April 2, 2019

FFJ Advisor Discussion Series: Zachary Norris

Photo of Zarchary

Zachary Norris, FFJ Field Advisor and Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, tells us about his vision for change and the need to invest in building the foundation for marginalized communities to thrive.

What’s happening for Ella Baker Center in this moment?

It's a very exciting time for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights as we move to a new, permanent home in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood: a community advocacy and training center called Restore Oakland.

At Restore Oakland, community members will have access to a wide range of resources - training to get good jobs in the restaurant industry, conflict resolution through restorative justice approaches, housing and tenant rights advocacy, and a hub to organize around criminal justice reform and other issues impacting the community. Plus, Restore Oakland will house a vibrant restaurant serving delicious, healthy, affordable food.

At the same time, the Ella Baker Center continues to move programs focused on shifting resources away from prisons and punishment and toward investment in opportunities that make our communities safe, healthy, and strong. We are currently organizing with Oakland community members to call for accountability and transparency of the Alameda County Sheriff, standing up to win change and community-led solutions for unsheltered Oaklanders who are being displaced and criminalized, and supporting legislation that takes important steps toward criminal justice reform in California.

How does your work connect to a vision for change in the communities that you work in?

Through our longstanding community organizing efforts, we have heard from residents that there is a need for a space where community members can come together to build their power and transform Oakland.

Coming together to organize and transform our communities is crucial when so many Oakland residents have been shut out of job and economic opportunities due to prior involvement with the criminal justice system, and decades of unjust economic and criminal justice policies. Our vision is rooted in restorative economics—the idea that all Oakland residents, including people who have been incarcerated, working people, immigrants and people of color, must shape and benefit from economic development in order for our communities to truly prosper.

At Restore Oakland, residents will build community and economic power, while restoring healing, opportunity, and justice. Our model is unique is because we lead with organizing and advocacy to build self-determination for our communities while also providing hands-on job training, business incubation, restorative justice mediation, and housing rights services — all in one space.

How do you understand the political moment that we’re in? What do you think we need to do differently right now?

The country feels more divided than it has ever been.  One thing that has been under-examined in terms of how we got here is the criminal court system. The criminal court system is all about two sides. A two-sided court and prison system magnifies divides between rich and poor, between people of color and white folks. Authoritarians take the “Us vs. Them” mentality of the justice system and turn it into national policy.  We need an entirely new vision of community safety not based on two sides or us vs. them, but based on one whole.

Restorative Justice embodies this approach and is the process through which people are held accountable and yet still held in community. This approach isn’t possible in every case but this should be our go-to response, and incarceration should be the last resort.

It’s a win-win-win. That’s three wins: 1) people who have caused harm are much less likely to get in trouble again when they go through restorative justice; 2) an overwhelming majority of victims report being satisfied with it - that’s because people can see and benefit from the accountability that has happened; 3) restorative justice is about one circle involving lots of people in the question of how we get to safety.

People coming together is necessary if we are to be able to hold large institutions and powerful individuals accountable.  This is the democracy we need: a democracy where no one is immune from accountability and we are all within the circle of human family. By transforming our justice system we might just rescue our democracy.

What should funders be doing in this moment to support social movements and lasting change?  

As rent and housing segregation continues to rise in the Bay Area and cities across the country, both community members and the organizations that serve them are being priced out and displaced. In this moment it’s crucial to invest in forward-thinking, long-lasting change that will build the foundations that allow low-income and marginalized communities to thrive. Through Restore Oakland and together with the community, we are creating a better model for transformation and self-determination that can be replicated in other cities and communities.

April 21, 2022

(Re)Sharing NFG's National Convening update + more events: NFG's April 2022 Newsletter

Neighborhood Funders Group is re-sharing the announcement about our National Convening that we made earlier this month.  

We are shifting the timing of our National Convening in Wilmington, North Carolina from June 2022 to Spring 2023.

Convening is NFG’s ‘superpower,’ and the most frequently named reason for why we are many funders’ political home in philanthropy. Many of us are feeling more open to in-person connection with funder colleagues and grantee partners; excitement about the post-session hallway scheming that happens at NFG convenings; and ready for the impromptu fun that comes from in-person time together, including late night (Covid-safe!) karaoke sessions with both new and long-time friends and colleagues. And, we're continuing to be mindful that we have not been at a moment like this ever before in our lifetimes.

