Youth on the Move: How Funders Can Support the Growing Movement of Young People of Color in 2015

Funders Collaborative for Youth Organizing, Jan 9, 2015

As we begin 2015, we at the Funders' Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO) have been re-inspired by the undeniable potential for young people of color to play a transformative role in advancing social justice.  Young people of color are demonstrating a readiness to organize that has not been seen in many years.  For funders and others who care about youth leadership and social and racial justice, it is an important time to support the actions taking place across the country to help them coalesce into a sustained movement.  For funders who care about young people, education, health and host of other issues, now is the time to invest not just in direct youth services, but also in the leadership of young people to address the roots of inequality.  Doing this will require an understanding of current youth organizing forms, strategic use of existing resources, and the identification of new resources and strategies to support the youth organizing field.

The conditions facing young people of color are dire: from violence at the hands of police to deportations to the closure of public schools.  In 2014 we saw young people rising to challenge these injustices in ways we could not have predicted.  This included massive protests against police brutality in Ferguson, New York, and beyond; continued pressure from undocumented young people for real immigration reform; a host of victories addressing racial disparities in school discipline; and young people leading the People's Climate March in New York.  Taken together, these events signify that a new generation of organizations and leaders for racial and social justice are taking hold.

This is a clear moment when young people of color are ready to organize.  It is essential that there are structures to support their ongoing engagement and the growth of their power (research has shown that young people of color are eager to engage in solving issues in their communities, but that the challenge has been the lack of opportunity to do so).  The effective support of youth organizing requires an understanding of the diversity of the youth organizing forms that have developed and the different kinds of support needed by each.  Of particular importance is how to support both the new organizational forms that have developed out of this moment and require new kinds of support, as well as the established youth organizing groups that play fundamental roles in sustaining this movement.  There is also a need and opportunity to bring together these different youth organizing forms to learn from each other and create shared strategy.  Based on our experience tracking the field of youth organizing, the following are some of our thoughts on how funders can support the leadership that young people are taking in this moment.

New Strategies for Supporting New Organizational Forms
One of the most exciting things in this moment has been the development of new youth organizing forms that grew in response to particular crisis.  Just as organizational forms are changing, philanthropy will need to change to keep up.  As supporting organizations such as the Wildfire Project have pointed out, these groups that have grown out of "movement moments" are using a momentum based organizing strategy that differs from traditional community organizing approaches.  Funders will need to understand these differences and help these organizations identify appropriate supports.  In addition, many of the new organizations are not 501c3s and some will never be.  This is true of new organizations growing in places like Ferguson as well as many United We Dream affiliates.  While these organizations do not have non-profit status, they are playing crucial roles and need support.  An interesting example of an innovative structure to support new leaders is the fellowship program developed by Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis, which provides stipends and training to young leaders.  Funders will have to find new ways to support these organizations as well helping them access training on alternative organizational structures.

Being Ready for the Next Crisis
Funders must also improve how we fund organizations on the ground in crisis moments, as we are without a doubt destined for more events like those in Ferguson, MO, New York, and Sanford, FL.  Funders want to be helpful in these moments, but the slow pace of grant cycles and lack of knowledge about who represents authentic leadership on the ground have often been barriers to rapid support.  National and local organizers are developing models for how to coordinate activities in these moments as evidenced by groups like the Ferguson Action Team.  Funders will also need to think about how we can be better coordinated to support rapid response in the next crisis.

Supporting Existing Youth Organizing Groups
While there is much excitement about new organizations in this moment, it is crucial to recognize that existing youth organizing groups are continuing to play crucial roles.  For example, Make the Road New York and its Youth Power Project has played a vital role in protests in New York. Their organizer Jose Lopez was part of the group of young leaders who met with President Obama in December and was recently appointed to the President's Commission on 21st Century Policing.  Jose began organizing with Make the Road at the age of 13 is an example of the kind of leaders developed by youth organizing groups.  In addition, three networks largely consisting of youth organizing groups, Alliance for Education Justice, Community Justice Network for Youth, and the Journey 4 Justice Alliance, worked together to organize a National Youth Action Against State Violence in December with coordinated actions across the country connecting police brutality, juvenile justice, and educational justice.  As established organizations with deep roots in their local communities, these organizations are able to engage large numbers of young people who have been motivated to become active by recent events and sustain their engagement for the long haul.  These organizations are often engaging younger young people (middle and high school age) than other organizations.  Engaging young people during adolescent years can support their long-term engagement in social justice.  While the field of youth organizing has grown and matured in recent years and these groups play vital roles in movement moments, funding for this work has declined.  These groups will need additional resources to support the many more young people who are ready to be engaged.

