Update From the Foundation

Movements and Momentum

December 18, 2013

Last week the Compton Foundation board made decisions about our final grant docket for 2013, concluding the second year of grantmaking under our new guidelines. We will post the new grants, completing our 2013 highlights, early in the New Year.

The board reflected on the role of movement building in our evolving program work, particularly in relation to our focus on transformative leadership. We believe that our efforts to support work across organizational boundaries toward long-term aligned visions is actually about supporting movements and we think that the language and practice of movement building helps us better define our goals. To ground the discussion, we reviewed the Movement Strategy Center’s (MSC) movement building framework. We were struck by this statement:

“The degree to which a movement will actually re-shape society often hinges on the real-time practices of that movement—the way the people in that movement individually and collectively embody the core values and new culture at the heart of the movement.”

We also found ourselves returning to this one:

“In order to get in and truly change the game, collectively we need to have the courage to embrace a bold, inspiring vision and align that vision with sharp strategy and discipline. We need to take on the bigger fights, reshape the narrative and lift up our values, inspire and assume support from the majority, collaborate with each other with deep commitment, and bring spirit and culture to both lead and sustain.”

MSC articulates well the kind of work Compton Foundation wants to support in the world. We are funding, and hope to fund, organizations that:

  • •Build networks for joint impact,
  • •Act from clear purpose, values, and vision,
  • •Bring solutions and innovations from the margins to the center,
  • •Value people and relationships, and
  • •Understand the full scope of the institutional ecosystems in which they work.

We explored MSC’s idea of ‘movement pivots’—changes we need to make in the way we approach our work to allow us to be more effective and to generate big change.  MSC posits that strong movement organizations (and leaders) are pivoting from:

  • •Isolation to Interdependence,
  • •Defense to Offense,
  • •Marginalized to Powerful,
  • •Competition to Strategic Direction, and
  • •Control to Creativity.

These ten ideas resonate with us. They don’t feel like a radical departure from what we have written before, but they seem to us to get ever closer to capturing the essence of the practice and spirit of the Foundation’s grants program. As our program has developed in the past year, we more firmly believe that the business of change IS changing and that the new ways that people are working have the potential to disrupt the status quo.

For us, a recent victory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where a collaborative effort defeated a draconian ballot measure to restrict abortion, provides more support for these ideas (more details here: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/11/albuquerque-abortion-ban-vote-100109.html). The grassroots led campaign (with Compton Foundation grantee Forward Together’s Strong Families Initiative among the leadership of the campaign steering committee!) reflected the lived experiences of New Mexico families and ensured that communities of color, people of faith, and young people were deeply engaged. From our perspective, the Albuquerque win illustrates the power of the approach we have been trying to fund, which includes: a proactive and inclusive shared vision, relationships built across silos both for short term and long term action, new ways of framing issues and telling stories, and using art, culture, and technology to engage people. Albuquerque is a ‘proof point’ in our investigation of how the business of change is changing and we are taking that encouraging perspective into the winter holidays and 2014.

In the Jewish tradition there is a saying that “it is not yours to complete the task of repairing the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.” Every day at the Compton Foundation, we have the privilege of engaging with people, grantees and those who are not grantees, who are making a contribution to the repair of a broken world and who are shining a light on what is possible when we do. As we near the close of another calendar year, we want to express our gratitude to the community of thinkers, artists, activists, teachers, writers, musicians, organizers, creators, donors, and policy experts who are working to reshape the way change is done so that the future for us all is possible.

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