Engage to Change
Service organizations are meeting the immediate needs of their constituents and provide essential supports. At the same time, many of these groups recognize how larger policies and procedures can make their job harder and limit options and opportunities of their program participants. With increasing inequality, slashes in public budgets, and greater demand on their services, nonprofits are looking for new ways to do their work.
Several years ago, we were struck by the way some of our grantee partners were changing how they saw the people they serve, who are commonly seen as recipients or beneficiaries of the organization’s expertise and services. Instead, a growing number of groups worked with their program participants as partners in making change in their own lives, the organization, and in the surrounding community. We hosted a series of conversations with a dozen New York City nonprofit service delivery organizations to discuss the motivation, benefits, and challenges of embracing this way of engaging clients and community members.
Engage to Change comes out of these discussions and a mapping process to catalogue the varied modes of doing the work. Our conversations were facilitated by the Building Movement Project which has a decade of experience working with nonprofits, especially service providers, on how they can integrate social change practices into their everyday responsibilities. We drew on the design skills of the Center for Urban Pedagogy in order to have a compelling, visual way to explain the changes that are taking place. It offers service providers and funders concrete examples of why meaningful participant engagement makes a difference. We also provide a list of resources that can be helpful for those who want more information.
The set of strategies outlined here describes how some service organizations are integrating social change into their everyday work. Supporting the voice of their service recipients helps participants gain a sense of efficacy and gives organizations new ideas and power to make change.
SALTA Leadership Training
SALTA (Salud Ambiental Lideres Tomando Accion – Environmental Health, Leaders Taking Action) is a web-based, interactive leadership development curriculum that provides community leaders with skill-building training in community organizing, policy advocacy, building power, community health, environmental justice and effective communication.
SALTA is a key component to ensuring that EHC achieves our core mission. More than education, SALTA is integrated with EHC’s organizing and advocacy efforts to achieve environmental and social justice.
SALTA programs represent the organic educational efforts of the different campaigns, teams, leaders, and staff that make up EHC and were designed specifically for our leaders based on our local efforts. We began SALTA trainings in 1996, and now more than 2,000 individuals have been trained.
Developed and field tested by EHC staff and leaders during the past 15 years, SALTA uses a popular education approach that makes the training inclusive and accessible to all participants. Trainings are based on the knowledge, skills and real-world experiences of EHC staff, leaders and training participants.
Popular education, which has varying interpretations, is best defined by the practice where participants share their own understanding and feelings about a specific topic or issue and that understanding and feelings are considered valid. The idea of popular education (often described as “education for critical consciousness”) as a teaching methodology came from a Brazilian educator and writer named Paulo Freire, who was writing in the context of literacy education for poor and politically disempowered people in his country. It’s different from formal education (in schools, for example) and informal education (learning by living) in that it is a process which aims to empower people who feel marginalized socially and politically to take control of their own learning and to effect social change.
The SALTA sessions improve participants’ sense of belonging to a community as participants and stakeholders of their societies. They begin to see themselves as empowered members who can make change.
Racial Wealth Gap Learning Simulation
The simulation an interactive tool that helps people understand the connections among racial equity, hunger, poverty, and wealth. It is a good first step for people unaware of structural inequality, a support tool for those who want a deeper understanding of structural inequality, and a source of information for experts who want to know the quantifiable economic impact of each policy that has widened today’s racial hunger, income, and wealth divides.
In the simulation, participants learn how federal policies created structural inequalities—property ownership and education are just two among many areas affected—and how these policies increase hunger and poverty in communities of color. The simulation guides participants to an understanding of why racial equity is so important to ending hunger and poverty in the United States. Our hope is that participants, in becoming more aware of structural inequality, can support policies that undo and/or reduce disparities.
Since the simulation emphasizes the importance of racial equity, it can be a helpful companion tool for churches, organizations, agencies, schools, and communities that have begun working on race and want to learn more about the role that public policy has had, over time, in creating structural divides based on race.