From Protest to Political Power
With the power of young people rising it will be critical to create a variety of opportunities for them to utilize that power.  As one of the fastest growing parts of our society, young people of color represent an increasingly important part of our electorate, but youth have often been an afterthought in elections, and opportunities for them to play meaningful roles have been slim.  While youth organizing groups have traditionally been more engaged in issue-based organizing rather than elections, a set of groups have integrated nonpartisan voter engagement into their organizing work with great success, and there is potential for more groups to do the same with proper resources and training.  Supporting youth organizing groups that want to include voter engagement in their work could be a powerful way to support this movement to build meaningful political power.  FCYO will soon release a report on youth organizing and voter engagement to spur this conversation.

FCYO Field Building Work
FCYO is now preparing to launch a set of new projects to help build a stronger and more stable youth organizing field that is capable of addressing the challenges and opportunities of the current moment.  Our new Youth Community Organizing Resource Exchange (Youth CORE, to be announced soon) will create regular opportunities for youth organizing groups from across the country to come together, learn from each other, and develop shared strategy.  This will include an upcoming national strategy meeting for groups addressing criminalization of youth of color to discuss how to sustain the momentum of the current moment as well as a large national convening in the fall of 2015 and regular webinars throughout the year.  Some of the greatest potential for building meaningful power lies in connecting the different youth organizing forms that have arisen in recent years.  In addition, FCYO is developing a new series of learning sessions for funders to deepen knowledge about youth organizing, learn about trends in the field, and discuss strategy for increasing resources for this work.  An announcement with dates for upcoming webinars are in person briefings will be coming soon.

Closing: A Pivotal Moment
The demographic shift taking place in the United States creates an opportunity for young people of color to shape the future and create a more just and equitable society, but demography is not destiny and justice and equality are not assured.  We are seeing a backlash against young people of color in forms including police brutality, mass incarceration, and voter suppression.  Young people are demonstrating their willingness to take on these challenges.  The questions are can they turn this moment into a sustained movement and can we help gather the resources needed to do so?  While a great deal of funding goes to addressing the symptoms of racial inequality, very little goes to support the leadership of young people of color themselves to address root causes and create lasting systemic change.  Now is the time to support the bold leadership of young people.

July 12, 2019

Catalyzing a Movement for Health and Housing

By Lindsay Ryder, Neighborhood Funders Group; Alexandra Desautels, The California Endowment; Michael Brown, Seattle Foundations; and Chris Kabel, The Kresge Foundation.

Lindsay Ryder, Alexandra Desautels, Michael Brown, and Chris Kabel

In June 2019, Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG) gathered nearly 90 funders at Grantmakers in Health’s national conference in Seattle for a panel discussion on how philanthropy can invest in community housing solutions. Despite the large number of concurrent sessions, funders filled the room to dig deep into the urgent issue of equitable housing — and what role health funders can play in addressing this critical health determinant.

The goals of the session, which was organized by NFG’s Democratizing Development Program, were to mobilize health funders to invest in housing solutions and to get more funders to support community readiness and community-centered strategies. The session featured three leaders pushing philanthropy to take action andto expand equity via healthy, affordable housing:

  • Alexandra Desautels, Program Manager, The California Endowment and partner in the Fund for an Inclusive California

  • Michael Brown, Civic Architect, Civic Commons, Seattle Foundation and recipient of the GIH 2018 Terrance Keenan Leadership Award

  • Chris Kabel, Senior Fellow, The Kresge Foundation and National Steering Committee member of NFG’s Amplify Fund

Two people riding green bikes in front of a large colorful mural on the side of a building.

