Movement Communications Academy Builds Narrative Power
Taryn SauerThu, 11/09/2023 - 09:19
As anti-immigrant rhetoric and anti-LGBTQ2SIA+ legislation continue to escalate, building community-led movements requires implementing effective communications strategies to inspire supporters and advance racial, gender and economic justice. Movement Communications Academy is on a mission to prepare today’s communicators to do just that by equipping them with essential skills to inform, empower and transform systems at large.
Over eight months, the Oregon Academy, a pilot program comprised of 19 communications professionals from 15 nonprofits, meets weekly to gain hands-on learning from co-founders Diane Goodwin and Megen Ickler. Seasoned professionals provide subject-specific expertise. Past sessions included guidance on how to develop compelling messages with Strategist Cody Romero to digital advocacy and fundraising campaigns with Iván Hernández, the digital communications and engagement manager at Oregon Food Bank.
“It's important for communications professionals to see a pathway to stay in this field,” Ickler said. “We prioritize trainers who reflect the identities of students in our cohort, especially those who are Black, Indigenous, people of color and queer.”
Inspiring Confidence in Brilliant Communicators
Before founding the Academy, Goodwin and Ickler were colleagues at Brink Communications, a creative agency that worked with scores of regional and national nonprofits. Goodwin has over three decades of experience, including a leadership role on President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. Ickler’s political organizing career led her to serve as the communications director for then House Speaker Tina Kotek.
“By centering peer learning, we interrupt imposter syndrome and build confidence to take necessary risks,” Goodwin said. “Communications folks are often expected to learn on the job. Movement Communications Academy sets this generation of brilliant professionals up for success.”
From strategy to implementation, the Academy students dive into real life case studies that cover successful messaging, digital communications, media advocacy and policy communications.
In her session on media advocacy, Kim Melton, vice president of impact at Meyer Memorial Trust, highlighted the difference between reactive and proactive approaches to media advocacy. As a former journalist and communications director, she said responding to stories embedded in misinformation and addressing false equivalencies are just as essential as planting seeds, leveraging events and educating reporters.
“The Academy has given us concrete skills to mobilize our communities on issues that are really important to our cause,” Ernesto Oliva, digital communications and campaign manager at Unite Oregon said. “It’s my job to find innovative ways to ensure that our communities reach the action alerts and opportunities to hopefully, in time, build a cross-cultural movement in Oregon.”
Oliva first joined Unite Oregon as a field organizer with a desire to support more advocacy and ground organizing after beginning his career in education. To support housing justice efforts — one of the six core pillars of the organization’s mission — he trained 150 immigrants and refugees in Washington County to craft their own solutions around tenants rights.
As a first generation, bilingual Latino, he saw how accurately translating messaging into accessible languages for many communities brought more people to the decision-making table.
“I got into communications because I saw that there was power in building bridges with different communities, with immigrants and refugees,” he said. “Being effective with our organizing and advocacy to shift policy at the local and state level involves language accessibility and messaging.”
He knows he can’t do it alone. Only halfway through the course, they’ve built a sense of camaraderie, understanding how intersectional each other’s missions are in the pursuit of justice. This inclusive style of learning resonates with Oliva and his team at Unite Oregon who incorporate this belief into their operations: there are no experts in the room, everyone co-learns together. The same goes for Blair Stenvick, the communications manager at Basic Rights Oregon (BRO).
“Realizing that you’re not alone, that a lot of the challenges I face are faced by others and finding ways to work around it together means a lot,” Stenvick said. “Connecting with each other on that human level and sharing each other’s work on social media, we’re supporting each other in measurable ways.”
Transforming Systems Statewide
They said the cohort style builds momentum by bringing people with different lived experiences and skills together to uplift one another in this work.
“Tribe grows impact,” they said. “We want equality for every LGBTQ+ person or guardian no matter what part of the state you live in, your age, your race or your income level. Being as inclusive as possible is what drives us at BRO.”
As a communications team of one, Stenvick relies on their instincts and often moves quickly to translate messaging into effective narratives.
“The Academy has taught me how to slow down and really think through the basics: what is my audience, what is the goal of this specific action?” they said. “It has reminded me that the message needs to be inclusive so it can be understood and acted on at different levels, meeting people where they’re at.”
Before joining Basic Rights Oregon, Stenvick worked as a reporter where they met organizers on the ground who were leading campaigns throughout the state. As a queer trans person, they resonated with BRO’s mission. When a communications position became available, they knew it was the right time to move from reporting on issues to being an active agent for transforming systems.
