Pittsburgh is a “blue city," where nearly 80% of the population voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. The city’s economy is booming, but gentrification is rapidly displacing low-income families of color from hot areas of the city while other neighborhoods have not seen any investment in decades.

Local anchor institutions, community organizations, labor unions, and foundations like The Heinz Endowments are playing a critical role in investing in people and community development to build an economy that includes jobs that sustain working-class families and a housing market where all people have access to thriving neighborhoods. After years of building power through multi-issue campaigns, groups like the Hills District Consensus Group and Pittsburgh United have built a stronger network of advocates to support where all residents to have access to have a voice, living wage jobs, family-supporting benefits, and affordable housing.

Tour Highlights:

  • Building power from the local to state level takes coalitions, partnerships, and engaging residents in a cross issue way in urban, rural, and suburban areas.

  • Funding and supporting groups to support development without displacement efforts is critical to ensure communities are affordable for low-income and communities of color.

  • National and place-based funders should ensure they invest in both local people of color led residential organizing approaches and “intermediary” organizations.

  • Working across issues of health, education, immigration, jobs, housing, environment, and other social justice issues is the kind of intersectional organizing that is even more critical today in building people power. Funders can play a huge role to address these silos and mend the gap by aligning funding and with other collaborative funding efforts.

  • Many funders would like to invest more into community power-building efforts, but the internal politics within their institutions make this challenging. Funders must continue to be an internal advocate in their institutions to move resources to support organizing, advocacy, leadership development, and power building.

  • Developing comprehensive communication strategies and messaging on core issues such as living wage, housing, and broader equity issues can play a critical role in strengthening organizing opportunities in urban, rural, and suburban areas.

Photo: Tom Hoffman, Sierra Club
Photo: Tom Hoffman, Sierra Club

Reflections and Takeaways

  • We need to move our funding from purely issue-based to power-building. We need the long view and must invest in organizations and our people financially, mentally, and spiritually.

  • Coordination: network, talk, and take power! Continue the dialogue to fund organizing!

  • Facilitate coalitions and build relationships across networks to get to the scale needed to win.

  • More funder and practitioner interventions, dialogue, and strategy sessions are needed to learn and grow, based on the needs and work of the community.

  • Pay attention to the “health” of organizations and leaders, and how to sustain health and capacity.


Thank you to everyone who attended our Strategy in Action Learning Tour in Pittsburgh!

We sincerely appreciate the leadership of The Heinz Endowments, Pittsburgh United, The Colorado Trust, the Ford Foundation, local community partners, and community leaders from across the country for participating in the learning tour.