Updated: Dec 20, 2021
Erasing the Red Line:
Building Capacity within Community Based Organizations to
Address the Relationship between Race Based Policy,
and Urban Design That Contribute to Poverty
Originally written in 2017, this writing lays out historical and innovative ways community based organizations have and are addressing race based policy and urban design. Although under a new administration, many of the negative impacts of the past administration linger and the. Furthermore, white supremacist construct of policy and urban design has been pervasive in every facet of the American society for over 400 years. To this end, capacity building needs of community based organization are more prescient than ever.
The United States federal government has always played a role in the oppression of Blacks, but it also is the enforcer of policies that protected Blacks and other marginalized groups against state violence, or state infringement of rights. Mullings and Marable address this by the example of the 13th amendment, Civil Rights Act, and the Voters Rights Act, which all contributed to the ending of Jim Crow Laws. However similar to what we are seeing today, in President Reagan's 1980s, the global shift to the right allowed for far right influenced legislation to be implemented. There was also an over saturation of Black employment within the public sector. Mullings states “African Americans in the 1980’s was heavily overrepresented as employees of the public sector. Reducing the size of state would result into higher unemployment of Black Americans” (Mullings, 2009).
One of the biggest challenges was the political implications of this shift to the right. From 1989-91 the international communist movement collapsed. This caused a shift from socialist politics to a neo-liberal approach. “Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning” (Monbiot, 2016). This ideology was detrimental to Blacks in this climate of discriminatory practices that aimed to stifle black progress. By allocating access to resources based off efficiency and competition, Blacks and other marginalized groups had a drastic disadvantage. The failure of the global communist and socialist movements caused many international and national organizations rooted in communist/socialist ideologies to make the shift to neo-liberal ideologies. However, without significant social and financial power, this allowed for political capture by rich people and corporations. This means that these groups used their political and economic power to manipulate it for their own purpose, ignoring structural transformation aimed at building equity. Instead of acknowledging how these policies create poverty, they used the condition of poverty to equate efficiency, thus justifying the continued depletion of resources for academics, economics, and health in underserved communities.
The conditions have evolved. Black communities and other underserved and underrepresented communities are still dealing with the conditions of systemic institutional racism, discrimination, and segregation, which directly affect their academic, economic, and healthcare outcomes. When we finally acknowledge how conditions of poverty for many underserved groups were created by non-effective implementation of local and federal government policies, specifically around housing, we can establish policy that addresses eradicating poverty through sustainable employment that systematically results in adequate housing, food, education, and health care for large demographics of underserved and underrepresented communities that are currently being denied this access.
There have been decades of systemic denial of access for African Americans and other underserved demographics. If adequate employment preparation and placement is not made available to these communities so that they can afford the means to sustainable income, housing, food, healthcare, and clothing, they will continue to experience negative outcomes of academic decline, and as a means of survival, participate in un-taxable alternative sources of income. The inherent isolation and discriminatory practices of American policy create poverty, and also create an incentive for all to participate in the extractive economy that prays on the most underserved and underrepresented while criminalizing their existence. Lack of access to sustainable resources in academics, economics, and health result in calamities that are paid by taxpayers. We have to be as critical, strategic and direct as possible to get the outcomes for these communities that they need, and our society needs.
