Funders from Variety of Issues to Gather at Public Interest Projects Learning Institute for Dialogue on Social Justice Philanthropy in Tough Times

Artist Favianna Rodriquez’s original piece commissioned for the Public Interest Projects Learning Institute. Rodriguez will lead a session on the role of arts and culture in social justice work.

Join more than 100 funders and advocates on September 27-28, 2012, in New York City as they explore the impact of supporting innovative models of funder/advocate collaboration, providing thoughtful capacity building services to advance social justice, and funding alliance building that works.  It’s the inaugural Public Interest Projects funder learning Institute, “Tough Times in Social Justice Philanthropy: Strategic Impact through Stronger Collaboration, Capacity and Alliances,” and you’re invited.

Signed up to attend so far are funders from the fields of voter engagement, human rights, immigration, youth empowerment, AIDS, environment and climate change, education reform, poverty, juvenile justice, civil rights, racial justice, communications, arts and culture, LGBT rights, reproductive freedom and many others. The Institute promises to be an invigorating conversation about strategies for advancing a multi-issue social justice agenda in politically conservative times and during an austere fiscal climate. It’s designed to foster insightful dialogue across various fields that often don’t connect.

Be a part of the conversation as leading experts, funders and advocates at the Institute’s highly interactive sessions lift up three promising approaches for impactful philanthropy: (1) forging truly collaborative partnerships among diverse constituencies necessary to move an agenda; (2) building alliances across issues and movements; and (3) supporting long-term sustainability of change efforts through strengthening institutional and field capacity.

“These approaches are only partially embraced by mainstream philanthropic practice,” said Berta Colon, co-president of Public Interest Projects.   “Genuine collaborative partnerships between funders and advocates are rare. Strategic alliance building competes with grantmaking approaches that silo issues from one another.  And short-term immediate needs for programmatic support frequently compete with longer-term infrastructure capacity building to expand impact and sustain work over the long haul.”

“In this context, and on the brink of the elections, participants in the learning Institute will share thoughts about what funders can do to support strategic, enduring change– and what gives you hope as we move forward,” added Michele Lord, co-present of Public Interest Projects.

Highlights of the Institute include:

  • A rare “Conversation Across Generations and Movements: Strategies, Struggles and Aspirations,” with seasoned veterans and young leaders sharing ideas and revealing their fears and hopes.
  • “Spotlight on the Southeast: What Can We Learn from Challenges in the Region?”
  • “Alliance-Building Success Story: Youth Leaders Fighting Harsh School Discipline Policies, Protecting LGBTQ Rights, and Advocating for Immigrants”
  • “Reproductive Freedom and Civic Engagement” – how issue-focused organizations develop strategies to engage constituents and advance the mission.
  • Capacity Building Tools, Strategies and Winning Case Studies
  • “Innovative Strategies to Advance Social Justice:” concurrent sessions on Social Media for Thought Leadership; Scaling Up and Membership Services; the Power of Arts and Cultural Organizing to Inspire and Build Movements; Designing Capacity Building Models and Metrics.
  • A “Funder IgniteTalk: Reading the Tea Leaves – What Does the Future Hold for Social Justice Philanthropy;” and a closing plenary on “Reflections on the Future  of Social Justice Efforts,” examining intersections between education rights and civil rights issues.

Flowing throughout the event, and at the Institute cocktail reception, will be live performances, including by Raul Pacheco, guitarist/lead vocalist for the socially conscience music sensation, Ozomatli; and quadruple-threat comedian, writer, actor and director, Negin Farsad. Food will be served by NY “Vendy” award nominated food truck purveyors.

Read the Learning Institute Agenda  for a complete list of speakers and sessions.   The Institute will be held at the Penthouse Floor meeting room, 434 West 33rd Street in NY.  Space is limited and early registration is stronger encouraged.  To receive more information and register, please contact Cathy Block at Public Interest Projects,


Just and Fair Schools Fund September 2012 Newsletter: Louisiana, New York and Philadelphia Revise Disciplinary Codes

Organizing by parents and communities with Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) and allies cause significant improvements to their Student Code of Conduct, eliminating the option for schools to expel students for minor misbehavior like disrespect or willful disobedience.

Read the Just and Fair Schools Fund September 2012 Newsletter to find out about their latest victories in Louisiana, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago.

The Just and Fair Schools Fund (JFSF) supports grassroots organizing initiatives that work to eliminate harsh school discipline policies and practices – and that uphold the right to education for all youth. Our newsletter shares updates on parent-, youth-, and congregation-led victories, partner spotlights, news, and resources to promote positive school climates and discipline.

CPER Grantees Support Teachers Strike for Fair Pay

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), an American Federation of Teachers affiliate, announced Sunday night that it would be going on strike for the first time in 25 years.  The 29,000 teachers in the nation’s third-largest public school district are walking because they want fair pay, decent working conditions, and evaluation processes that include measures beyond student test scores.

While these issues are local and specific, they resonate nationally as key concerns among Communities for Public Education Reform (CPER) organizations working for public education improvement.  The nine member organizations of CPER’s two long-time supported coalitions – Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) and Grow Your Own Teachers IL (GYO) – support this strike.  CPER, a collaborative fund at Public Interest Projects, is a partnership of donors who support grassroots organizing and advocacy efforts to achieve equitable opportunities and outcomes for low-income students, particularly in communities of color.

