March 26, 2019

St. Louis Young Black Leaders Cohort Design Process Consultant Search

REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS

The Old St. Louis County Courthouse framed by The Gateway Arch behind it.

Photo by Brittney Butler on Unsplash

In late 2018, the Amplify Fund engaged with a group of local advisors in a strategy development process to determine its grantmaking priorities in Missouri. Through that process there was a clear ask from local strategy advisors to invest in young Black leadership in the St. Louis region to deepen relationships, develop trust, and align around a shared political analysis and plan.

Specifically, the funding strategy calls for Amplify to support the leadership primarily of Black and youth leaders and names several strategies as pre-conditions to the success of any work in the region:

  • Nurture trusting relationships and collaborative spaces where they exist, and urgently invest in relationship and trust building, to lay the groundwork for fruitful future collaboration
  • Embedded in this work, include developing a more shared lens among leaders of key groups on systems change, power, and racial justice.
  • Support skill development – leadership development to ensure shared tools and points of reference, organizational development, and “brass tacks” organizing training to ensure a shared set of tactics and approach to the work, including, sharing national best practices and promising innovations that could be translated/implemented in St. Louis.

Together with a small core group of leaders who will serve as the design team, the Deaconess Foundation and the Amplify Fund are seeking a consultant to facilitate a 4-6-month design process to plan a leadership and organizational development and political alignment cohort experience for a small aligned group of young Black leaders in the St. Louis region.

DESIGN QUESTIONS

The purpose of the design process is to gain clarity on:

  • Who beyond the design team should be invited to participate in the cohort, and/or what the selection process will be? What is the ideal composition of the cohort overall?
  • What are the shared goals and areas of focus for the cohort? (i.e. what are the specifics of the “curriculum”: relationship and trust building, leadership development, political analysis and alignment, shared analysis regarding systems change, power, racial justice, campaign strategy and organizing models/tools, etc.) This will be informed by an initial capacity scan of the potential cohort members’ organizations and other movement stakeholders.
  • What is the desired outcome of this cohort experience? (i.e. Is this the formation of a Black political roundtable? Or something else?)
  • What entity (or entities?) – national or local – will support the cohort, and in what ways? (i.e. transformative leadership organizations like BOLD, Rockwood, or generative somatics, or groups from other states who have gone through political alignment processes, national organizing networks, M4BL, independent political strategists, etc.)
  • Other details such as duration, ongoing facilitation needs, etc.

DELIVERABLE

The outcome of the design process will be a grant proposal describing the cohort program design, timeline, and expected budget, reflecting the shared desires of the design team.

The finished product will be submitted to the Deaconess Foundation and Amplify Fund for funding, aiming for launch in fall 2019.

PROCESS AND DESIGN TEAM

Process-wise, there is a small group of core local, young, Black leaders — Kayla Reed, Action St. Louis; Blake Strode, Arch City Defenders; Charli Cooksey, WEPOWER — willing to serve on a design team, but the facilitator will be the primary person scoping and presenting opportunities, facilitating learning and generative design conversations, holding the overall process, coordinating design team members, and taking the lead on co-creating the proposal. The facilitator will be selected by the design team, highly attuned to their needs, schedules, and orientation to the process, and will work in a way that pushes and challenges assumptions, while producing a product that reflects the desires and inputs shared by design team members.

The purpose of hiring a facilitator for this process is to in every case minimize the burden on local leaders who are already burdened by far too many demands on their time. We are looking for someone who can craft a design experience that lifts up design team members’ brilliance and input, but does not ask them to do unnecessary extra work. The design team will help the facilitator identify key stakeholders in the community for input to the design process beyond the design team.


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KEY QUALIFICATIONS: 

  • Strong facilitation and process design skills
  • Embedded in and deeply knowledgeable about efforts to build Black political power
  • Knowledgeable of the leadership and organizational development landscape of organizations in the national social justice space
  • Proven experience in processes of political alignment
  • Experience in equitable development work, for example: housing justice, green infrastructure, and/or organizing efforts to influence private and public development projects
  • Ideally knowledgeable of the St. Louis region and Missouri context, but minimally a quick study and interested and willing to get up to speed on the local context in a self-driven way; proposals invited from consultants based in any geographic location  
  • Flexible time availability, so as to be able to work around the design team’s busy schedules (all three are EDs of organizations and have other responsibilities as well), and (if not based there) to be present in St. Louis as needed.

 

TO APPLY:

Interested applicants should submit a proposed scope of work and budget to info@deaconess.org by April 25, 2019 for consideration by the design team. We welcome pairs or teams of consultants, particularly those that combine local and national representation to apply.

