What I Learned about Changing the World – WaWF & Advocacy

I joined WaWF to learn more about philanthropy, and to do better with my own personal giving. But to my delight, I’ve gotten so much more than that. Let me share a recent experience participating in this year’s Advocacy Committee, led by two wonderful co-chairs Cedra DuFlon-Heide and Anne Repass.

Our committee’s work spanned a few short months in July and August culminating in a celebration of three outstanding Advocacy grantees in September. I worked in the food sovereignty and security subgroup and the grantee we picked was Community to Community Development (C2C), a women-led, farm worker organization working among small-scale organic farmers to develop farm leaders to improve working conditions in farms across the state. While C2C wasn’t able to join us for the celebration, they gave us a statement for our blog which I hope you’ll take a moment to read. It starts with the words of Arundhati Roy, an Indian author best known for her novel The God of Small Things, which won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997. Also, a political activist involved in human rights and environmental causes, Roy writes: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.”

As I reflect on this, “another world” means a different world. Not accepting how things are. Changing the things we cannot accept. Changing the world as we know it.

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way”.

Change is coming. Not hoping that it’s coming, but believing that it’s coming and being a driving force behind the change.

Roy’s quote serves as inspiration for WaWF’s work in advocacy. Now in its second year, WaWF’s early advocacy work supports the long term goal of the board to develop a funding framework that contributes to lasting change by supporting community-led organizations doing advocacy work in our state. Our understanding of advocacy is work that advances an idea, argues a position, and/or enriches the debate about an issue of public concern. This includes education, research, litigation, campaigning, grassroots organizing or nonpartisan political work. This year, the committee focused on the three priorities for 2023 — Food Sovereignty & Security, Reproductive Justice & Maternal Health, and Early Childhood Education – with the goal of awarding a grant of $15,000 to one organization in each area.

I joined the subgroup working on Food Sovereignty and Security, having just completed a stint with the collective grants committee earlier in the year which also focused on this priority. In hindsight, I’m glad I participated in both committees because at first I truly struggled with the broad reach of Food Sovereignty and Security. Sovereignty – how we produce food – and security – who has access to food – seemed to me not closely related, residing on opposite ends of a spectrum. Only through discussions with my committee members, voicing and hearing perspectives, did I come to a deeper and clearer understanding.

Our process and two key learnings

Our subgroup began work by working through three different layers of grant criteria. The first being our foundation’s core grant criteria, the second being the advocacy criteria, and the last being the food sovereignty/security priority area. We saw food sovereignty and food security spanning a broad spectrum of services, from how we farm the land to how food gets to our tables — a farm to table continuum. Food sovereignty addresses the land — who owns it, who works it, and the practices for ensuring sustainable cultivation and equitable treatment of workers. Food security addresses access to food in the community and availability of culturally appropriate food.

As we began our research, we coalesced around the issue of food sovereignty more than food security. It seemed to us that organizations could make a better case for addressing inequity and tackling systemic disparities when they focused on food sovereignty (who is producing the food) in addition to who needs help securing food, emphasizing political education and systems change over individual organizational benefits.

This was the first of several themes. I won’t cover them all, but another I want to touch on is the sheer range of advocacy work we uncovered in our research. For example, many organizations are working on education addressing issues, needs and rights. Others are working on grassroots action defining needs and shaping issues. Still more are doing nonpartisan political work lobbying for changes in legislation and fighting for worker protections, including litigation around farmworkers rights and environmental justice. Advocacy isn’t a point in time, nor is it a single activity, but rather an endeavor that embodies a range of activities for addressing inequities and advancing change in food systems. This didn’t make our work any easier, but it did help contribute to a deeper discussions which we hope will advance the board’s goal to develop a funding framework for community-led organizations doing advocacy work in our state.

I started this blog by saying that I joined WaWF to learn more about philanthropy and improve my own giving plan. My experience on the advocacy committee has given me that, and more. So what are my big takeaways?

  • When I bring an open mind to my work, I learn. And my committee members are valued teachers.
  • Food sovereignty (who produces our food) lies at the base of inequity for workers and land practices in our food system.
  • Advocacy is the lifeblood of change, the force behind many of the positive shifts we’ve seen in society. 
  • WaWF is building a funding framework for advocacy to support system change.

Whether advocating for social justice, environmental sustainability, or human rights, advocacy is about standing up and making your voice heard for the causes that matter. 

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