For breaking news and updates on the strike, visit Catalyst Chicago or follow them on Twitter @catalystchicago.   Also, CPER Scholars Board member Diane Ravitch has covered CTU and school reform extensively in her blog and Twitter feed (@DianeRavitch).  Additional details on the Chicago Teachers Union’s reasons for striking and regular updates can be found at and @CTULocal1.

Not Your Typical Funder Briefing: Public Interest Projects Learning Institute to Feature Cross-Movement Conversations, Interactive Strategy Sessions and Culture and Comedy Ripped from Today’s Headlines

Artist Favianna Rodriquez’s original piece commissioned for the Public Interest Projects Learning Institute. Rodriguez will lead a session on the role of arts and culture in social justice work.


Consider this an invitation to a funder convening like you’ve never experienced.

Join us for the inaugural Public Interest Projects Learning Institute, “Tough Times in Social Justice Philanthropy: Strategic Impact Through Stronger Collaboration, Capacity and Alliances,” as funders and advocates convene to take stock of philanthropy and advocacy in the current political and economic time, and look to the future for effective strategies and inspiration.  The Institute will feature interactive, provocative sessions, strategies and tools designed to help funders meet the needs of a rapidly changing social justice landscape.

The times may be tough, but they are not without humor and hope.   The Institute will also highlight the integration of culture and arts and feature live performances – including music and stand up comedy hitting current political topics– throughout the two-day session.  The Institute will be held in New York City, September 27-28, and early registration is highly recommended as space is limited. Read the attached Institute agenda for the list of exciting speakers and sessions.

Our opening session, “Conversation Across Generations and Movements – Strategies, Struggles and Aspirations” is sure to stimulate funders.   Hear advocates of different ages and across issues share strategies and what inspires them as they emerge from recent Supreme Court battles against juvenile life without parole and immigration, and struggle for LGBT marriage equality and against voter suppression.  Speakers will include Bernardine Dohrn of Northwestern University; Eliseo Medina of SEIU; Kim McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition/FREE L.A. High School; Tania Unzueta of Immigrant Youth Justice League/National Coming Out of the Shadows Day; Matt Coles of the ACLU-LGBT Rights Project; Hollis Watkins of Southern Echo; Albert Sykes of the Young People’s Project; facilitated by Mallika Dutt of Breakthrough.

“This session is a rare opportunity to hear from key leaders younger and older on the most important social justice issues of our time and share the wisdom of their experience as we develop funding strategies going forward,” said Berta Colón, Public Interest Projects co-president.

The Institute will also feature a  special arts and culture focus. Artist and printmaker Favianna Rodriquez; artist/author/ agitator Gan Golan; and Liz Manne of FilmAid, Fineline Features  and  President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, among  others, will share  models for connecting art and culture to movements for social change.  These artists will also share their talents with the Institute audience – there will be performances throughout the event, including  a stand-up comedy performance  by comedian/writer/actor/director Negin Farsad, recently named one of the “50 Funniest Women” by the Huffington Post and creator of the PBS animated series ”1001 Nights,”; and a musical performance by Raul Pacheco, guitarist and lead singer of Ozomatli, whose song, “Jardinero,” about an undocumented immigrant and his son, was featured in  the score for the film, “A Better Life”

“Funders will mix and converse with artists, grantmakers, advocates and grantees invited as participants and resource people,” explained Michele Lord, Public Interest Projects co-president. “You will have access to bold ideas from real folks doing the work.”

Other highlights of the Institute will include:

  • “Spotlight on the Southeast:” Every major social justice issue in the U.S. – education, immigration, human rights, environmental justice, voter suppression, LGBT marriage equality – is playing out across state governments, especially in the South.  An interactive training and political overview by Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies  will provide Institute participants with data on important developments in the region that have national consequences.  Also featured are Leroy Johnson of Southern Echo; Monique Harden of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights; Sean Kosofsky of Blueprint NC; and Judith Browne of the Advancement Project.


  • “Alliance-Building Success Stories — Youth Leaders Fighting Harsh School Discipline Policies, Protecting LGBTQ Rights, and Advocating for Immigrant Rights:”  A case study of how youth organizers are finding common cause across issues,  the role of strategic alliance building, and how the  growing alliances can inform grantmaking. Featuring Fernando Martinez of Dignity in Schools Campaign and Leslie Herod of the Gill Foundation, among others, moderated by Robert Sherman of the NoVo Foundation.


  • “Sound-Byte” Sessions, Foundation Case Studies and Inspiring Closing Plenary:  Hear leading experts on social media, “scaling up” through membership services, capacity building and metrics in fun, interactive “Sound-Byte” sessions that will share quick thoughts and ideas for advancing social justice philanthropy, advocacy and capacity building.  Speakers include Rosetta Thurman, social media expert, non-profit trainer and leadership speaker; Peter Murray of Accelerate Change; and Stephen Fotopulos of the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, among others.   A thought-provoking “Reading the Tea Leaves: What Does the Future Hold for Social Justice Philanthropy” will give participants an opportunity to share their 2013 priorities.  A closing plenary spotlighting key opportunities that exist for social justice philanthropy, featuring Pedro Noguera of New York University, among others, will round out the program.


An Institute cocktail reception and lunch and refreshments served by a selection of NY’s finest food truck Vendy award nominees will provide libations and sustenance.

The Institute will be held at the Penthouse Floor meeting room, 434 West 33rd Street in NY.  More details will follow.  To receive more information please contact Cathy Block at Public Interest Projects,   Advance registration is required and limited.

Agenda is subject to change.