Since joining the team, they’ve successfully campaigned for the passage of HB 2002, expanding reproductive health care and abortion protections statewide. Now, BRO is collaborating with Planned Parenthood and ACLU Oregon to enshrine abortion rights, marriage equality and gender-affirming care into the state constitution.
While Oregon has some of the most inclusive reproductive and gender affirming access in the country, passing this type of legislation will still be an uphill battle. Stenvick hopes to apply the lessons they continue to learn at the Academy as they ramp up their efforts.
As the Academy rounds the halfway point, evaluation and growth are top of mind for Goodwin and Ickler. The Oregon cohort could serve as a model for taking this training nationwide.
Oliva believes every communications professional would benefit from the program no matter where they are in their career path.
“Education is your passport through life,” he said. “This will either be a refresher for you or it will be a new program that will equip you with real life skill sets to be able to do your job. And the better we do our job as communications professionals, the more our communities will benefit.”
Housing Advocates Connect for Justice
becca.connorsTue, 11/01/2022 - 12:10
At the end of June, Meyer Memorial Trust gathered an amazing group of 30 housing advocates, organizers and community leaders in Lincoln City for the Oregon Housing Justice Forum. For most of us, it was the first time in over two years we had been in a room full of people we hadn’t met in person before — and in a way that was the whole point. When Meyer’s Housing team started thinking (back in 2020!) about a multi-day gathering of housing advocates from across the state, our central focus was on providing space and time for people to connect, share what they are working on and identify new allies.
COVID-19 has made creating and sustaining relationships much harder for all of us and we knew people were craving an opportunity to step away from Zoom calls and day-to-day challenges to share visions, plans and hopes for housing justice. The last few years have been full of urgent housing challenges, tireless and smart advocacy, dramatic victories in public policy and new resources for housing needs. The forum was designed to serve as an important occasion for advocates to gather together, take a breath, step back and think about what’s next: how do we all contribute to sustaining and growing broad and resilient movements around equitable housing outcomes? We were particularly looking to center the conversation around the needs and priorities of communities of color and to nurture and promote emerging leaders working with those communities and others that have been historically neglected, marginalized and deprived of the ability to secure suitable housing.
In planning the event, we were fortunate to have the help of three savvy and experienced community members active in the field: Julia Delgado from the Urban League of Portland, Jenny Lee from the Coalition of Communities of Color and Loren Naldoza from the Oregon Housing Alliance. Their perspectives and advice as part of the planning committee helped us shape the event, refining the goals and intent, recruiting and selecting participants and the facilitator, I and actively engaging with other participants during the forum.
By centering BIPOC leadership, authentic allyship, relationship building, belonging and racial justice, the Oregon Housing Justice Forum will have:
Increased our understanding of the historical and current impacts of systemic oppression on housing policies, programs, collaborations and initiatives across sectors that lays a foundation for healing from housing injustices.
Formed a housing justice network (composed of BIPOC leaders, people who have experienced housing insecurities and committed allies) that is relationship-based, expandable, cross-sector and has the potential to become influential and sustainable.
Reimagined a housing justice ecosystem that launches a bold, inspiring and just housing future in Oregon.
Co-created key housing justice initiatives that build on past housing justice victories and learning and are designed and shaped by the insights and experiences of BIPOC communities and/or people who have experienced housing insecurity.
Felt inspired and more prepared to take bold action that fosters relationships and confidence in backing and centering BIPOC leadership and communities in the housing justice space that moves Oregon closer to a vision of housing justice for all.
We decided to limit the size of the event to a group where everyone could engage in the same conversation and connect meaningfully with each other. That meant that we invited only 35 out of the more than 130 people who applied to participate. That roster of 35 was one of the most diverse and dynamic groups of housing advocates the state has ever seen, with notably only about one-third of attendees coming from Portland Metro. All participants brought deep community connections and more than two-thirds identified as indigenous or people of color. Some were familiar to us and connected with current Meyer partner organizations we know well; some were people we had not known of before the event. Core issues and passions represented ranged across the spectrum of affordable housing advocacy, from determined advocates for the houseless to people focused on increasing minority homeownership; from grassroots organizers to people with strong policy expertise to coalition-builders.
Over two-and-a-half days, this extraordinary group dug into the roots of Oregon’s overlapping housing crises, shared their plans, visions and fears around the work in front of them and bonded with new allies in conversations.
Meyer has a long track record of supporting advocacy and organizing work, particularly in affordable housing, and this event was both a natural culmination of that decade-long engagement and a bridge to our new focus built on centering impacted communities, supporting positive systems change and building movements and grassroots power. And the Forum is just the latest chapter in that critical work: we will be engaging with both participants and a wider circle of voices in the next few months to inform how we can support community-driven agendas for housing justice at both the local and statewide levels.
