Partnership Staff: Supporting a Growing Movement

December 20, 2007 -- Partnership for Working Families

By Ernesto Sanchez, Communications Specialist

2007 was an amazing year for the Partnership for Working Families.  With a greatly expanded staff, we honed our programs to strengthen our Partners and nurture emerging organizations in new regions.  Kathleen Mulligan-Hansel, Research & Communications Director, used her wealth of knowledge around community benefits research and communications to foster a peer network among ground-researchers and build our publications schedule for 2008.  Derek Smith, Organizing Director, used his years of labor/community organizing experience to nurture new organizations in the Southwest and support new organizers across our network.  Amber Belindo, Director of Finance and Administration, is transferring her campaign planning and fundraising skills over to our growing organizational development and fundraising strategies.  Additionally, myself, John Goldstein, National Program Director and Julian Gross, Community Benefits Law Center Director are continuing to build a successful national Partnership program.  With Leslie Moody as Executive Director, we are well positioned to achieve our shared vision and expand this work to a new scale with new strategies in 2008.

This year the Partnership also witnessed the evolution of community benefits, as several Partner organizations engaged in industry-based campaigns with the prospect of reshaping regional economies.  As established Partners continue to push the envelope on community benefits campaigns, Partnership staff work to replicate these successes by supporting innovative organizing, research, communications, and legal strategies.

Below is a brief overview of the work from Partnership staff in 2007 to strengthen the movement for working families and support Partner organizations engaged in winning campaigns.  As 2007 comes to a close, we are hopeful that our program and peer-network are well-prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities that 2008 will bring.

Organizing & Field Program

2007 began with a bang!  During the historic Partnership for Working Families national convening in Atlanta, we brought together an amazing group of leaders ranging from advocates that have been doing community benefits work for years to some who were just learning about it for the first time.  New leaders of the community benefits movement left Atlanta with serious interest in establishing Partner organizations in their own cities.  By year’s end, the Partnership’s Organizing and Field Program helped launch three Partner Organizations in Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh UNITED), Northern New Jersey (Garden State Alliance for a New Economy) and in Arizona (Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy).  Each organization has established itself by recruiting a diverse board and hiring an executive director.  They are now beginning the important work of developing the strategic campaigns that expand our national movement.

Partnership staff worked closely with newer Partner organizations by providing them the support needed to win important campaigns.  This year coalitions mobilized in Seattle (Puget Sound SAGE) and Anaheim (OCCORD) to win community benefits agreements in developments that will have a major impact on those communities.  We also worked closely with Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods in Milwaukee to develop equitable development standards for all publicly subsidized projects.  We also provided guidance and encouragement to the Syracuse Alliance for a New Economy as they struggle with these same issues at a smaller scale in upstate New York’s older industrial region.

At this moment, we are in the process of developing a comprehensive approach to improving the quality of end user jobs, particularly retail sector jobs tied to large, mixed-use development projects.  The Dearborn St. Coalition in Seattle and the Kingsbridge Armory Coalition in the Bronx are pioneering strategies to create permanent, family supporting, union jobs in those developments.

Continued growth of the Partnership and our movement depends on our ability to support the development of successful Partner organizations in major metro regions.  As newer groups mature, we learn what works, and what doesn’t.  In 2008, the Partnership Organizing & Field Program will continue to provide on-the-ground technical assistance to new partners to ensure that their initial campaigns are successful.  We will also continue to provide and strengthen the Partnership network, so that every organization has access to the wisdom from our collective experience as strategists, organizers, researchers and communicators.

Research & Communications Program

2007 has been a year of growth for the Partnership’s research and communications program. Our work has been shaped by two fundamental goals:  supporting local campaigns and finding creative ways to increase the capacity of Partner organizations.

On the research side, the Partnership undertook several major research projects whose findings will help shape campaigns across the network.  We recruited construction industry expert Jeff Grabelsky to serve on the construction industry work team, with the goal of identifying and promoting promising policies that help further our agenda to increase union construction with new strategies to promote access to construction career opportunities for low-income people and people of color.

The Partnership’s First Source/Local Hire Implementation Project will conclude in early 2008 with a convening and white paper that focuses on how Partner organizations have met the challenges of implementing First Source and Local Hire programs won through community benefits campaigns.  The research findings will analyze the implementation experiences of construction and end-user programs and offer concrete recommendations for improving outcomes and maximizing gains for low-income workers.  Our Base Reuse Project will continue into 2008, with two anticipated publications.  The first publication, almost completed, analyzes base reuse processes and outcomes in four California communities, concluding that more sophisticated community organizing strategies are required to maximize the positive impact that base reuse can have on local economies.  Additionally, the Partnership will produce a base reuse handbook to help community leaders make better sense of the BRAC planning process and provide guideposts for strategic engagement.

On the communications side, the Partnership worked to increase real-time communications and peer-to-peer learning across the network through the monthly e-newsletter. Recognizing the significance of having a strong web presence, the Partnership worked to create a website template that can be accessed by organizations across the network to develop a new website or upgrade an existing web presence. Among the many benefits of the new web template are its relatively low cost for a well-designed and highly-customizable site and the ability to grow and enhance features of the site as new organizations develop more complex operations and multi-faceted campaigns. The site can ultimately be linked up to database tools and e-activism resources like Democracy in Action, expanding Partner organizations’ abilities to engage and develop leaders. We also finalized Words that Work: Communications Messaging for Community Benefits Campaigns, a toolkit for developing stronger messaging and framing techniques.  Efforts are currently underway to develop a training curriculum in conjunction with this publication, with the goal of helping CBA campaigns coalesce around key message frameworks.

The real benefits of the Partnership Research & Communications work will become apparent in 2008, as these projects progress toward completion.  As the Partnership continues to find new and better ways to pursue community benefits agreements within a broader strategic effort to reshape metro-area economies, the research and communications staff look forward to sharing proven practices and approaches to strengthen the research and communications capacity of Partner organizations.

Community Benefits Law Center

The Community Benefits Law Center, the Partnership’s legal program, was formally launched at the beginning of 2007.  Over the course of the year, we provided a range of assistance to more than a dozen Partner organizations, including:

  •  working with local advocates and attorneys on seven CBA campaigns around the country;
  • drafting language for numerous efforts to pass community benefits policies, and strategizing on legal aspects of these campaigns;
  •  assisting in implementation of CBAs currently in effect; and
  •  helping new and established Partners with organizational legal issues.

In addition, the CBLC broadened its areas of expertise this year, building knowledge in key aspects of labor law, land use law, regulation of job training programs, and nonprofit operation.  We also developed the network of community benefits attorneys around the country, by working with local lawyers in many cities, and by speaking at attorneys’ conferences and law schools.  We participated in efforts to expand the labor movement’s engagement in community-based policy work by presenting at multiple national labor-law conferences.  Finally, we wrapped up our Gulf Coast Technical Assistance Project with a thorough analysis of the land use development process in New Orleans.

In 2008, the CBLC staff hopes to expand the capacity of the legal program, growing along with the Partner organizations and supporting the community benefits movement nationwide.

Written by Ernesto Sanchez with the assistance from other Partnership staff