Marking a Period of Continued Growth and Transition

CCF recorded its largest aggregate grantmaking in 2016, reaching the $4.1 million mark

Dear friends and partners,

Common Counsel Foundation (CCF) recorded its largest aggregate grantmaking in 2016, reaching the $4.1 million mark, a full $1.1 million more than the previous high. We accomplished this in a period of continued growth and transition for the organization during which we welcomed two new funds, the Honeybee Fund and the Andrus Family Fund – Initiative for Puerto Rico. In addition, two projects, the Social Justice Infrastructure Funders and the Reinvest Network, found a home at CCF.

We are pleased to announce that Cynthia Mitchell joined our team in December as Finance and Operations Manager. Cynthia brings a strong formal education in finance and nonprofit management, along with a depth and breadth of real-world experiences. She has served for over a decade in senior roles, including as Finance and Administrative Director at Marin City Community Development Center, as well as having served as a consultant with a diverse set of nonprofit clients overseeing financial operations. She is primed to build upon the solid systems developed by our outgoing Finance Manager, Layla Cooper, and enhance them with added reporting and due diligence features.

As Dana Kawaoka-Chen, the director of the Bay Area Justice Funders Network, a project of CCF, noted, Layla will be sitting in the same tree, on a different perch going forward. She’ll wind down her 9 years at CCF at the end of February, in order to step up as Finance Director for CCF grantee, Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA). Layla is excited to have the opportunity to build finance capacity with MUA’s immigrant member leaders in the new role, while also having the chance to learn from the members and utilize her Spanish language skills every day. We wish Layla well in the new role and intend to remain in close touch.




For close to three decades Common Counsel Foundation has been supporting organizations that are led by the members of the most vulnerable communities to advance equity and environmental health. Community-based organizations across the country are defending and advocating for justice and sustainability in what has become a challenging political environment.

Here are a few highlights from 2016:


With the help of many grant partners throughout California, including La Colectiva de Mujeres, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, and Graton Day Labor Center, domestic workers throughout the state won continued protections for their rights as workers, with the renewal of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. “I still work a hard day and long hours, but now I’m not giving my work away and I get paid what I deserve,” says Ines Lazarte, a domestic worker in San Francisco, CA. Thanks to the tireless efforts of these grant partners and their allies, thousands of workers can get properly compensated for the work they do.


 The advocacy efforts of Got Green in Seattle, WA, resulted in $150K to support low-income young people of color in green job placements. Seattle Council President, Bruce Harrell noted, “The community has done a good job of coming up with smart solutions. Whether it is for environmental sustainability or not relying on fossil fuels, you are fighting for a pathway for change, which is very powerful.


In Alameda County in California, the Justice Reinvestment Network, including current grant partners All of Us or None, Bay Area Black Worker Center, Causa Justa :: Just Cause, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and Oakland Rising, won 1,400 municipal jobs for formerly incarcerated people. “Four years ago, I left prison after being inside for 17 years. Then, I didn't feel significant at all. After this win, I am feeling significant,” said Darris Young of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “This jobs program is an investment in the future of our community, and in the people who have been shut out of opportunities for far too long.”


Demonstrating unity, Native Americans and Indigenous people from around the world, including CCF grantees Owe Aku Bring Back the Way, Native Youth Leadership Alliance, Indigenous Peoples Power Project, and many others, converged in South Dakota when called by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe – another grantee. This list of groups includes almost all of the grantees from the last Native Voices Rising grant cycle. These groups convened around the linked issues of land rights, water protection, Native sovereignty, environmental protection, and climate & energy policy. Native people and their allies continue to resist the development of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). As Deborah White Plume of Owe Aku states, “We are seeing to what extent the government will go to in order to protect a corporation. The water and everything on earth are our relatives. It's our duty to defend our relatives. We want to stop this DAPL. It can mean genocide for the people who depend on that water.”




These stories highlight the breadth of work that Common Counsel’s grant partners are doing throughout the country to fight all social and environmental injustices. Groups are fighting hard, thanks to your support. With their tireless efforts, a number of trends are gaining national momentum to build the power of vulnerable communities: