryland helped bring more transparency to Maryland policing. Innovations to its Movement Politics Program – which trains candidates, volunteers, and campaign staff – will include ongoing mentorship and continuing education; increased outreach to women and people of color; and opportunities for hands-on experience in electoral politics.

 

TakeAction Minnesota is a statewide network of people and organizations working for racial and economic equity. In a state with strong voter turnout and laws protecting the integrity of elections, the TakeAction Education Fund is seizing opportunities to elevate issues affecting women, people of color, and low income familes. Following municipal-level success at reflective civic engagement, TakeAction intends to work in coalition with its local partners to bring a holistic perspective, long-term mentorship and support, and a shared policy agenda to its civic leadership development program.

 

Texas Organizing Project Education Fund (TOPEF) promotes the influence and civic engagement of low and moderate income Texas families of color by building their political power. Its decade of wins include a paid sick leave ordinance in San Antonio; $1 million toward street lights for San Antonio’s low-income Latino Westside neighborhood; and an injunction against racial profiling in Texas’s five largest cities. TOPEF plans to expand its civic leadership training program, which already has positioned women of color to serve on an advisory board for the county parks system; win a seat on the Houston Independent School Board; and run a school board campaign for another TOPEF leader.