PROPOSAL CONTENT

Please submit a proposed scope of work of no more than 5 pages that includes:

  • Statement of interest in this project, articulating how it aligns with your core work and purpose
  • Proposed approach to this project
  • List of past organizational partners and a relevant example (an artefact) of work you have completed with one of them
  • Proposed budget
  • Proposed timeline
  • Names and contact information for two references from organizations you have previously worked with

SELECTION TIMELINE

  • April 29: Proposals due to info@deaconess.org
  • April 29 – mid-May: Period of proposal review
  • May 23: Final candidates interviewed in-person by the Design Team in St. Louis, with candidate selection and offer to follow

SELECTION CRITERIA

  • Relevance of qualifications and experience listed above, and demonstrated interest in and passion for the project
  • Understanding of the work to be performed
  • Clear timeline for producing deliverables
  • Alignment with purpose and core values of the project, Deaconess Foundation, and the Amplify Fund
  • Budgetary considerations

 

ABOUT THE AMPLIFY FUND

The Amplify Fund is a national pooled grantmaking and capacity building fund focused on supporting work to build the power, influence, and direct decision-making authority of communities of color and low-income communities to advance equitable urban and regional development. Amplify is housed at the Neighborhood Funders Group and administered in partnership with the Common Counsel Foundation. The Fund has a four-year time horizon and grantmaking will begin in Fall 2018 in four pilot sites: Missouri, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico, as well as in California, through the Fund for an Inclusive California. One goal of the Fund’s design is to be disruptive to some of the typical dynamics in philanthropy, and as such its defining characteristics include:

  • Amplify will prioritize and be guided by local leadership in every site, and has crafted grantmaking strategies in each site with the guidance of local leaders.
  • A race analysis is at the center of the Fund’s grantmaking, learning and evaluation, communications, and capacity building with grantees.
  • The Fund supports work that positions communities of color and low-income communities as the primary drivers of change.
  • From the outset, Amplify will strive to develop a strategy to ensure long-term sustainability for the work after the Fund sunsets.

Amplify’s grantmaking seeks to respond to the fact that communities of color and low-income communities experience the most negative impacts of development, and currently have the least power and say over how decisions that directly affect them are made. Amplify aims to support a shift in local power structures by helping to put decisions about local development in the hands of people of color and low-income communities. The Fund’s theory of change asserts that historically systemic racism is at the heart of these decisions and therefore a racial justice analysis has to be applied to solutions in order for them to be effective. We believe that people in communities have much of the wisdom and clarity to drive an equitable development agenda. In order to insert that wisdom in the decision-making process, greater power among communities of color and low-income communities is necessary.

  

ABOUT THE DEACONESS FOUNDATION

Deaconess Foundation invests in the well-being of children, engages our region around the plight of youth, and advocates for change. A ministry of the United Church of Christ, Deaconess has invested more than $80 million to improve the health of the St. Louis community since 1998 and believes healthy, hope-filled futures for children benefit the entire region. The Foundation’s grantmaking footprint includes St. Louis City, St. Louis, Jefferson, St. Charles, and Franklin Counties in Missouri and Madison, St. Clair and Monroe Counties in Illinois.

Deaconess Foundation operates as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and as a supporting organization under Section 509(a)(3) of the Code. Deaconess Foundation is a supporting organization of the Missouri Mid-South and Illinois South Conferences of the United Church of Christ.

Additional information about the Foundation can be found on our website: www.deaconess.org.

 

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September 5, 2021

Reflections on Labor Day with Larry Williams, Jr. of UnionBase

This Labor Day, NFG’s Director of the Funders for a Just Economy program, Manisha Vaze, met with Larry Williams, Jr., Cofounder of UnionBase, and formerly a Labor and Just Transition Coordinator at the Sierra Club and President of the Progressive Workers Union. In this interview, Manisha and Larry talked about Larry’s work and his vision for the labor movement and for building worker power.  


 
Can you start off by sharing the story of why you started UnionBase? What is the central issue you are hoping to address with Unionbase?

UnionBase is a company and tech platform focused on improving the labor movement and accelerating it’s growth. We’ve been around since 2015 and started as a search engine for unions. Based on user feedback we pivoted to becoming a communication and education platform, building the tools workers need to build power in their workplace. As we started supporting workers we realized there is a serious need for educational content on how to organize and build power in the workplace. As a result we started a magazine that now serves union locals around the United States and Canada, as well as relationships with some of America’s largest unions. 

