• Center for Community Change

Advocacy Skillshare

Welcome to our forum for highlighting innovative initiatives from state and local housing and homeless coalitions advocating to increase housing opportunities. The goal of Advocacy Skillshare is to advance cross-pollination of ideas, tactics and strategies that effectively advance housing and homeless advocacy. Have a good experience or idea to share with Advocacy Skillshare? Send it to Michael Anderson.

Building our own Leadership: Deepen Leadership to Build a Housing Movement

“The cross train demonstrated to me first-hand the power groups can have when they combine their talents and resources,” wrote Thomas Wright RUN resident leader from CHP in San Francisco.

CCC’s Housing Trust Fund Project along with the lead organizers for California’s Resident United Network (RUN) and Washington’s Resident Action Project (RAP) led a four-day training for twenty top leaders from the respective resident organizing networks in Federal Way, Washington.  The training had two main objectives: first, reflect on and build leadership qualities and secondly, skill building sessions on meeting facilitation, voter registration, tabling, phone banking, door knocking, and art, culture and organizing.

RUN and RAP leaders at the cross train

RUN is a project of Housing California; RAP is a project of Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund; and both projects are a partnership with the HTFProject.  These two state organizations are committed to building and bolstering a housing justice movement through organizing residents who live in affordable homes, those experiencing housing instability or homelessness as well as non-profit developers and service staff into a powerful network that can bring the changes needed to state policy and implementation.

One of the HTFProject’s roles with RUN and RAP has been leadership development through by creating curriculum and providing opportunities for leaders to grow and thrive.  RUN and RAP have held trainings, popular education sessions as well as skill building opportunities such as meeting facilitation, lobbying, and voter registration.   At the outset of developing training for the resident organizing groups has been to provide a deep leadership and skills enhancement opportunities for resident leaders and staff.   This year, RUN and RAP both had important dates on their fall calendars making this perfect opportunity to put the early idea into action.   The idea of doing a cross train with the two groups was hatched.

Taking a page out of other organizing traditions, the HTFProject developed a four day, in-depth training with the goal to help leaders deepen both their hard and soft skills on leadership.  One exercise was on leadership styles such as Visionary, Strategic, Ethical, Task or Process leaders (thanks to Wellstone Action).  Participants talked about what style they resonated the most with and the one that was a challenge.  We discussed how all of the styles are needed for a strong team, and how awareness of each other’s styles facilitates understanding and communication amongst the team.  Another morning we did an anti-oppression exercise that focused on how we all have privilege and oppression on a spectrum depending on the “ism” that we are considering.  From there we dove into developing policies with a lens of “anti-oppression”.  Many time policies are created that benefit the majority but harm a marginalized group.  Leaders have to be aware of that as they develop affordable housing policy.

RAP leaders register voters, recruit for RAP

In the afternoons, RUN and RAP members practiced hard skills of voter registration, through tabling and door knocking and then put their new skills immediately in action first tabling at King County libraries, and then knocking on more than 1200 doors in south Seattle and Bellevue affordable housing developments.  One of the development that was door-knocked was adjacent to the Microsoft campus.  Many of the residents there were quite worried about rent increases and displacement.  They were super excited to be connected to RAP.  In the evening, we ran a phone bank making more than 300 calls to recruit attendees from RAP’s summer listening sessions and other partners to the RAP’s inaugural statewide Summit that will help decide the policies and direction for RAP in 2018.   In all three activities, RAP and RUN members recruited people to attend RAP’s upcoming Summit, registered voters and collected voter pledge cards.

The training ended with a reflection on art and culture in organizing with leaders coming up with creative ideas to use art and cultural as well as how to engage artists in our movement.  True to putting ideas to practice, the group self-selected three art activities:  writing, visual art and music.  This powerful section allowed participants to use their talents and think about creating space for healing, reflection and fun in our organizing.  The week concluded with a spontaneous dance party from the music cohort.  They did a re-worked version of Kool in the Gang’s Celebration entitled “Housing Justice Now /Liberation,” followed by every person doing “Vision Stand” (that is their vision for RUN or RAP and affordable housing justice) that brought the house down—tears, cheers, hugs and laughter.  Folks left the cross train tired but energized.  The first request was “we need more cross trains!  At least two a year.”

