When I think about what it means to lead with equity in the movement space, I tend to think about what impact I can make as an individual. Rarely do I have the opportunity to think about how we can be equitable on a grander scale and implement a strategy like redistributing funding.
As activists and nonprofit workers we often turn to sacrificing our bodies or our mental health in the name of the movements we work for and believe in. We may feel righteous in this journey, or we may have no other choice. Unfortunately these ideals only run us into the ground and we are left with our broken bodies and correspondingly a broken movement.
This year I’ve had the opportunity to think about what equity means on a broader scale with my colleagues, and for us at Water Hub that means reallocating resources to those closest to the issues.
As a project of Climate Nexus, the Water Hub has benefited from the power and privilege that mainstream environmental nonprofits receive. There are many aspects of power and privilege that our project is able to capitalize on, but funding and connections to funders is one of the main driving factors to our success. We know that funders often fund mainstream, white-led nonprofits because “the model is proven” or you may hear the use of terms like “less risk,” which in the financial context can speak to systemic racism.
In late 2019, we recognized that our purpose — to provide communications support and training to the water justice movement in the West — was not the only way we could serve the movement.
We embarked on a new pilot project to fund grassroots organizations to identify and fill a gap in resources for digital communications in the water justice movement. We worked with Betsy Lopez-Wagner at Lopez-Wagner Strategies and Alfredo Ramirez of ALRAS Digital to design a Digital Strategies & Communications grant program that distributes $5,000 to $20,000 one-time grants to grassroots organizations in the Los Angeles area. We decided to focus on the Los Angeles area because we wanted to make an impact in one region and our grants budget was limited to $100,000.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and it became even more imperative that grassroots organizations have the digital tools they need to keep their programs running at scale. Through the grantmaking process, we heard stories of organizations nimbly turning a field organizing program into a digital one. We learned of the innovation that environmental education groups have been implementing to keep students engaged with curriculum via Zoom and other tools. We’ve come away from these conversations with deep gratitude for the strength that communities can provide in times of crisis.
I am so delighted to introduce you to Water Hub’s Digital Strategies & Communications grantees:
- Friends of the LA River
- Council for Watershed Health
- Pacoima Beautiful
- River in Action
- Friends of Colorado Lagoon
- Sierra Club Angeles Chapter
As communicators, we identified a need for digital organizing and marketing resources and are attempting to fill it a little bit. We are learning from this process and hope we can leverage our position to create more diverse pathways to funding grassroots organizations from mainstream foundations, while continuing to provide hands-on support for the movement.
I will leave you with one last thought: In this time of isolation and strife, it has been our communities that keep us strong and our movements that keep us empowered and moving forward.