Erasing the Red Line Using Community Based Organizations (CBO)
Community Based Organizations have always played a vital role in addressing systemic issues of institutional racism that play out through policy and legislation. Some of the first civil societies were rooted in addressing racism and slavery. “Between the end of the eighteenth century, as Skocpal et al. (2000), and Skocpal (2002) show, nearly forty large scale membership organization emerged... They became an instrument of social inclusion that cut across regional boundaries while expressing particular values and often religious preferences” (Anheier, 2005). The names of some of these organizations included the American Temperance Society, the American Anti-Slavery Society, and the Women’s Missionary Movement. These organizations created alternative methods to establish power and influence policy. One direct relationship between nonprofit in policy outcomes can be seen in the women's suffrage movement. “In the US, the women’s suffrage movement came out of the anti-slavery movement itself, and as a result of the work of such leaders as Lecretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Staton, who believed that equality should extend to women as well as blacks, and who for example organized the Seneca Falls Convention (1848)” (Anheier, 2005). There were many conventions to follow and by 1918 women had suffrage in 15 states. Soon due to the work of several nonprofit organizations rooted in institutional change around women suffrage the constitution was changed “after Congress passed the Women’s Suffrage Amendment a rigorous campaign brought ratification, and August 1919 the 19 Amendment became a part of the constitution” (Anheier, 2005). Antioch University was also born out of this tradition. “University’s roots began as Antioch College. It first opened its doors in 1852 in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Antioch’s first president, Horace Mann, was a lawyer and Congressman from Massachusetts, a well-known abolitionist and social reformer” (Ohio History Connection, 2017). Antioch was a location for the Underground Railroad and many students that attended Antioch either were or became abolitionists.
Today, CBOs are building intimate relationships with underserved and underrepresented communities. CBO’s have the best ability to facilitate improved outcomes in academics, economics, and health. Unlike corporations who usually focus on driving capital and use economic outcomes as a measure of success, CBO’s are focused on objective outcomes rooted in the community and its residence. “According to 20 U.S.C.A § 7801(6), the term “community-based organization” means “a public or private nonprofit organization of demonstrated effectiveness that is representative of a community or significant segments of a community; and provides educational or related services to individuals in the community” (California, 2017). The work of CBO’s is very important because many of the outcomes of academics, economics, and health, are connected to passed legislation. Those who usually lobby in these areas are affluent people or companies who have access to large amounts of capital. For example, a Los Angeles Times article reported how in 2016 there was a record amount of interest group donations towards lobbying. “It is the second time in the state’s history that more than $300 million has been spent in a year, just short of the record $314 million paid out for lobbying in 2015. Seeing such large amounts spent by moneyed interests is a concern, public advocates say, because it reflects an effort to exert heavy influence on government officials that average citizens may not be able to match” (Mcgreevy, 2017). These lobbyists utilize money to control the legislators that create the laws. This makes the work that CBO’s do very important.
When CBO’s work with marginalized communities, they help develop levels of self- advocacy that these communities normally would not have. “While those more likely to participate in civic organizations tend to be people with more education, more privileged positions in society, and employed in more skilled jobs (Verba et al., 1995; Putnam, 2000), organizations that target marginalized or less powerful groups can compensate for structural disadvantages. CBOs can help members understand social issues and build capacity to act on concerns (Ginwright and Cammarota, 2007; Terriquez, 2015), they can provide a place, over a sustained time period, for training, discussion and coordination of activities (Ramakrishnan and Bloemraad, 2008; Terriquez, 2011), and they can promote pride in cultural or minority identity, which furthers empowerment (García Bedolla, 2005; Watts and Flanagan, 2007)” (Bloemraad & Terriquez, 2016).
The tradition of CBO’s doing this work can be seen in organizations operating during the mid to late 1800s into the 1900s that used a collective voice to get political and social change. They did this by creating voting blocs and joining community boards. Community organizations serve as the catalyst to access the resources being provided for employment preparation and placement, access to academic support for urban youth with unique learning challenges, and adequate preventative health resources that address the impact of environmental racism. The reality is that there are many policies that affect underserved and underrepresented communities. They are negatively impacted their ability to create outcomes that equal the American dream “of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” (Library of Congress, n.d.). There are many people who are oblivious to the relationship of legislation and poverty.
When dealing with these communities it is very important to have a good understanding of the community and the culture. Due to the unique experiences, many underserved communities have, there is sometimes a lack of trust depending on where resources are coming from. This can present a challenge because when outsiders come into these communities they sometimes lack cultural understanding. CBOs that have boards made up of people from the community they serve tend to make a better impact. When organizations are run by people who are either from the community or have had similar experiences they are able to connect with the constituents in a culturally authentic way that helps facilitate the objective outcomes.