The decision to shift our convening to 2023 was informed by ongoing, thoughtful conversations with NFG’s staff & board of directors, our convening co-chairs who are grantmakers in the region, our Amplify Fund grantee partners that are building power in Eastern North Carolina, and our event planners (Girl Friday Events) about Covid considerations and how & when we want to intentionally regather in-person.

How we regather and build community as safely and accessibly as possible during an ongoing pandemic — where there are no known/clear solutions — requires all of us to think as adaptive leaders. How we come back together as a community requires more conversations, time, and co-created paths forward.

Over the next months, we will continue our convening program planning. When we come back together for this National Convening in 2023, we’re committed to creating a convening space that is rooted in joy, camaraderie, care, and fun; showcases how groups in Eastern North Carolina are building power locally; and moves money to BIPOC communities. Our first convening back together in-person after more than two years will be nothing short of a spectacular reunion. 

Stay tuned for more convening announcements to come! And keep reading for our robust list of upcoming events hosted by NFG and our partners, including:

In community,
The NFG Team

read the newsletter

 

Find More By:

News type: 
March 24, 2022

Sharing NFG's refreshed theory of change: NFG's March 2022 Newsletter

Neighborhood Funders Group has shared snippets of our new theory of change in each of our newsletters so far this year. 

In January, we unveiled our long-term outcome: Philanthropic assets are liberated so that BIPOC communities and low-income communities have power to self-determine. In February, we applied this outcome to NFG’s Funders for a Just Economy program — which organizes funders committed to supporting economic justice and worker power to rebuild an economy and democracy that works for all, ensures good quality jobs, and promotes prosperity and health. 

Now, we’re excited to share our full theory of change! This process started in 2021 when we revisited our initial strategic framework that was developed three years prior. A board and staff committee came together for this work. We spoke to co-chairs of NFG programs. And we worked with the phenomenal Luminare Group who also partnered with us in 2018 on our initial strategic framework.

We began by affirming what we still held as true and core in our strategic framework while also naming our curiosities. What we found (and still find) unique and powerful in the process of developing our theory of change are the conversations and connections, the clarity named, and the commitments made. Over the course of 2021, we affirmed and refined these elements of our theory of change: the problem we seek to address, our guiding principles and values, assumptions, context, strategies and our outcomes. We also identified the evidence (empirical and experiential) that informs us. We did this so that we can be clear on our commitments, push ourselves and our work, learn from what we try on, and be accountable to you and each other.

As I shared in my January message: We know that this is a critical time for philanthropy. More people are amassing wealth, leading to more billionaires entering philanthropy and the creation of more DAFs and private foundations. There continues to be wealth hoarding among individual and foundation donors. Many foundations persist in adhering to a minimum 5% payout while endowments continue to grow. And we are seeing some positive shifts with foundations spending down the assets they’ve been holding and shifting their investment practices. Many more funders are centering trust, community power building, and decentralized decision-making in their grantmaking.

Given this context, we named key assumptions to inform our work going forward:

  • Philanthropy is at a choice point. The sector has an opportunity to shift and transform, and some grantmakers are making that choice. Others continue to pull back and maintain the status quo. 

  • Different practices are possible in philanthropy when guided by an analysis that centers root causes and intersectional analysis.

  • It will take examples and stories of how to increase spend out, transform investments, and change philanthropic practices to show the way.

  • Progress toward our theory of change outcomes will take a broad base of funders: those interested in racial, gender, economic, disability, and climate justice beginning their journey and those leading the way who are funder organizers and leaders.

  • All of us in philanthropy — Black, Indigenous, people of color, and white people — can transform our understanding to be greater leaders for justice. Even though all of us are implicated, who leads matters! Who is leading will shape how and what we fund.  

Our refreshed theory of change document is a commitment, an aspiration, and a blueprint for how NFG wants to be in our work and in our relationships with our community.

This theory of change will move us toward the following outcomes:

  • Philanthropy is led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color leaders who have experience in building community power 

  • Philanthropic practices shift power to BIPOC communities and are grounded in trust 

  • Racial, gender, economic, disability, and climate justice is funded with all philanthropic assets 

And it will guide how we partner, plan programming, and co-conspire with our community of grantmakers to liberate philanthropic assets so that BIPOC and low-income communities have power to self-determine.

We look forward to being in community with you to make this transformation together. 
 

Onwards,
Adriana

read the newsletter

 

Find More By:

News type: