Building Grantee Capacity
This summer we’re piloting two new programs to increase our impact. First, we’re partnering with Bluebonnet Data to connect highly trained data experts as volunteer fellows to support our grantees’ strategic projects. Second, we’re helping several RDI grantees add staff capacity with a summer youth fellow. We’re working with Progressive Pipeline, which is providing recruitment, training, mentorship, and leadership development for six summer fellows. These pilot programs boost grantee capacity to engage more people, change policy outcomes, and build momentum for this year’s elections.
PROJECTS CREATE IMPACT
Black Voters Matter (BVM) engages hundreds of thousands of voters on voting rights, criminal justice reform, climate justice, and other issues to build power in predominantly Black communities. The data fellows are analyzing data sets to inform BVM’s civic engagement in Texas. They pull data from surveys, focus groups, voter registration campaigns, canvassing, and publicly available voter information. Then, the fellows provide concise summaries and visualizations that will help BVM effectively target outreach as they increase the scale of their work.
Mainstreet Alliance supports community-focused small businesses and local economies. They are in the early stages of launching their North Carolina program and are seeking to understand how to support communities and entrepreneurs to overcome the barriers from mass incarceration and the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. Data fellows are analyzing small business ownership, especially regarding geography, racial demographics, and among people that are formerly incarcerated. Studying data on the Paycheck Protection Program and other COVID-relief programs will inform the organization’s understanding of who has access to capital and where it’s clustered. This work will improve Mainstreet Alliance's efforts to support the growth of small businesses in every community across the state.
Down Home North Carolina is building a strong membership base to create small town and rural communities where labor is valued and everyone can access healthy food, water, and land. Down Home uses relational organizing and deep canvassing to build power. The Progressive Pipeline Fellow is helping Down Home deepen relationships with current members through their communications and training work. They are working with the communications department to help write posts, make videos, and support members to take action. They are also working directly with the training manager who runs the organizing department to support Down Home in developing community leaders.
SUPPORTING THE RDI NETWORK
These programs add value to the groups in our network. Many of our grantees have highlighted wanting better data quality, access, and analysis. Bluebonnet Data’s ability to recruit people with a background in coding, data science, and statistics is a huge asset.
Likewise, Progressive Pipeline adds much-needed staff capacity to the network during a critical time, while also strengthening and diversifying the rural organizing talent pool. The program provides students from historically underrepresented backgrounds with meaningful experience working with rural organizations and issues. Whether it’s an investment in staff or infrastructure, we hope these programs expand our grantees' work to build power and change outcomes.
By Stephanie Johnson, Rural Democracy Initiative’s Program Officer
Rural Democracy Initiative is home to the 501(c)(3) Heartland Fund and 501(c)(4) Rural Victory Fund.