Building Capacity on the Front Line
It is important that organizations serving underserved and underrepresented communities in the areas of academics, economics and health, have access to resources that help them operate in the way they intend to. In order to obtain their intended objectives many nonprofits need resources for key areas. These areas include creating programs that achieve the intended outcomes, establishing a strong base and membership, developing strong leaders, developing a healthy and inclusive decision-making practice, and lastly organizational capacity and organizational learning.
CBO’s help build access to resources that lead to ideal outcomes in the areas of academics, economics, and health for the communities they serve. It is important that CBO’s are effective in providing the resources needed to obtain the intended outcomes. These outcomes are assessed by public, private, local, and federal government funders. When organizations are serving marginalized demographics, it is important that the funders acknowledge the strategic disenfranchisement of African Americans and other underserved demographics. The relationship between poverty, policy, and legislation is permeated throughout the Black experience. The inherent practices of American policy disenfranchising American Indians, African Americans, and women, allowed for policy to be created isolating and criminalizing other marginalized groups (i.e Latinos, Asians, immigrant Europeans, LGBTQ, etc.).
As many institutions and systems contribute to the potential outcomes realized by these communities, and many tax paying citizens are oblivious to these realities, it is important to learn efficient ways of maneuvering through the nonprofit world for the organizations as well as the demographics they serve. The relationship between underserved and underrepresented communities and institutions like education, the economy, and healthcare has created cultural implications of trauma. This includes the expectation of being harassed/attacked/murdered by police. “Similarly, Jacobs and O’Brien (1998) reveal that law enforcement agencies are more punitive in cities with large black populations. They examined the rate of police killings across 170 U.S. cities and found that police were more likely to use deadly force in cities where the black population is high and economic disparities between blacks and whites are evident” (Seabrook & Wyatt-Nichol, 2016). There is also disproportionate access to quality healthcare resulting in higher infant mortality, and academic segregation with inadequate resources and quality in communities of color. Underserved and underrepresented communities respond to that trauma by distrusting the institutions, or learning to live with the outcomes these institutions interact with them. Some of these people suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sometimes CBO’s can be seen as being a part of those same institutions. How CBOS are established, and how they operate can play into this notion or eradicate it.
CBOs who work in underserved and underrepresented communities face unique challenges in the areas of funding, impact assessment, capacity, and infrastructure. These challenges can affect the ability to be sustainable. Many organizations are dependent on funders. This means that in order to sustain financially they have to seek out funders that are in alliance with their mission and their objectives. The consequence of having limited sources of funding put organizations in a position where their agency and resources can be stripped away from the communities they serve. CBO’s have to present in a way that meets their funder’s expectations. Many grants that these organizations go after are very competitive, especially for organizations that want to help specific demographics.
Many nonprofits who are strategically working in underserved black and brown communities need help to develop the foundation that funders are looking for in order to provide funding. This is a very arduous task as it requires creativity in order to reach the intended objective. If this were to be seen as a battle, nonprofits of today would represent the fighters on the front line. The efforts of nonprofits are important for underserved and underrepresented communities because these organizations have the resources to impact these communities’ outcomes in academics, economics, and health. Nonprofits are providing a lot of assistance to facilitate outcomes, however nonprofits also need assistance. The remainder of this study will look at nonprofits working in underserved and underrepresented communities, and how they access resources, overcome challenges, and build capacity so that the outcomes in academic, economics, and health for their constituents are consistently rising.
This part of the project intends to build a ground level understanding of how providing resources to community-based organizations (CBO’s) in order to create sustainable nonprofits may mitigate the outcomes of poverty in academic and economic sectors, and in health impacts for underserved and underrepresented communities. This was a way to understand how CBO’s in Los Angeles are working with underserved and underrepresented communities to address the systemic issues of racist and discriminatory policies that contribute to poverty. During the period from May 2017 through August 2017 proposals and budgets were reviewed when submitted for the Liberty Hill Foundation Fund for Change grant. It was necessary to understand each organization’s objectives and develop an assessment reflection, using questions provided by Liberty Hill. The resulting information will be used to assess how far the organizations were in completing their objectives outlined in the previous year.