Tools to Engage Webinar Series Part 1: Engage to Change
Maria Mottola, Executive Director of the New York Foundation and Julia Watt-Rosenfeld, Director of Community Organizing and Advocacy at Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation join BMP staff for the first Tools to Engage Webinar to discuss the development and implementation of the “Engage to Change” guide.
Tools to Engage Webinar Part 2: Barrett Foundation and the Common Good Action Project
This webinar, Barrett House and the Common Good Action Project is part 2 of the Tools to Engage Webinar series. Hear from Building Movement Project consultant Leah Steimel and Connie Chavez, Executive Director of the Barrett Foundation, about the Common Good Action Project in New Mexico and how the Barrett Foundation put lessons from the CGAP cohort into practice to break down silos and transform their Board. Also, learn more about BMP’s Tools to Engage website.
Deeper Dive into Advocacy: A Case Study on a Service Provider’s Bold Shift to Social Action
Family Economic Security Partnership (FESP), SparkPoint Contra Costa, and the Building Movement Project engaged in a six month process to assess SparkPoint Contra Costa’s interest and capacity to engage in policy advocacy. The resulting case study presents how SparkPoint Contra Costa, a direct service organization, built on its strength as an advocate for individuals to begin advocating for policy and larger system issues. The information includes an overview of types of advocacy and tips and tools for other organizations interested in adding social change activities to their daily practice.
Evaluating Coalitions and Networks: frameworks, needs, and opportunities
Evaluators have developed an impressive array of approaches, frameworks, and tools to support both coalitions/networks and their funders. The report explores these developments, and points to challenges and opportunities that remain in efforts to assess the effectiveness and impact of coalitions/networks.
This review is for coalitions and networks that are considering embarking on evaluation. It begins with what makes coalitions and networks different from standalone organizations, and the implications for evaluation. It then reviews five selected evaluation frameworks, highlighting their advantages, limitations, and applicability. Finally, it offers a set of lessons and opportunities related to coalition/network evaluation based on real-life experiences, along with insights for funders on how best to support evaluation of the coalitions/networks they support.
Power and Constituent Engagement
This worksheet, which some may find helpful to use in tandem with the Sources of Power handout, allows individuals to assess where they personally have power within their organizational context, what power they have in relation to the clients/constituents their organization serves, and what might happen if clients/constituents had more of a say in the organizations.
Tools to Engage Webinar Series Part 3: A Deeper Dive into Advocacy
Now, more than ever, direct service organizations are being called upon to advocate for individuals as well as for policy change. By integrating service and social change, organizations can continue to effectively provide needed services, while addressing the root causes that make services necessary. You may be wondering:
- What would integrating service and social change look like for your organization?
- What are some steps you can take, no matter where you are in the process, to more actively engage your constituents?
- How can you build on skills you and your staff already have to make a seamless transition to policy advocacy?
To address these, and many more questions, BMP hosted a webinar (part of our Tools to Engage webinar series) to lift up the work one organization is doing to integrate policy advocacy into the work they’re already doing. In an interview with project consultant Judi Sherman, Executive Director of SparkPoint Contra Costa, Betty Geishirt Cantrell, shared her organization’s experience of volunteering to engage in a “deeper dive” to assess their capacity to integrate policy advocacy into their current service provision and develop a plan for future action. Takeaways include an understanding of the factors helped make this “deeper dive” a success, how the process changed the organization, and how integrating service and social change might not be such a big leap after all.
Watch the recording here, and download a PDF of the slides.
Tools to Engage Webinar Series Part 4: Racial Wealth Learning Simulation
The Building Movement Project (BMP) recently hosted a webinar designed to help listeners gain a deeper understanding of the root causes of hunger and the connections between racial equity, hunger, poverty, and wealth.
In an interview with simulation designer Marlysa D. Gamblin, Domestic Advisor for Policy and Programs, Specific Populations at Bread for the World we learned about Bread’s new Racial Wealth Gap Learning Simulation—an interactive tool that helps people talk about race and learn about the importance of racial equity. Simulation user Marla Karina Larrave, Associate Director for Grassroots Advocacy at National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, then shared her organization’s experience of applying the tool and the external and internal impacts of the application, as well as challenges and lessons learned along the way.
