Foundations, nonprofits, and government agencies have increased their attention to promoting equity in health, economic, education, law enforcement, justice, environmental issues, and other systems due to recent social and political events. However, to achieve equity and dismantle racism in our systems, there needs to be equity in power over the decisions that affect historically disenfranchised groups.
In this two-part webinar series, we discussed what it takes to adopt and support transformative community engagement and a power building approach. We also explored the challenges of Power Building and heard from people deeply involved in implementing programs to combat the issue. Our guests represent the voices of grassroots organizations, foundations, intermediaries, and nonprofits.
Our first session focuses on the transformative aspects of community engagement: community control, shared power, and leadership/relations. Community engagement that shifts power to more marginalized groups can be a high-risk investment for the traditionally “risk-averse” philanthropic community, especially when communities they fund challenge larger powerful systems. While there may be the “will” to support power shifting strategies by powerful individuals and organizations, the “way” is not so easy and is fraught with challenges. We will look at these different approaches, the challenges they can create for funders, and how they can be addressed. Topics will include what is needed to get “ready” for transformative engagement strategies, creating a strategy, what support is required, and how to get started.
In the second session, Jasmine and David speak with leaders about their experiences in leading Power Shifting Initiatives. Engaging communities in a way that is authentic, respectful, effective, and centered on sharing power requires change. Moving from top-down to ground-up power structure requires influencing a most powerful force, an organization’s culture. You will hear first-hand approaches to preparing an organization for Power Shifting, ways to communicate what it means to move from provisioning services to truly empowering communities, how to advance transparency and accountability, and how to approach internal resistance.
Jasmine Washington-Williams, PhD
Jasmine’s expertise is in community organizing and organizational capacity-building. She brings over eight years of grassroots political organizing, starting when she was trained as an organizer a fellow for Obama for America. In addition to her political organizing experience, she has five years of experience organizing around issues in rural communities in the Mississippi Delta and Albany, Georgia, and urban communities such as Jackson, Mississippi, and Memphis, Tennessee. She currently works on community capacity building and transformative engagement initiatives for national and local foundations.
David M. Chavis, PhD
CEO & Principal Associate
David is an experienced community organizer having direct experience working in Buffalo New York, New York City, Appalachia, and Nashville, Tennessee. He has also been a trainer and coach of community organizers. In addition, David has been a strategist, capacity builder, and evaluator of numerous foundation, government, and national nonprofit efforts to build power through community organizing and other effective power shifting strategies in urban, rural, and tribal communities.
Your Panel Session 1
Jed Oppenheim, Ed.D.
Public Welfare Foundation
Jed is an advocate with close to 15 years’ experience doing and supporting work in Mississippi and the southeast focused on ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and supporting community-led transformation efforts around education, family economic security and food systems. Before joining the foundation, Jed was a program officer with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s place-based office supporting communities throughout Mississippi and New Orleans. There he managed a portfolio supporting grassroots, racial justice leaders focused on education, family economic security and food systems.
Prior to his work at the Kellogg Foundation, Jed was Director of Community Engagement at the local United Way and a long-time advocate at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Mississippi, focused on education and youth justice.
Co-Founder, Save Our Streets
Executive Director, Cocoa House
William is a native of Schenectady NY. He has 10+ years of Non-Profit Executive experience. As a reflection of his commitment to community, William has received over 20 awards and appeared in more than 20 articles documenting his work. Interviewed by Soledad O’Brien, he was credited with the idea and implementation of the Nation’s First Community Operated Police New Hire Panel. Embracing the power of transformative change and leadership, his specialties are Community Engagement, Momentum Building, Non Profit Administration, Collaborative Work, Equity through Action, Community Development, and, as he calls it, Intrafication.
Your Panel Session 2
As Chief Operating Officer for Community Science, Danielle Shoots brings a wealth of experience in the private and public sectors to her role and continues to make substantial contributions in the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). As the person charged with all aspects of continuous process improvement, project management, workforce management, and scalability, her understanding of lived experiences and success in operations and finance brings a balanced perspective that helps to focus the company’s culture on excellence in the field.
Before joining Community Science, Danielle served as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the Colorado Trust. She was responsible for Human Resources, Information Technology, financial modeling and forecasting, due diligence of program-related investments, and monitoring key performance indicators.
Working Together Jackson
Chevon Chatman is the Lead Organizer for Working Together Jackson, an affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation located in Jackson, Mississippi. She has been an organizer for 16 years. Holding degrees from Grinnell College and the University of Iowa College of Law, she is a lawyer, a Chicago native and mother of the talented and delightful, Avery.
New Virginia Majority
Jon has organized for racial and social justice in Virginia for the last 30 years. Between 1979-1981, he organized for the creation of an African American Studies department as a student at the University of Virginia where he graduated with a B.A. in History, then went on to organize for U.S. divestment in the South African Apartheid regime. From 1983-1984, he served as an elected leader of a taxi drivers association. In 1986, Jon co-founded Tenants and Workers United (TWU), a low-income racial and gender justice organization based in the Arlandria-Chirilagua neighborhood. Jon served as the Executive Director of TWU until 2011. In 2007 he co-founded New Virginia Majority and currently serves as both a board member and as the organization’s Co-Executive Director.