CBO’s Impact Analysis: Wins and Opportunity
In order to be eligible for the Fund for Change Grant, the organizations that applied needed to be working in low income communities and communities of color that are driven by a growing base of people who:
are directly impacted by injustice
have a process for developing leaders from the membership base for the purpose of furthering the organization's mission
build power and increase impact overtime
have a clear plan to win concrete systemic or institutional changes to policies and practices regulations and laws in and private sector
incorporate multiple organizing strategies such as engaging strategic allies’ coalition building research advocacy communication and or voter engagement
Advance racial justice by addressing institutional policies and practices that lead to racial and other social disparities.
An overarching racial justice lens recognizing that distinct mark of racism is power, a collective systemic societal power that requires fundamental institutional change to undo it.
Link local efforts to broader social movements (Liberty Hill, 2016) The Fund for Change grants ranged from $10,000-$50,000. The detailed eligibility requirements speak directly to organizations serving underserved and underrepresented communities. Ten Los Angeles county organizations Fund for Change proposals were reviewed. These are the questions that Liberty Hill wanted to answer, based on the details from the proposals.
What are the current campaigns being conducted?
How are results of the 2016 general election affecting the landscape of the issues being addressed and are there any shifts in the organization’s work or altered goals going forward because of the current landscape analysis?
What gains have been made with regard to membership building and leadership development?
Are there any current capacity-building or training needs? Below is a list of Los Angeles County based organizations, some of the campaigns they are conducting, how race-based/discriminatory practice and policies affect their targeted demographics/initiatives, and what support is needed to help build capacity.
Los Angeles CBO’s
Dignity and Power
Inner City Struggle
Khmer Girls in Action
Labor Community Strategy Center
Youth Justice Institute
Current Campaigns among CBO’s Listed • Campaign to End Sheriff Violence.
Campaign to Stop Jail Expansion.
Developing civilian oversight policy that is truly led by civilians and community members in Los Angeles
Advance educational justice campaigns and secure key policy wins • Continue leadership role in statewide alliance California Calls
Develop a base of civic engagement volunteers
To further develop and grow the leadership of the community union
To make school funding more transparent and shift decision-making power to parents and community
To further develop the membership base and community reach of the community union.
To build organizational capacity to address sustainability.
Narrative shift campaign
Intervention over suppression and incarceration.
Continued Breakthrough in Dramatically Curbing Criminalization of Black and Brown Youth at LAUSD as a result of the Strategy Center’s Equal Protection Plan:
Amnesty for hundreds of thousands of young adults from outrageous fines and license holds:
Another $3 million investment for Restorative Justice at LAUSD reaching a total of $10 million a year. Important breakthrough in our newest campaign to end LA Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s ‘Stop and Frisk’
Political impact being made among the CBO’s listed
Given the new political climate the campaign goals are very important so the Coalition has made a more concerted effort to establish alliances. An example of this is the LA County Alliance. LA County Alliance is a statewide policy efforts which aims to guide campaign activities by (1) Involving an alliance organizations in the execution of organizing activities and (2) Building a justice and safety base. It will continue its fight against wage theft in Long Beach but this will have to take a secondary role within to the fight for immigrant rights as a whole.
Since the 2016 election there has been a growing assault on undocumented people, Muslims, and Women. In addition, While Sheriff McDonald has expressed lukewarm support for immigrant rights, he has actively denounced sanctuary. Dignity and Power Now sees it as a priority to be a part of efforts to make concrete and expand the concept of sanctuary, stop deportations in Los Angeles and end the Sheriff Department’s collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They are doing this by being active members of the ICE out of LA Coalition and are building strategic partnerships with organizations within the Coalition.
During a time when immigrants feel even more discouraged and disempowered as a result of the national climate, Gente is making involvement in school site councils a priority of their work moving forward and are advocating for more resources to reach these councils through LCAP funds as a way of tangibly giving power back to our immigrant parents.
