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After receiving requests from local government and nonprofit leaders, and hearing many heart wrenching stories of exclusion from marginalized communities via True North listening campaigns, HAF along with The California Endowment, Smullin Foundation, Humboldt State, Footprint Foundation, First Five Humboldt, and a variety of community partners have designed a way for organizations to examine and address systematic biases. Systems biases that impact opportunities for many people in this region.
Led by the people most affected by poor health and economic outcomes in the region and by faith leaders of many cultures, True North Organizing Network supports families, elders, and youth across Del Norte, Humboldt and Tribal lands to build relationships and leadership skills to negotiate for their interests. In Del Norte and Tribal lands, this work looks like popular Candidate Forums, improved teamwork between school administrators and parents, improved school lunches and physical education programs, significantly more registered voters in low-income and low-turnout districts, reduced access to alcohol by minors, improved relationships between law enforcement and Latino and Native communities, and new agreements in fire management practices to achieve traditional Native community health objectives.
Why did a community foundation start a grassroots organizing network? In 2010-11, HAF staff and board members had dozens of conversations across Humboldt County to find out what people needed most from the Foundation: overwhelmingly, they wanted more effective engagement in the decisions affecting their lives. At the same time, residents of Del Norte and adjacent Tribal lands engaged The California Endowment to invest in 10 years of the Building Healthy Communities Initiative, with a significant focus on supporting marginalized residents to lead, negotiate with decision-makers and solve issues most important to them. The True North Organizing Network was born to connect both sets of interests, using the national PICO model of values-based (not issue-based), relationship-building grassroots organizing. True North is now an independent nonprofit that will remain fiscally sponsored by HAF in 2016-17.
Many community members, organizations and governments are working hard to address very significant challenges with homelessness. Currently, we are supporting St. Joseph Health and other partners to engage the housing and homeless services sector to co-design common goals and a collective approach to effectively achieve those goals together. We are also helping community members design a Housing Solutions Fund to provide local flexible dollars to address gaps in funding systems and leverage state and federal monies.
Some HAF staff practice graphic facilitation because we see how powerful visuals are to help people set their goals and make agreements – we have seen this work be particularly effective in Native communities. With a grant from The California Endowment, consultant Heather Equinoss is training a cohort of Native leaders to learn and employ graphic facilitation skills in a variety of Tribal communities across the region.
With the recognition that there are very few well-developed nonprofits in Del Norte County and that this limits how effective they can be and how much funding they can attract, HAF’s nonprofit assistance resources have been deployed more rigorously to support that community’s interests in strengthening the capacity of these organizations to provide services and improve lives.
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