We see our mission as not only helping people join unions but also helping unions to become better partners to the communities where they work and their members live. We’re also trying to educate people about the history of work, the future of work, and our shared responsibility in directing that future. I want to share how we can make our community and our lives better by organizing our workplaces. 

It feels like there’s a resurgence of energy around worker organizing, collective bargaining, and the labor movement. What are some issues that come up as we garner more support for the labor movement?

I want to share how we can make our community and our lives better by organizing our workplaces. 

The organized labor movement can be hard to understand but is key to empowering communities, workers, and fighting climate change. For labor to continue to grow and evolve into a more diverse and powerful movement it needs to start looking outward and engaging young people. It is more likely now than anytime before that young people do not know about the history of the labor movement and its achievements. 

Though they may come from a working class family, young people may not relate to the traditional message of pride in being a worker or even identify as a “worker”.  As some employers are having trouble finding people to do in-person jobs because of COVID-19, young people are saying, “Why would I want to be a waitress or work in an office and risk my life to make a very low wage when I can work for myself?” 

Simultaneously, some young people are excited like never before to build power for themselves and their community starting in the workplace and we see that in the increasing number of organizing campaigns happening across the United States.

Can you talk more about the experience of organizing your own workplace? What did you learn and what were some challenges?

I had the blessing of experiencing first hand what can happen when workers build for a better future but forming a union. I was the first President of Progressive Workers Union (PWU), a decentralized, independent union that was started by workers employed at the Sierra Club. PWU’s organizing efforts captured the imagination of many nonprofits workers around the country when we won what has become the model for how to represent staff who work at nonprofits. 

There are many notable victories in the contract that make Sierra Club a better organization and allowed for a much better relationship between all staff and the organization’s leadership. The first contract includes many important improvements but a few worth naming are Compensatory Time, Family Sustaining Wages and improved Paid Family Leave.

Also, the entire organization now does a yearly pay review which allows the union to ensure that there is parity amongst staff across the organization and its affiliates. Every year, the union compares salary with the MIT wage scale. Through this analysis, pay inequality impacting women and people of color can be addressed. This was a unique solution we were able to negotiate through the union contract and was a victory for both the employer and employees.

What are the benefits for major organizations when they have a unionized workforce?

In all of the places where the organization was falling down the union was stepping up to support these workers.

There are several ways that unionized workers create more value for the organizations where they work. Most people think unions only care about wages. While fair pay is important, what people don’t realize is the respect that union workers have for the work that they do. Workers in a union are more secure in their jobs and produce better work. One thing that is core to why PWU works is that most workers come to nonprofit organizations as young people hoping to change the world. Nonprofits have an unintended habit of exploiting young workers until they burn out, then replacing them with another young person. In PWU all of the unit representatives, bargaining teams, and union leadership saw a vision for changing this paradigm, and believed that forming a union was the place to achieve a vision of changing this reality and we did it. For example, recently the Intercept wrote about how the Sierra Club’s Executive Director, Micheal Brune, was stepping down. All throughout that media’s reporting, and in the internal report, you can see how many ways the union took on sexual assault cases. In all of the places where the organization was falling down the union was stepping up to support these workers. 

Over the past several years and throughout this pandemic, workers have been in motion – striking and demanding better wages, health protections, working conditions and benefits in solidarity with the larger community. These campaigns have also been connecting worker justice to other social movements, like the movements to divest from policing and ICE, climate justice, and disaster recovery and relief. What do you think about these new unionization and collective bargaining efforts and what are the opportunities you see for the labor movement overall?

This is a make it or break it moment. While there is infinite opportunity for labor, success in the future is by no means guaranteed.

This moment has the potential to be a new golden age for labor and we’ve been preparing for it for the last ten years. Even prior to the pandemic, the working conditions of millions of Americans were revealed to be unbearable, and their income, which has stagnated in the face of skyrocketing living costs, is unsustainable. The pandemic has shined an even brighter light on this issue as many frontline workers lauded as heroes have been, in reality, treated as disposable. Without the protections and voice that comes with being in a union, frontline workers have been incapable of getting the hazard pay, protections, and living wages they have more than earned. Also, the labor movement has struggled to address issues of police brutality within its own membership. This is a make it or break it moment. While there is infinite opportunity for labor, success in the future is by no means guaranteed. The only answer is that people from underrepresented and impacted communities must be supported as legitimate leadership of unions. That means not just being in the room but making sure they are leading the decision making process. 

You mentioned that we’re in a make it or break it moment. What do you see as the best path forward? How might funders be supportive?