Below, please find the resources mentioned on the webinar:
Cultural Responsiveness Organizational Tool (CROS)
A wide variety of cultural strengths exist within social service organizations. As our field strives to continuously enhance its cultural responsiveness while serving survivors, families, and communities, it is essential for organizations to recognize their own assets and challenges. The Cultural Responsiveness Organizational Tool (CROS) was created for this very purpose. Specially designed and validated for the social services field, this self-administered tool allows participants to:
- Receive a customized snapshot depicting where their organization is on a developmental continuum of cultural responsiveness
- Increase their understanding of their organizational strengths, as well as areas that may benefit from attention and improvement
- Deepen their insight as to the way in which culturally-responsive practice is weaved throughout their organizations
Check out this video about the tool, too!
Tools to Engage Part 5: How Social Change Happens, The View From Detroit
How can service providers and organizing groups work together to shift power? Find out in this 60-minute webinar featuring Reverend Roslyn Bouier from the Brightmoor Connection Client Choice Food Pantry and Kea Mathis, Family Engagement Organizer from the Detroit People’s Platform. Rev Roslyn and Kea share insights from the work they are doing in Detroit, and the components that make their approach and partnership unique and justice-oriented. In particular, they explain how their partnership helps connect the dots between food insecurity and public policies that undermine families and put them further at risk, while building community leadership to shift power. Viewers will leave with concrete examples, tools, and next steps for integrating service and social change to address the root causes leading clients to seek services in the first place.
Tools to Engage Webinar Series Part 6: Engaging Constituents, Addressing Root Causes: Food Banks and Beyond
This 60-minute Tools to Engage webinar features Randi Quackenbush and Lyndsey Lyman of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier (FBST) and Alicia Swords, Associate Professor at Ithaca College. In it, Alicia shares some history and insights from her experience working with the University of the Poor and the Poor Peoples’ Campaign to root our conversation in a larger movement to end poverty. Then, Randi and Lyndsey talk about the Speakers Bureau model they’ve developed at FBST, as well as how they are thinking about and using popular/political education to build a shared analysis of the root causes of poverty and hunger. During the Q+A, participants engage around the question of how it is possible for non-profits in general (and food banks in particular) to address root causes and speak honestly about them given the many restraints we face, like funding and capacity.
The resources, organizations, and tools mentioned during the webinar include:
- Kairos: The Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice
- Center for Story-based Strategy
- Racial Wealth Gap Simulation
- United for a Fair Economy Ten Chairs Activity
- Closing the Hunger Gap conference – Sept 3-5 in Raleigh NC
- Dropbox of resources gathered from the Constituent Engagement Community of Practice, including information about the Speakers’ Bureau
- To join the Constituent Engagement Community of Practice, click here.
- Tools to Engage webinar series
- Alicia’s article “Action research on organizational change with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier: a regional food bank’s efforts to move beyond charity.”
Tools to Engage Webinar Series Part 7: Census, the Citizenship Question, and the Community and Organizational Response
This 60-minute webinar moderated by BMP’s Networking and Learning Manager TC Duong and featuring XP Lee Program Manager for Policy & Special Projects with the Minnesota Council on Foundations, Joseph Shoji Lachman ACRS Civic Engagement Program Manager with Asian Counseling and Referral Service, and Raima Roy from Asian Americans Advancing Justice. These speakers helped explain why being counted in the Census is so important, especially for historically undercounted communities, and how the Trump administration’s efforts to include a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census has erected further barriers to a full and inclusive count. During the webinar, participants also learned about how Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations and networks are organizing and mobilizing around Census 2020 and what shifts they have made to fight back against the citizenship question.
In case you missed the webinar, we’ve made it easy to watch a recording and download the slides.
