By Fernande Legros, Full Circle Fund Program Officer
The past week has been nothing but shocking and disheartening. For most of us, the past few days have been spent ingesting Facebook posts, articles, and tweets, eyes glued to our mobile and TV screens, as we watched the world we knew and the rights hard fought for being dismantled one by one. We rejoiced as we saw or marched alongside the many who took to the streets across the country to voice their anger and showed up in droves to support those being targeted - to say we are here and not on our watch.
The question of “where to go from here?” that has plagued many of us no longer seems adequate as we steamroll towards a future most of us do not want. If history has taught us anything, it is that inaction fueled by fear, guilt, paralysis, and indecision has made accomplices of many “good” people to terrible things. We have to be willing to engage with each other, to enter into dialogue however difficult and awkward, to speak up even when we don’t have the right words, and to show up for those most in need. That is what connects us to our humanity.
Now, more than ever, we are being called to do something, however small, to steer us back on the path towards progress and justice. So, today we ask “what does your activism look like?”
A little over two weeks ago, 200 community members came together to deliberate on the issues they felt were most urgent. A smaller group of leaders across all four Circles met a few days later to sift through hundreds of post-it notes and distill what we heard and saw. Foremost on our participants’ minds were questions of how to:
create a thriving and inclusive Bay Area community
be and educate engaged citizens
increase access for those most vulnerable
The intersectionality between the different issue areas could not be ignored, for we know, the challenges we face have deep, intertwined roots. In light of that, we are considering collaborations and grants that touch multiple issue areas.
In Education, access to quality education for immigrant, foster care, special ed, and homeless youth, as well as the need for 21st-century literacy - including workforce development and civic education - topped the list.
In Health, reproductive rights and healthcare access - particularly as it regards mental health - were most mentioned, along with food waste and deserts, and water quality and safety, overlapping with our Environment & Energy Circle. Mass transportation, climate education, and renewable energy in low-income communities were also highly ranked.
In Economic Opportunity, participants were most concerned about homelessness, student debt and financial literacy, technology access in rural communities, and green job training.
In the end, equity and access emerged as the unifying thread across all 4 Circles. We have made this our North Star as we move forward with the Grant Cycle.
Looking to the Future...
In the next few months, we will continue to gather to discuss these top issues and select organizations for partnerships. Here at Full Circle Fund, as one Member pointed out, while this may be a new era, we have always been doing the work. Our activism today and over the past 16 years looks like building community across sectors, pooling our financial resources and time to support high-impact nonprofits, and working alongside them to increase their capacity and reach. If you are looking for a way to amplify your own impact, join us at our Circle Kickoffs.
We have seen what a small group of people can do - or even just one person. If we are to weather the tough times ahead, we will need to lead with empathy and compassion and to be unwavering in our commitment to act.
We will have to build up a new way simultaneously as we protest the threats to our liberties. Beyond the marches, we hope you’ll join us in partnering with those who are already on the ground doing the day-to-day work. With government funding for many organizations hanging in the balance, financial and hands-on support to local nonprofits tackling today’s pressing issues are just as important as giving to the large policy advocacy organizations. And if Full Circle Fund is not for you, our advice is still the same: find a need, give, talk to others, and get engaged.