30 Years Supporting Progressive Social Change

CCF manages over $3.5 million in grants towards social and environmental justice

2018 is a landmark for Common Counsel Foundation as it enters its 30th year of providing support to community power-building for progressive social change. To celebrate CCF’s three decades of social justice grantmaking, we will share stories and highlights throughout the year that span our history of seeding change.

In 2017, CCF managed over $3.5 million in grants that center the lived experiences and leadership of disadvantaged community members to advance their own solutions to the problems they face. Here is a snapshot of Common Counsel Foundation’s work in 2017. We look forward to sharing more in 2018 about CCF’s impact with donors and families over its 30-year history.

In this newsletter:

In solidarity,
Common Counsel Foundation Team (Laura, Alex, Allistair, and Jazmin)

Top 8 Communities Supported:

National Issues and Trends
(Climate Change, Criminal Justice, Immigrant Rights):

Climate Change:

In 2017, we saw a push by the current administration for the development of natural gas infrastructure across the country – trampling the rights of Native and other disadvantaged communities and increasing the Country’s future stake in climate-changing fossil fuels. Nonetheless, resistance on the ground continues strong.

For example, local Native and community water protectors are protesting in Louisiana. United Houma Nation and allies like the Louisiana Bucket Brigadeare joining to fight the 163 mile long Bayou Bridge Pipeline. This pipeline threatens the largest swamp in the country and poses health risks for eleven potentially impacted communities along the pipeline’s proposed path. The pipeline is a project of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the same company leading efforts to develop the Dakota Access Pipeline. If development occurs, the intent is to join the Bayou Bridge and Dakota Access Pipelines together.

Criminal Justice:

The current Department of Justice is dismantling many of the positive policy shifts commenced by the previous administration, such as the reduction of overly-harsh sentences for non-violent drug offenders and the easing of excessive fines against indigent defendants.  The need for local power to advance progress at the municipal and state levels, therefore, is greater than ever.

To that end, Voice of the Experienced, based in New Orleans, led the charge for a package of ten key reforms, including: reduction by 10% of the State’s prison population and deploying the savings for real community safety; reduced sentences for low-level drug crimes; expanded opportunities for parole; and, more alternatives to prison.


Immigrant Rights:

Immigrant communities already under assault have seen a rise in hateful rhetoric and hate crimes, a flurry of anti-immigrant policy proposals, and the expansion of detentions and deportations. Nonetheless, CCF grantees across the country have organized to defend themselves, educate the US Citizen populace and demand a clean Dream Act  that provides a path to citizenship for  undocumented youth that arrived as children with no provisions that would harm other immigrants, including their family members.

Movement for Justice in El Barrio in New York City, has been training its membership base of Latina women to defend their rights in the face of increased attacks. It has convened a series of participatory popular-education workshops, know your rights trainings, and the establishment of hotlines and rapid emergency response networks.

Grantee Impacts:

Protecting Renters with Just Cause Evictions

Leaders and members of Faith in Action Bay Area secured rent stabilization for tenants in Pacifica, a municipality located South of San Francisco in California’s Bay Area. The successful ballot box Measure C campaign led by Faith in Action brings additional security through new just cause eviction protections to approximately 2,300 rental units, representing nearly 20% of the area’s housing stock. The Measure also limits the extent to which rent can be raised from one year to the next. The new policy makes a real difference to the third of Pacifica’s 40,000 residents that rent.

Gloria, a volunteer with Faith in Action, became engaged in the fight two years ago, when 73 people were evicted from a Pacifica mobile home park. She noted "When we first started, we were five people. Look at us now!" I'm proud of what we did. We have a movement on our hands!"

Winning the Fight for $15

The fight for $15 is being waged by low-wage workers across the country. In 2017, Minneapolis became the first major city in the Midwest  to successfully adopt the $15 minimum wage, which provides momentum to make this trend national and not solely a coastal phenomenon. Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) was at the center of this battle, organizing members and supporters to win the minimum wage increase on behalf of the City’s 71,000 low-wage workers whose daily lives will be meaningfully improved.

Building Community Power in the Fight for Clean Water

In Uniontown, Alabama, there is a rejuvenated sense of hope in the majority Black town of about 2,200, thanks in part to Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice (BBC). 

Almost all residents in this community confront the lack of clean water and proper sewage as a daily survival issue.

Previously residents felt that they had little say, but BBC has been successfully building their skills, amplifying their voices and driving long-term community-driven solutions for Uniontown residents. This small but mighty organization is one to watch. Notably, BBC was one of the organizations conducting non-partisan voter engagement, including a ride to the polls for anyone who called during the highly-watched December 2017 special elections, when black residents ultimately accounted for 28% of the vote, while making up just 26% of the population.Endeavors like these help the organization and its members build the clout needed to be heard in the halls of power when it comes time to draft policy or evaluate rules and regulations.