Inspired by innovative alliance building efforts in the field and recognizing the need to learn from and with these alliances, Public Interest Projects has been exploring its potential role in social justice alliance building within the United States. Our efforts to identify and support strategic alliance building opportunities include:
Convening donors to share information about alliance building efforts across the country and explore ways to increase philanthropic support.
In 2009, Public Interest Projects convened a meeting for donors around the theme of Advancing Alliance Building Across Movements in a New Social Justice Era. The purpose was to share information about the philanthropic opportunities for alliance building as well as the challenges in supporting cross-movement alliances. We also discussed the findings of our research, which consisted of in-depth interviews with donors:
1) There was tremendous interest and a sense of urgency to create opportunities that would enable grantees to work collaboratively to advance a larger social justice agenda; and
2) There was the absence of any organizing body to oversee and orchestrate the creation of cross-movement alliances.
Cross-movement research and analysis to identify how issues and movements link and can work together.
In 2007, to increase its ability to identify and support cross-fund work, Public Interest Projects created a management team that meets weekly and prioritizes opportunities for our various collaborative funds to work together and leverage resources. As a result of these efforts, Public Interest Projects held a joint US Human Rights Fund (USHRF)/Four Freedoms Fund (FFF) meeting in 2009 in Denver, Colorado. Donors from both funds participated in a site visit and panel discussion exploring the intersection of human rights and immigration reform.
In 2008, Public Interest Projects conducted several panels on overcoming wedge issues:
Grantmakers Concerned for Immigrants and Refugees and Neighborhood Funders Group: “Wedge Politics,” explored how wedge issues have been used to both create divides across LGBT, African American and Latino communities, but also within these communities.
Overcoming Wedge Issues and Building a Culture of Civic Engagement, co-hosted with the Funders Committee for Civic Participation, explored successful alliance building between widely disparate groups working in different states, uncovering new connections and knowledge-for use by funders and the field alike-to create effective change through civic engagement and alliances between communities.
In 2009, Public Interest Projects commissioned an analysis by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity to assess current efforts by African Americans and immigrants to build alliances and to investigate the “real” and perceived points of tension between both groups. Public Interest Projects also released a report “Alliance Building in ACTION: Profiles from the Field,” which provides case studies of diverse communities joining forces to address issues of common concern, including racial and economic justice, civic engagement, immigrant rights, education reform and community development.
Several ground-breaking Public Interest Projects initiatives present promising test cases that cut across silos and programmatic constraints, and reflect the intersection of interests and the potential for alliances between different issue areas.
- Joint funding between Public Interest Projects collaborative funds: In 2008, the US Human Rights Fund and Four Freedoms Fund launched a joint funding initiative to support the use of a human rights framework for immigrant rights projects.
- In 2008 and 2009, Public Interest Projects’ Communities for Public Education Reform and the Four Freedoms Fund supported groups to work on the intersection of educational equity and opportunities for immigrant children.
- In 2009, Public Interest Projects made grants to six organizations engaged in alliance building including CAUSA, Inner-City Muslim Action Network, Miami Workers Center, National Economic Social Rights Initiative, Rural Organizing Project, and Target Area Development Corporation. These grants specifically support each group’s involvement in their particular alliance.
- In 2010, Public Interest Projects plans to award grants in the $50,000 to $75,000 range to support African American organizations engaged in immigration reform work. In the wake of Comprehensive Immigration Reform’s defeat in 2007, the importance of building stronger alliances between the immigrant and African American communities emerged as a key theme in both the advocate and donor communities. The recent growth in newcomer populations, especially in regions with large African American populations, has raised the stakes for improving relationships between these communities. This funding initiative will support efforts to combine the political forces of African Americans and immigrants in many new growth areas as a strategy for increasing the potential to create powerful advocacy voices and potentially strengthen future political efforts around immigration reform.