The links and resources mentioned during the webinar include:
- Facebook Page for the Washington Census Alliance: https://www.facebook.com/CensusAllianceWA/
- Washington Census Alliance – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Race to Lead Survey: bit.ly/RacetoLeadSurvey
Constituent Voice: A Technical Note
Constituent Voice is a methodology developed by Keystone Accountability to enable organizations to improve results by optimizing their relationships with their constituents. Steps are 1) Designing; 2) Collecting; 3) Analyzing; 4) Closing the loop; 5) Course correcting
#OurNeighborhoods Organizing Toolkit
#OurNeighborhoods is a network of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) grassroots organizations committed to addressing the issue of gentrification through neighborhood organizing. A project of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD), #OurNeighborhoods builds power with low-income AAPI residents and youth who have been directly impacted by displacement. They created two toolkits, one for tenants and one for neighborhoods, as a resource for communities as they organize and build community power.
Tools to Engage Webinar Series Part 8: #OurNeighborhoods Anti-Displacement Toolkit
This is the eighth webinar in the Tools 2 Engage series and features Quinn Rhi of National CAPACD and Manisha Lance and Karimah Dillard of Raksha, Inc. Quinn presented the new #OurNeighborhoods Anti-Displacement toolkit, developed by National CAPACD to address gentrification and displacement, and walked us through the toolkit website. Then, Karimah and Manisha introduced us to Raksha, Inc., a Georgia-based nonprofit organization servicing the South Asian community. They discussed the intersections of housing, safety, affordability, and accessibility, and how these issues often result in gentrification and displacement. Raksha, Inc., though not defined by a framework of tenant or neighborhood organizing, is still an organization that makes use of the #OurNeighbhorhoods toolkit as a way to educate communities. At the end of the webinar, the guest speakers discussed the challenges they anticipate on the road ahead, particularly in regard to building leadership in their client populations and finding ways to engage folks who have limited time and capacity.
Additional resources, organizations, and tools related to the webinar include:
Reflection Guide for Mapping Roles in A Social Change Ecosystem
In our lives and as part of movements and organizations, many of us play different roles in pursuit of equity, shared liberation, inclusion, and justice. This reflection guide (to be used with the Role in an Ecosystem Map) is a starting point to reflect on the roles we play in our social change ecosystem – whether that is a project team, an organization, a network, a neighborhood, an online community, a campus group or a movement. Together, the map and reflection guide can be used at an individual level to reflect, assess, and plan, as well as at staff and board retreats, team-building meetings, orientations, and strategy sessions. Often, this exercise works well if it is used at the start of a gathering or workshop. It can especially be helpful to re-align ourselves when we feel lost, confused, and uncertain in order to bring our fullest selves to the causes and movements that matter to us.
Role in an Ecosystem Map
In our lives and as part of movements and organizations, many of us play different roles in pursuit of equity, shared liberation, inclusion, and justice. This map (to be used with the Reflection Guide for Mapping Roles in A Social Change Ecosystem) is a starting point to reflect on the roles we play in our social change ecosystem – whether that is a project team, an organization, a network, a neighborhood, an online community, a campus group or a movement. Together, the map and reflection guide can be used at an individual level to reflect, assess, and plan, as well as at staff and board retreats, team-building meetings, orientations, and strategy sessions. Often, this exercise works well if it is used at the start of a gathering or workshop. It can especially be helpful to re-align ourselves when we feel lost, confused, and uncertain in order to bring our fullest selves to the causes and movements that matter to us.
Movement Leadership Stool
The stool of movement leadership is a starting point to support the people driving the movements we need in today’s world. Sustainability is one leg that holds up effective movement leadership as a whole. Movement leaders thrive when they are part of collective spaces where they can build trust, deepen political analysis, ideate, and take risks. And because movement leaders function well beyond their organizations in a broader ecosystem, they need squads – people within and outside their organization playing diverse roles – to support them. Finally, movement leaders can be more effective when they can hone skills such as base building, conflict resolution, and narrative development.
Which leg does your organization and movement need to strengthen? If you are a funder, how do you already support movement leaders and what more could you do, particularly around centering sustainability? If you are working at a social change non-profit organization, how can you generate practices to create a culture of well-being? And, are there more legs that the stool needs?