While KGA is developing, it is integrated voter engagement project with ongoing holistic youth development pipeline, this moment calls on us to deepen and scale up our community education, leadership development, and base building efforts to this end. KGA are reframing what voting means at this time, and setting the foundation to build a deep base of millennial voters, preparing now for 2020.
The bi-partisan agenda of divestment, privatization, policing and mass incarceration, deportations and immigrant bashing and the deregulation of the social welfare state and environment has been the reigning ideology and regime. While in cities like Los Angeles, we have a plethora of centers to liberal elected officials who rhetorically speak against the hate filled and explicit politics of racism, but in policy and practice often contribute to a racist, punitive, neo-liberal, market solution agenda.
Leadership Development and base building wins
To continue membership building and leadership development the organization believes that it will need to fully maximize its current database as well as explore other database management systems that will increase the organization’s capacity to track resident engagement and develop comprehensive profiles and who and how they engage the community to strengthen outreach efforts.
Established partnerships with dA Center for the Arts and teamed up to launch an Art and Activism Program for youth and the center now serves as the primary home for all Gente activities. The Pomona Economic Opportunity Center and Gente teamed up to bring to light ICE presence in the city and push for the termination of agreement with ICE.
To continue membership building and leadership development the organization believes that it will need to maximize its current database fully as well as explore other database management systems that will increase the organization’s capacity to track resident engagement and develop comprehensive profiles and who and how they engage the community in strengthening outreach efforts.
Expanding Freedom Summer Organizing Academy which will include a handful of Black student summer interns that we have recruited from the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). They have reinitiated our Spring Rising Organizer-Training internships to three of our strongest youth alumni. We do have one staff organizer opening.
Participate at community panels and/or conferences to highlight relevant issues and developments
Engage in media outreach by:
Participating in interviews, Op-eds and press conferences to mobilize support for particular cases
Creating/promoting social media content and regularly maintaining website and social media platforms
Resource/Support needed to build capacity among CBO’s listed
solidify existing and create a new organizational infrastructure that will facilitate replication and provide sustainability of parent-organizing model
Pilot framework for recruitment, retention, ongoing development, and promotion of organizing staff (a “bench”)
Time-consuming planning work is often pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. For this reason, the need of additional time to successfully complete its strategic planning process, as well as additional staff to oversee Immigrant Protection Work.
Three major fronts of work in the schools, transit and Strategy and Soul.
Transit work needs to be reinforced and have more consistent organizing and Strategy and Soul is being operated through a committee as a whole.
Any new foundation leads or connection to new sphere of individual donors would be our greatest need
National anti-poverty initiative targeting specific regions for preferential federal funding opportunities to foster initiatives like job creation and crime reduction. The information above shows that there is still much work to be done in order to bring equity. It also shows hope. These organizations are making a tremendous impact on policy. They are educating and developing leaders within underserved communities to participate in civil engagement. Without these groups and other organizations like them, the resources and development they provide to underserved communities would be none existent. The information also gives an understanding about what can be done to support these organizations. These organizations are in need of leadership development support, base building support, and funding. Helping these organizations access these resources will lead to more equity and improved outcomes in academics, economics, and health.
CBO’s Budget Analysis: Establishing Sustainability
Using the information collected, it is possible to observe that organizations are growing in some areas but have much opportunity for growth in others. The biggest area of growth needed in funding has to do with membership dues. This area of opportunity creates a chance for CBOs to become more self-sufficient and sustainable. The membership dues are an area of opportunity that creates a chance for CBOs to become more self-sufficient and sustainable. There needs to be more development around innovated ways to increase membership contributions that go towards the operating budget. This year 70% of the organizations increased their budget, which indicates that the majorities are growing from one year to the next. The diversification of funding categories seems to support the financial growth goal. The more categories these organizations had, the more secure their ability was to increase their operating budget. For example, the evidence showed that organizations who had more than 3 funding source categories accounted for were more likely to increase in revenue. Even if one of the previous funding sources decreased, another funding source would increase and make up for the deficit. Organizations who had less than three funding categories were more vulnerable financially. 61% of all funding to the nonprofits come from foundation support. Among these funders are Liberty Hill, California Endowment, and the CalFund foundation. These organizations are all rooted in supporting institutional change that creates equity and improves outcomes for underserved communities.