Foundations for a Better Oregon is disrupting the root causes of inequity in education
darionMon, 11/30/2020 - 15:44
Investments in strategies that support crucial system inputs that are designed to shift culture within Oregon’s education system and build new approaches to addressing old challenges are essential to developing an ecosystem where innovative ideas, people and students thrive.
For more than a decade, Foundations for a Better Oregon — formally Chalkboard Project — has done this work, serving as a powerful catalyst in merging vision with action by shifting conversations from focusing on increasing funding for education to evidence-based discussions about educator quality, accountability, student achievement and improving student outcomes through innovative pilot projects and building greater accountability through data and research.
Today, Foundations for a Better Oregon is a highly respected organization with well-earned political capital, recognized for its independent and nonpartisan voice. This new iteration of the organization defines its strategic priorities by critical structural and cultural changes Oregon must make to disrupt the root causes of inequity and radically accelerate progress for children: In a better Oregon, research and data is community-centered; investments in education are equitable and coherent; and decision-making is inclusive and participatory.
You can learn more about Foundations for a Better Oregon here.
Foundations for a Better Oregon Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs Amanda Manjarrez facilitates a workshop with community-based organizational leaders during Meyer’s 2019 Gathering for Student Success at PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste) in Woodburn.
Last month, the Nez Perce Tribe secured a conservation easement for 9.22 acres of land along the Wallowa River, permanently protecting an area on the Tribe's ancestral homeland that is known as Waakak’amkt or “where the braided stream disappears into the water.” This accomplishment will also preserve the Wallowa River’s eastern channel and wetland areas from future development.
The Wallowa County Chieftain documents the historic purchase, made possible by grants from organizations such as The Collins Foundation, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Meyer Memorial Trust, Oregon Community Foundation and others:
The easement is part of a growing presence of the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) people in their Wallowa County homeland. That includes the preservation of the Iwetemlaykin State Heritage site, Nez Perce participation in management of the county’s 1,800-acre East Moraine property, the work of the Joseph-based Nez Perce Fisheries in restoring coho salmon, lamprey eels and eventually sockeye to the rivers here, the Homeland Project in Wallowa and the Precious Lands preserve (Hetes’wits Wetes) in the Joseph Canyon area.
'Our efforts will continue to interact with the land,” said Shannon Wheeler, Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee chairman. “That’s where our people are from. … When the Nez Perce people were leaving (in 1877), one of the elders asked people to turn around and look at the land because it might be the last time that they would see it. … So any chance that we get to come back, I see a lot of smiling faces when our people are there, and I think the land smiles when the Nez Perce are there.'
ICYMI: Columbia River tribes gain new clout with major acquisition
darionThu, 07/09/2020 - 11:27
On June 1, the Oregon Health & Science University transferred control of the Center for Coastal Margin Observation and Prediction—an information hub that acquires data through radio telemetry and a network of observation stations and buoys for use in conducting coastal-margin science—to the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, an organization that coordinates management policy and provides fisheries technical services for the Yakama, Warm Springs, Umatilla and Nez Perce Tribes.
The Oregonian recently published an article about the historic acquisition:
For the fish commission, acquisition of the nationally renowned coastal center builds on a growing capacity for world-class research. The center collects and analyzes estuary data that informs everything from Columbia River Treaty negotiations to industrial dredging operations to salmon recovery strategies.
“This is a tremendous capacity-building advance for the Columbia River tribes,” says commission chairman Jeremy Red Star Wolf. “Our professional river and salmon management staffs have wanted more ocean and river connectivity in research, applied science and management. CMOP will help deliver that.
Meyer’s Healthy Environment portfolio awarded a $350,000 capacity-building grant to expand the commission’s ability to effectively acquire, manage and oversee the Center for Coastal Margin Observation & Prediction program. You can read the full coverage of the story here.
Meyer is supporting the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians’ (ATNI) work with its member Tribes and Tribal communities to engage in important regional and statewide water policy discussions focused on quantity, quality, access, rights and cultural understanding. To encourage a broad conversation among the nine federally recognized Tribes of Oregon, ATNI hosted their first Water Summit in 2016. ATNI also connected with mainstream conservation organizations, such as Oregon Environmental Council (OEC), to find alignment around inter-Tribal water policy priorities.