The activities and skill building were significant, but as important was the camaraderie between the two groups. The shared feeling of the groups was that together we are building a movement.  At the conclusion of the training, the intent to stay connected was clear: RAP leaders want to hear more the upcoming RUN regional meetings and leadership retreat.  The RUN folks are anxious to hear how their work for turn-out to the inaugural RAP statewide Summit helped attendance.  This result is one of those immeasurable results as can be seen in responses from the cross train participants:

As Rosie Ulloa, staff from City Heights CDC in San Diego said, “It was very valuable for me to be able to interface with other leaders doing the same work in other areas and regions. I think what was most powerful is being driven around by a [Washington] leader who was homeless [yet] a fierce advocate for [people experiencing] homelessness….How powerful this meeting was for me.”

RAP leader Mindy Woods spoke about the immediate relevance for her,  “I absolutely LOVED the cross train because I learn so much from each person’s style, points of interest, approaches and effective communication! It made me be a better facilitator for the Summit for sure!”

The cross training taught me more about what successful organizing looks like beyond California. I also realized more that affordable housing is a national crisis, and the opportunity to receive training from champions of affordable housing was invaluable. As someone who held his first regional meeting within weeks after the cross training, I was much more prepared to lead my own training than if I had not gone. 10/10 would do again,” wrote SCANPH organizer Michael Menjivar.

The cross training of RAP & RUN transmitted the hope, passion and love each leader brings to the work we are doing for the homeless and housing crisis…The last session was powerful & fun and brought closure and healing. Leadership in our advocacy is not for the weak, having homeless leaders and residents in our training in the work we do is unique and powerful. I’ve strengthen my voice thanks to the cross training, inspired to keep working and leading for our friends without homes,” said RUN leader Miriam Rodriguez.

The power and presence of these two emerging networks was poetry in movement!  I learned an incredible amount from the expertise of the trainers, facilitators, and resident leadership.  There is no replacement for ground training to elevate and excite power building and civic participation.  A valuable and memorable experience.  I hope this will be offered in the future.  Thank you so very much,” said Constance Slider-Pierre, Director of Organizing & Community Engagement of Housing California.

Kristina Nielander, RAP Organizer, sums up the power of building leadership for a movement, “The opportunity to be together with RAP and RUN at the cross train made the potential of RAP in Washington state feel so real given the recent successes and wins of RUN. On top of the opportunity to build new skills together and do a ton of outreach and turnout support for the Summit, we got to learn from each other and be inspired by each other’s work, which ultimately helps us to keep fueling our movement.”  

By Katy Heins, Senior Organizer

Campaign Actions: State Tax Credit Provides Reliable Funding for Community Development, CDC’s

Fluctuating levels of funding have long been a challenge to the internal capacity and external impact of organizations in the public services sector. It is difficult to design and implement long-term programs when time and resources must be reallocated to completing grant applications or when a lost grant results in severely curtailed capacity or community impact. With the intention of changing this dynamic, in 2014 the Massachusetts legislature established the Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC). Established in part due to income inequality in the state (currently only five other states surpass Massachusetts in income inequality), the CITC is intended to provide a reliable source of funding to community development corporations (CDCs) that will in turn support the local community and combat inequality through organizing, advocacy, affordable housing, economic development, and other initiatives adapted to address local needs.

Administered by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the CITC stimulates private philanthropy by entitling donors to receive a 50% refundable state tax credit for donations of $1,000 or more made to participating CDCs (or one of two DHCD-designated community support organizations) and a federal tax deduction as allowed under federal law. This tax credit is available to any taxpayer, including corporations, non-profits, and individuals. To be eligible to participate in the program, a CDC must be selected through a competitive process administered by the DHCD. Organizations submit a comprehensive, multi-year Community Investment Plan (CIP) that is scored on a 100 point scale. Tax credits are then distributed according to the scoring of each organization’s CIP, with awards ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 in credits on an annual basis. These credits are good for three years, and after three years a CDC must submit a new CIP to continue to participate in the program (for more information one can watch this CITC informational video made by the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC)).

community developers in MA state house

Over 200 community developers congregate in the Massachusetts State House to advocate for extending and expanding the CITC. (credit: Joe Kreisberg, MACDC)

Over 200 community developers congregate in the Massachusetts State House to advocate for extending and expanding the CITC. (credit: Joe Kreisberg, MACDC)

Since its implementation in 2014, the CITC has been very successful in stimulating private philanthropy. To date it has generated $23 million in private investment, with a total economic impact of $1.2 billion in economic activity over the past two years. In addition, the CITC has proven capable of engaging a wide range of donors. In the first two years 1,316 of the participating donors were new donors, and over 90% of donors are either new donors or donors who doubled their prior year’s contribution. In 2014 and 2015, 66 percent of donors were individuals. Throughout 2015 and 2016 these donations have helped participating CITC groups build or preserve 2,916 homes, create or preserve 8,743 jobs, assist 1,420 small businesses, and serve 135,054 families with housing, jobs, or other services.