As a foundation, Liberty Hill represents 2.3% of funds received by these organizations. Although the majority is from private funders, some of Liberty Hill’s operating budget is also received from foundations. This results in strict guidelines that require attention to how organizations fit into a campaign or landscape on a particular issue. For example, Magarita Ramirez, Director of Grant Making shared a story of an organization rooted in the Filipino community. There was a lot of work to impact Long Beach labor laws. The organization, although not known as a key player, was actually very influential in bringing about that change because of the members it had were impacted by those labor laws. This organization, through the resources provided by Liberty Hill, was able to mobilize a large demographic of Filipino workers to get legislation passed. Liberty Hill funded them because of their ability to move within the landscape of workers’ rights in a way that no other group was able to.
The biggest area of opportunity for all CBO’s reviewed is shown in membership dues. Overall only 2% comes from membership dues. This is a great way to build self-sustainability and unmoved agency. Organizations need to have a guaranteed income that allows them to run their most basic programs without funding from outside sources. By not having a healthy infrastructure for membership dues or contributions, organizations become overly dependent on outside funding sources and are susceptible to funder’s intentions. Membership paying organizations like fraternities and unions build capital that gives them agency to fight for organic causes. It also allows them the option to turn away funding that in anyway moves from their mission or objective outcomes. 3% of funding comes from individual donors. This is one of these areas of opportunity as well. These are private funders who allocate their money towards a specific campaign or organization that they want to support. Although organizations may have the infrastructure for a database for private funders, the evidence shows that is either underdeveloped or under-utilized. It is evident that organizations can build a stronger database of private donors they feel are passionate about the organization’s work to increase the income from the category.
The trends of 2016 are very similar. The areas of opportunity are the same. In both years membership dues were the lowest percentage of funding, and foundation sourced incomes was the highest. In 2017 there was an increase in over 70% of the organization's operating budgets from the previous year. Many of the organizations that have seen a decrease in funding overall had less than 3 categories of funding sources. Based on the data collected and analyzed, many nonprofits depend heavily on foundation support. In each organization, there is not significant growth from year to year, although almost 70% of the organization's budget did make some increase overall. In descending order of percentage, funding sources are foundation (61%), government (18%) other (11%), special events (5%), individual (3%), membership dues (2%).
Conclusion: Creating Platforms to meet CBO Resource Needs In conclusion, the data shows that there is a major problem with how policy has contributed to the outcomes of poverty in communities of color, and has paved the way for discriminatory policies to be carried out on other marginalized groups. The outcomes of poverty in America cannot be simply explained, however there is no denying that race policy, and dog whistle politics contributes to inequity. It is evident that Los Angeles based CBO’s like the ones receiving the Liberty Hills Fund for Change grant, are on the front line providing resources to improve the outcomes of academics, economics, and health due to such policies. These organizations are working towards eradicating policies that lead to inequity in academics, economics, and health. To maintain this fight these organizations are in need of resources as well.
Liberty Hills will use this information to assess the most efficient ways to build sustainability around base building, and funding sources for the Fund for Change recipients. The resources provided by Liberty Hill will give CBO’s access to grant money, improve programming, improve impact reporting, establish funding strategies, and improve organizations landscape analysis, among other things. All of these things were identified as areas of opportunity for many Los Angeles base CBO’s receiving Liberty Hills Fund for Change grant. By providing strategic resources to carry out their missions, Liberty Hill, gives CBO’s a better chance of improving the outcomes of academic’s economics and health for underserved and underrepresented communities. With the Liberty Hill and other foundations providing strategic infrastructure to support CBO’s it is exciting to know that outcomes for these communities are on the horizon.
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