To continue these dialogues and ensure Tribal perspectives inform mainstream initiatives, such as Gov. Kate Brown’s 100 Year Water Vision, ATNI and OEC partnered to create Changing Currents, a website that uses storytelling to explore how water relates to Tribal culture, governance, economic infrastructure and community health and wellness.
If you haven’t already started listening to the rich stories they’ve gathered, we recommend beginning with Shirod Younker’s exploration of the Coquille Indian Tribe’s canoe customs and the inter-Tribal healing that a single canoe can provide.
ICYMI: Our Story on Our Territory
darionTue, 10/01/2019 - 09:57
The Chinook Indian Nation recently bought Tansy Point, an impressive ten acres of land on the Tribes' ancestral homeland and serene enclave of forests, wetlands and habitat for elk, deer, bald eagles and other native creatures.
Enrolled Chinook Indian Nation member Leslie Ann McMillan wrote about the Tribes work to purchase the Tansy Point treaty grounds in a new article published by Oregon Humanities:
"During the past two years, we have been stunned by the outpouring of generosity from tribal members, old friends, new friends, foundations, trusts, and others that have learned of our Tansy Point treaty grounds purchase and preservation.
We completed our reacquisition of the modest yet monumental ten acres in 2019. We look forward to stewardship; flora, fauna, and fish counts; stream and habitat revitalization; and historical, environmental, and cultural preservation in partnership with others who care. On our tidal shoreline property far downriver, anything occurring anywhere in the Columbia River estuary ecosystem concerns us."
A conversation on housing and employment systems
darionFri, 09/27/2019 - 14:05
Housing stability is inextricably linked with other systems of care – health care, criminal justice, child welfare and education, to name a few. We were intrigued to see a proposal in 2017 from a collaborative working at the intersection of affordable housing and workforce development. Worksystems, Inc. was leading a collaborative effort to link employment and housing services for formerly homeless families in Portland, giving low-income residents community-based career coaching and supports to achieve family-supporting employment.
We saw the project as an opportunity for systems to coordinate in intentional, equity-informed ways that could produce better outcomes for both employment and housing stability. Now, over a year into the work, we are following up with Stacey Triplett, community programs manager at Worksystems, to hear more about the collaborative’s progress.
Theresa: How is Worksystems’ project aligning with the homeless services system?
Stacey: The Worksystems’ Aligned Partners Network (APN) is a flexible set of community-based employment service providers who are experienced in a customer-centered approach. This network approach creates success in making relevant services available in our community for folks experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.
Today, APN career coaches are a vital part of homeless services, working one on one with customers getting jobs, getting scholarships for occupational training and getting better jobs, all of which serves to stabilize their housing. High-demand, family-wage careers are open to those with a need for housing support if, and only if, they are able to set career goals and layer supports that are needed. Supports are timed to make progress possible; customers both gain skills and access employment opportunities.
The model for systems alignment is a “housing hub” approach where dedicated rent assistance coordinators bring housing market knowledge to customers in need of rapid rehousing or eviction prevention services alongside the work of the employment service providers of the APN. The same customers are shared across systems. The new normal is for career coaches to engage with their customers before, during and after they receive rent assistance in a manner that demonstrates that both housing AND employment stability are goals around which they engage their customers. This was a result of career coaches coordinating closely with and experiencing great support from the housing hub and its specialty knowledge to address short-term rent assistance needs.
Theresa: Can you share an example of a household that has benefitted from your work?
Stacey: Sure. Khalid had a master’s degree in electrical engineering and eight years of experience before he arrived in Portland as a refugee. To be recognized as a professional engineer in this country, his career coach helped with his resume and requesting the recommendations he needed in order to get approval to take the engineer licensing exam. He also had to take an English exam to qualify for the test.
At first, Khalid stayed with friends, and it was very crowded and noisy. He had difficulty studying for the English exam, but with only $300 a month in refugee assistance, landlords would not approve him for a unit. His career coach referred Khalid for rent assistance, and he was able to secure a unit quickly. His new home provides a safe and quiet space to study in order to pass the English exams and the professional engineering exam that he will be required to take in order to regain his certifications.
Once he had his own place, Khalid said, “I was able to focus on getting a job.” He found work as an electrical engineer at a construction firm and is working full time. Khalid has been approved to take the professional engineering exam in October and continues to study for it. His career coach will use support service funds to pay the costs and fees associated with taking the exam. At the same time, Khalid is already giving back to the community by helping others learn English and translating for them.
Theresa: Impressive work by Khalid and the team! How long have you been doing this collaborative work?