Photo by Taylor Vick on Unsplash

Why Health and Housing?

The session kicked off with several funders in the room sharing why they, as health funders, care about housing. One table of grantmakers representing Indiana, Los Angeles, and Oregon acknowledged both the critical role housing plays in the health of individuals and communities, and how the complexity of addressing housing requires health funders to partner outside of their foundations to get it right and make an impact. Another table of funders from Ohio and Texas identified the intersection of safe housing and healthy birth outcomes as the driving force behind their interest in housing. One needs to look no further than the 2019 Annual Message released by the President of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, titled “Our Homes Are Key to Our Health,” to see how housing impacts health equity. Ultimately, as Alex Desautels of The California Endowment put it, “If you can’t get housing right, there’s not much else you can layer on to get communities healthy.”

Philanthropic models for supporting Health and Housing

Acknowledging the complexities surrounding health funders and housing, the session presenters shared their foundations’ approach to this issue. 

Michael Brown of the Seattle Foundation discussed the concentration of poverty, lack of services, increased isolation, and limited cultural/community centers that result from market-driven housing displacement. Using an approach of people, place, policy, and power, Seattle Foundation partnered with local government on a data-driven approach to identify communities in the greatest need of support. Working in South Seattle, the Foundation engaged with community members and advocates to create an investment strategy designed to build capacity for coalition work and community power, positioning these communities to engage at a policy- and systems change-level for sustained impact.

Meanwhile, The California Endowment found itself grappling with how to move capital to communities when it launched its Building Healthy Communities initiative in 2009 in the middle of the foreclosure crisis. Fast forward to the current day, and the Endowment is now also tackling compounding issues of supporting communities facing gentrification and displacement. Taking a similar power-building approach as the Seattle Foundation, the Endowment has focused is focusing on building capacity of community-based organizations via a place-based approach, recognizing that the history of segregation in this country has led to limited opportunities for people of color to live in communities where they can be healthy and that “place-based initiatives are designed to address that legacy,” as described by the Endowment’s Alex Desautels. 

Chris Kabel shared The Kresge Foundation’s complementary approach: funder collaboratives. Kresge’s mission is to expand opportunity for people with low incomes in America’s cities, a mission to which housing is fundamental. Kresge has been able to lean into housing by partnering with funder collaboratives such as Funders for Housing Opportunity, SPARCC, and NFG’s own Amplify Fund. Not only does this approach enable the foundation to pool and leverage other funders’ grants, it also allows them to fund place-based work in a way that’s fair and equitable — a common challenge for national foundations seeking to invest at the community level. In addition to participating in funder collaboratives, the Kresge Health program has made two rounds of grants to place-based practitioners through a national call for proposals titled Advancing Health Equity through Housing

What about the other 90 funders in the room?

There is no single model for health funders seeking to invest in housing. Nor are the approaches taken by Seattle Foundation, The California Endowment, or The Kresge Foundation — all of which are relatively large, well-resourced funding institutions — necessarily realistic for other funders. So, what other options are there? The individual contexts and experiences of the nearly 90 funders in the room was tapped to generate some collective wisdom:

  1. Whether through funder collaboratives or less formalized partnerships, team up with other funders, including individual donors in your region.

  2. Embrace the public sector as a key player. While philanthropy has historically shied away from housing with the underlying belief that it was “government’s responsibility,” private philanthropy has a critical role to play, regardless of what extent local/state/federal government is stepping up. Invest in the capacity of communities to build coalitions and yield power in decision-making that affects how and where they are able to live — and therefore how healthy they are able to be.

  3. Explore impact investing as a complement to grantmaking. Some of the most well-developed mission related investing work has been built around housing — whether it be investing directly to organizations to develop affordable housing units or by participating in larger funds managed by CDFIs that leverage additional public and private resources for housing. .