Funders should look for the people who are building relationships and doing organizing work, who have success doing it, and then figure out what is the quickest path to get the money to them with reasonable accountability but maintaining the least amount of control possible. Then they will see what their investment can do a lot better than if they request endless reports that may not reflect the value of the work being done. The people who are doing the work often have a difficult time connecting with funding opportunities despite their record of success.

I recognize the challenge for funders: they have a lot of rules and organizational things [to consider]. But, I think that there needs to be a more light weight process for making the connection between the people who need the money and the people who have the money.

Cover of Workplace Leader, a magazine for workers by UnionBase.

Also, funders should be setting an expectation that employers follow labor law and normalize unionization. Funders can take an active role in supporting workers by setting standards for their major funding recipients. For example, funders can use the MIT family sustaining wage calculator and other normative standards that help employers and workers find agreement. That way we're all on the same side and able to seek labor peace. It's about smarter decision making, engaging employers, the employees, and funders in productive conversations.

What’s next or upcoming for you and UnionBase?

UnionBase is scaling up to continue helping workers transform themselves for a new era of work. Meanwhile, we will continue to push the organized labor movement to expand outside of its comfort zone. Many workers are asking themselves, “How do you start and run a union with values centered around justice and equity?” UnionBase will be engaging in conversations with interested unions and funders to directly support the education of workers who want to organize traditional, independent and decentralized unions. 

Thank you so much, Larry! I'm really excited to see how UnionBase will continue to bloom.

 
More resources to learn about UnionBase:
August 24, 2021

What Philanthropy can Learn from Labor Organizing: NFG's August 2021 Newsletter

I am so excited to join NFG’s Amplify Fund team. Amplify, a funder collaborative, has organized local, regional, and national funders to distribute over $8 million in power building grants to Black, Indigenous, people of color and low-income organizations.

As the Fund’s inaugural Director of Learning and Communications, my skills with research, evaluation, and messaging are critical; however, I am particularly looking forward to bringing my experience in labor organizing to this role.

I have been a part of three unionized workplaces (as a public-school teacher, in city government, and at Open Society Foundations). I have also helped organize nonprofit workers. Participating in these institutions provided me with four guiding principles that are applicable (and truly essential) to philanthropic work focused on racial justice and power building.

  1. Develop clear messages and practice saying them out loud. Labor organizers spend a lot of time collecting stories, crafting talking points, and training workers to deliver consistent and clear messages. This ensures that workers are equipped to combat false narratives. It also “inoculates” workers against messaging tactics used to sway them against their own interests. Like Amplify’s grantees that deal with a slew of toxic narratives about individualism, white supremacy, and limited government responsibility, those of us who work in philanthropy deal with toxic narratives about wealth, scarcity, meritocracy, and accountability. To truly change the sector, we need to develop and practice messages that offer an alternative view and neutralize harmful narratives.
  2. Regularly track information and use it. Every labor organizer has experience developing a spreadsheet that lists out the workers in an organization, their issues, their stance on unionizing, and which actions (“structure tests”) the worker has participated in. This spreadsheet gives the organizers a sense of the current situation and helps them develop a strategic path forward. I use this concept with grantees to understand their work, and we can use this tool for funder organizing to identify activists and leaders who are challenging the status quo in the field of philanthropy.
  3. Find the actual leaders and fully support them. In labor organizing, a leader is someone respected by many. Someone who can move people. Not necessarily the person in charge or the person with the loudest voice. Some of us in philanthropy regularly challenge traditional ideas of leadership by asking ourselves: Who are the lesser-known leaders in places or issue areas that we fund? How can we find them? And how can we support them with leadership development training, capacity building support, and opportunities? However, it’s also worth asking who the leaders are within foundations, and how we can find and support them. We need them engaged if we are serious about changing philanthropy.
  4. Invest in relationships. Lastly, a theme that is common in organizing is the importance of relationship building. I have been spoiled in philanthropy. I have worked on portfolios — first at Open Society Foundations (with the Open Places Initiative) and now at Amplify Fund — that place full trust in local groups and commit to supporting these groups for a long time. This, in turn, allowed me to get to know people beyond working relationships. It is these relationships which are essential for change in local communities and in philanthropy.

I am thrilled to apply these lessons learned to Amplify Fund’s work. 

You can hear more about my story organizing in philanthropy for greater transparency and equity in NFG’s National Convening plenary panel on Accountability & Philanthropy's Role. In the meantime, I hope to build (or continue to build) relationships with all of you. To connect with me directly, email me at renata@nfg.org.

Always,
Renata Peralta
Director of Learning and Communications, Amplify Fund
 

read the newsletter

 

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