Stacey: This has been a journey of over five years. Meyer Memorial Trust supported work that brought all the relevant organizations together in these efforts. Human Solutions, as the housing hub, learned to share customers with IRCO, SE Works, Oregon Tradeswomen, Constructing Hope, Central City Concern and Human Solution’s own employment department. In more recent years, the network has grown to include Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, Latino Network, the Urban League of Portland and Black Parent Initiative. Our project also prioritized production of data on how efforts that career coaches and rent assistance coordinators make on behalf of their shared customers increase their success by orders of magnitude compared to prior disconnected approaches. Specifically, in 2017 we measured greater income increases (almost double the rate of increase) for customers in the shared approach compared to those who were not. And they were also 53% more likely to leave the program employed.
Theresa: What special role do the collaborative partners play in the project?
Stacey: They are the absolute champions of this effort. All the day-to-day changes to accommodate this new model have been made in a very consensus-oriented manner with good participation and communication amongst and between career coaches and rent assistance coordinators.
Theresa: What kind of challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?
Stacey: We’ve found that systems alignment challenges can best be overcome with frequent and clear communications. With our system alignment work with the housing system, understanding each other’s performance metrics can be difficult, but the deeper we dig the more that we understand the intricacies of each other’s work with participants and how our decisions impact participant lives and performance outcomes for both systems.
Theresa: What do you hope happens going forward?
Stacey: I hope how career coaches and rent assistance coordinators work together will be sustained by the benefits that both colleagues create for customers’ outcomes. It took time for each area to learn one another’s strengths, procedures and how to best stabilize customers experiencing housing instability while pursuing employment goals. Now there’s a natural alliance where housing and employment are “everyone’s business.”
There are many ways the network has embraced the customer-centered teaming that happens when career coaches appreciate the intricacies of operating the housing hub and rent assistance coordinators take cues from training timeframes and employment activities to make sure customers can achieve their goals.
Theresa: Are you able to share the results of your work to a broader audience?
Stacey: There has been interest in this work by many national bodies. Currently, Portland is featured in the 2018 Systems Work Better Together: Strengthening Public Workforce & Homeless Service Systems Collaboration report by the Heartland Alliance. Also, this work has been featured to inspire states outside Oregon to consider utilizing public resources such as are utilized here to fund “SNAP to Skills” efforts that the USDA supports nationwide. An Oregon Housing and Community Services webinar was held with participation from housing professionals, workforce development staff and local funders around the country.
Theresa: Congratulations! Anything else you would like us to know?
Stacey: This goal of systems aligning for customer benefit is that everyone comes to see the connections as the most logical, natural and smooth way of working and doubts that it was ever any other way.
Theresa: That’s a great ending thought. Thank you so much, Stacey, for sharing the progress on this collaborative work to align systems.
ICYMI: Lane Community College’s Rites of Passage bolsters students of color
darionTue, 06/25/2019 - 14:14
Lane Community College’s Rights of Passage program — a multicultural curriculum focused on serving students from African American, Asian, Pacific Islander, Latinx and Indigenous communities — increases participation and graduation rates for underserved middle and high school students of color in Lane County, encouraging them to learn more about their own cultural history, traditions, folklore, literature and heritage.
“What’s the importance of having an instructor, educational leader or other role model who looks like, talks like and comes from a similar background as their students?” asks journalist Alisha Roemeling in a Register-Guard article covering the Rights of Passage program based in south Eugene, Oregon:
“We provide [students] with the role models they need, like educators and other professionals in our community, to help them see that they can achieve great things too,” said Greg Evans, founder of Lane Community College’s Rites of Passage program. “They don’t see teachers and other support staff who look like them all day, every day at school, but they’re in this program and they come from the communities that they represent.”
Meyer's Equitable Education portfolio awarded a $185,000 three-year grant to support expansion of the Rites of Passage program. You can learn more about LCC’s Rites of Passage program here.
ICYMI: Housing and Health Care Under One Roof
darionTue, 06/25/2019 - 08:59
Central City Concern is building a six-story, $52 million development, the Blackburn Center, to increase stock and access to health care integrated housing in Portland.
Affordable Housing Finance recently published an article about the new building that will include a 40,000-square-foot integrated health care clinic and 165 units of respite care, transitional and permanent housing units:
“This is our 40th anniversary as an organization, but this is the first time where everything we do and offer will be available under one roof. That’s really the exciting part here,” says Central City Concern chief housing and strategy officer Sean Hubert. “For us as an organization, it gives us the opportunity to pilot a new way of doing business, and I think it gives us an opportunity to put the client at the center of our work and to align and build the services around the client.”
Click here to learn more about CCC's new campus of integrated housing.