  4. Help shift the narrative around equitable housing. The dominant narrative of housing as a commodity has sidelined efforts around other models of affordable, safe, healthy housing that is not based on individual ownership. Similarly, the pejorative narrative around “trailer parks” has restricted an otherwise highly viable effort to utilize manufactured homes to get people into safe and healthy housing.

  5. Finally, don’t await crisis before acting! Funders should face the housing crisis head on as early as possible, bringing community representation to the table with public sector as well as private (market-based developers) at the earliest stage as possible to lay the groundwork for shared power and equitable solutions.

The role of Neighborhood Funders Group, and what next?

The work of NFG’s Democratizing Development Program is at the core of NFG’s nearly 40-year history of organizing philanthropy to support equitable, community-based change. Recognizing the history of segregation in this country, and centering communities of color and low-income communities, NFG works with funders at a national scale to develop and actualize effective funding strategies. As was acknowledged at several points throughout the session, no one foundation can do this alone. By helping funders come together to develop relationships, identify successful models, and actually move resources — NFG is moving philanthropy’s needle in finding solutions to equitable housing and community development. For example, over the past couple of years, NFG’s Democratizing Development Program was instrumental in the initial planning, staffing, and convening of funders in the development of the Amplify Fund and the Fund for Inclusive California

This 60-minute session at the GIH conference was only the tip of the iceberg for funders to further share, learn, and strategize with their peers on how to be effective grantmakers working on the intersections of health and housing. Building on this session discussion and other previous offerings, the Democratizing Development Program will continue to organize, partner, and host programming, and work towards convening funders to further the conversation around building a movement for health and housing. If you are interested in how your foundation can get involved, contact DDP’s Senior Program Manager, Nile Malloy, at nile@nfg.org

June 12, 2019

NFG Announces Transition of President Dennis Quirin

For Immediate Release
June 12, 2019

OAKLAND, CA — On July 19, Dennis Quirin will step down as President of Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG) to accept a new position as Executive Director of the Raikes Foundation in September. NFG’s Vice President of Programs, Adriana Rocha, and Vice President of Operations, Sarita Ahuja, will serve as Interim Co-Directors to shepherd the organization through the executive transition. A search for NFG’s next President will begin in late 2019.

“The courageous and bold leadership that Dennis exhibits is exactly what this moment requires. Today, NFG stands strong and in solidarity with the movements we are all in service of advancing. It has been an honor to work with someone who aligns their values with their actions as consistently as Dennis does. On behalf of the board, I am excited to welcome the next leader who will carry on NFG’s mission supporting grassroots power building so that communities of color and low-income communities thrive,” said Alison Corwin, Chair of the NFG board.

In his six-year tenure as President, Dennis has overseen tremendous expansion in NFG’s membership, operations, and programming. NFG's institutional membership has more than doubled, with now over 115 foundations around the country participating as members in programs focused on shifting power and money in philanthropy towards justice. NFG’s team has also grown to 15 staff members located in six states across the US. Dennis has launched the Amplify Fund, a multimillion-dollar collaborative fund for equitable development, and Philanthropy Forward, a foundation CEO fellowship. He has also fostered new directions in programming addressing issues such as gentrification and displacement, racial justice and police accountability, just transition to a new economy, rural organizing, and the changing landscape of workers’ rights.

“It has been a great privilege to lead this organization as it activates philanthropy to support social justice and power building,” said Dennis. “Nearing its 40th year, NFG is now in the strongest position it has ever been, and will no doubt continue to grow and build upon what we have accomplished together during my time here. I am excited to take what I’ve learned and apply these lessons in my new role at the Raikes Foundation.” 

“Dennis’s visionary leadership over the past six years has strengthened NFG as a community where funders gain relationships and tools to move more resources to organizing and powerbuilding,” said Sarita. “We are grateful to Dennis for building NFG into the thriving organization it is today,” added Adriana, “and look forward to welcoming a new leader in 2020.”

NFG’s executive search will be announced later in 2019 and will be open nationally to candidates. More immediate questions about the search can be sent to Shannon Lin, Communications Manager, at shannon@nfg.org

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Read more: "A New Chapter — for Me and for NFG"

 

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