While it is still a relatively recent development, the Community Investment Tax Credit has already proven itself a powerful tool for supporting the efforts of local community organizations. The strength of the CITC lies in its ability to engage a wide variety of donors while keeping this money within the community and supporting local needs. This flexible and reliable source of funding allows organizations to refocus their resources from grant applications to community programming that makes a tangible impact. For more detailed information on the CITC, how it works, and its impact, visit the CITC page on the MACDC website.

By Kyle Machicado, Emerson National Hunger Fellow

Building our own Leadership: Interfaith Communities Bring Affordable Housing into the Worship Space

For many communities of faith, advocacy has been a long-standing practice. For Interfaith Communities United for Affordable Housing (ICU), a part of the larger, secular East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), the annual Housing Sabbath is an important opportunity to continue their work supporting communities and advocating for access to more equitable and affordable housing. The importance of affordable housing (and the lack thereof) is staggeringly apparent in the Bay Area, where from 2010 to 2014 median rents increased 38% while middle and low-income workers experienced inflation adjusted wage decreases of almost 5% during a similar period. Initiatives like the Housing Sabbath are designed to look at these issues through a faith lens and incorporate one’s personal beliefs and practices into actions aimed at helping the community as a whole.

The goal of the Housing Sabbath (which takes place the weekend before EBHO’s Affordable Housing Week, and most recently occurred May 5th through May 7th of 2017) is to bring the topic of affordable housing into the worship space. ICU believes that the unique resources of the faith community, both material and spiritual, are vital tools to be used in social transformation work, especially housing justice. As such, they bring together resident leaders of affordable housing and local faith leaders with EBHO staff and board members to educate denominations on the opportunities and responsibilities of communities of faith. The primary function of the Housing Sabbath, however, is to serve as a call to action. This action can be something as simple as participating in events during the upcoming Affordable Housing Week, but may lead to the cultivation of life-long housing advocates.

For ICU, it is important to realize that the Housing Sabbath is just one part of their larger work. Rather than being an end in and of itself, the Housing Sabbath is a means to engaging people in the year-long organizing and activism efforts needed in the fight for housing justice. As faith communities continue to utilize their vast property, material, and spiritual resources, they have the capacity to mobilize congregations to make positive changes in their community.

By Kyle Machicado, Emerson National Hunger Fellow

Alliances Across Issues: Housing and Education Project Connects Where Children Live with Where They Learn

Learning should not stop once the school day ends. By the 6th grade, children in middle-income families by income are estimated to have spent an additional 6,000 hours learning compared with families with the lowest incomes. Of these 6,000 hours, an estimated 4,140 occur in after-school and summer programming. Many non-profit housing providers are working to close this deficit with Out of School Time (OST) learning opportunities designed to solidify the connection between where children live and where they learn. To consolidate and elevate best practices among these providers, the Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County (HDC), with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, initiated the Housing and Education Project (HEP) and recently issued a report on the project’s Exploration Phase.

HEP advances Out of School Time learning opportunities for residents of affordable housing in Seattle

HEP brought together designated representatives from six non-profit housing provider organizations to identify opportunities and challenges related to Out of School Time education programming, and to explore the implementation of regionalized models to better support housing provider efforts to meet the educational needs of child and youth tenants. Beginning in June 2016, HEP participants met nine times as a group to develop the Exploratory Phase Report.

The report touches on a variety of issues related to OST programming. Among these are summary findings on currently offered programming (characteristics of programming, school district relationships, common funding sources, etc.) and summary recommendations for future programming. In addition, it provides a recommended model for achieving systems change, details the essential features of any future system, explores factors impacting program support, identifies barriers to change, and provides guidance for expanding and strengthening networks.

For children, education is a powerful predictor of future success. Many housing providers, such as those involved with HEP, recognize the opportunity we have to help improve predictors of success such as family engagement and absenteeism. The Exploratory Phase Report is a valuable tool to any organization looking to increase its out-of-school education capacity.

To learn more about HEP, go to: http://www.housingconsortium.org/housing-and-education-project/.

For more information on the Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County go to: http://www.housingconsortium.org/.

By Kyle Machicado, Emerson National Hunger Fellow