“The Good Troublemakers”

Building Power in California

Amidst the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, grief, political divisiveness, and pervasive racial injustices facing communities of color, The California Endowment responded with a strategy to accelerate the innovative work of the state’s grassroots organizers and changemakers - a historic $300 million Social Bond

In addition to The Endowment’s existing grantmaking, the Social Bond was an act of doubling down on the organizations and leaders championing movements to secure health, wellness, and racial equity for all Californians. It makes possible the creation of a powerbuilding infrastructure across issue areas and sectors that had never been developed before. 

“The rationale behind a decision to go after a bond has to do with our vision of a future California and the nation best described by Dr Martin Luther King and his vision of the beloved Community for America,” said Dr. Ross, President and CEO of The Endowment. “It's not enough money to solve the nation's problems, but is  enough to catalyze and send a message to the people doing this work– here are some resources to help you get that work done in a more catalytic and impactful fashion.”

The Endowment celebrates its Social Bond grantees as the “Good Troublemakers,” inspired by the late Congressman John Lewis' speech a few months before his death, “Speak up, speak out, get in the way. Get in good trouble, necessary trouble and help redeem the soul of America.” 

The Good Troublemakers are the heart and soul of California’s movements - the community organizers on the front lines of social change, fighting for those who have been historically overlooked, ignored, and left behind by white supremacist policies and systems. The Good Troublemakers are the reason for the Social Bond’s existence and the agents of change who will ultimately influence the health and well-being of Californians for generations to come. 

With this vision in mind, the Endowment staff, informed by community leaders and advisory committee members who come from current grantee partners and experts in the issue field, turned this bold strategy into a reality. Goals, strategic frameworks, and processes were developed to inform the Social Bond’s grant-making priority areas and how this new funding stream would be operationalized. 

The three goals of the Social Bond are people power, reimagined public institutions, and a 21st century “Health for All” system.  The goals focus on four priority areas defined by the community as areas where resources are needed the most - power infrastructure, health coverage, resilient communities, and research and evaluation.  

One of the Social Bond’s grantee partners, the California Black Freedom Fund (CBFF), is a $100 million initiative, building and sustaining Black-led organizations, coalitions, and networks across the state. In its first two years of operating, CBFF has distributed $15.26 million in grants to 77 Black power-building groups. The Social Bond accelerates CBFF’s work to eradicate systemic and institutional racism in California’s systems, culture and policies. 

“We know that to build strong, stable, resilient organizations in the Black community, we need ongoing funding that sustains after the crisis and that allows for organizations to build the 21st-century infrastructure that's needed to do power-building work at scale,” said Marc Philpart, Executive Director of the California Black Freedom Fund.

Another grantee partner is the Latino Power Fund, a dynamic initiative from the Latino Community Foundation that amplifies Latino-led grassroots organizations across the state. Through funding from the Social Bond, the Latino Power Fund was able to ramp up their investments to build civic and political power with efforts like community polling. 

“​​This grant is a game changer. The Latino Community Foundation has been on a mission to unleash the civic and economic power of Latinos,” says Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO of the Latino Community Foundation. This investment in our Power Fund will help us accelerate our mission and help us build a stronger network of Latino-led grassroot organizations anchored in justice and social change.”

Social Bond grants were also awarded to elevate tribal, indigenous and culturally grounded solutions for climate change.  Grantee partner True North Organizing Network in the Redwood region of Northwestern California is bringing together Native communities across tribal lands, Del Norte, and Humboldt counties to tackle core issues like water and the environment, police accountability, mental health and homelessness, and public education. The network provides its resident leaders with the tools, coaching and infrastructure needed to create system change. 

Terry Supahan, Karuk tribal member and executive director of the True North Organizing Network, says, “Powerbuilding to me is giving voice to not only the individual but the individual's tribe, community, village, place. It's helping people find themselves and leaning into the power that's all around them so that they can feel it too.” 

Grantee partner APEN, short for Asian Pacific Environmental Network, is focused on environmental justice with deep roots in California’s Asian immigrant and refugee communities. Recognizing that climate change isn’t just an environmental issue, but a social, political and economic problem as well, APEN builds power and has a membership base in communities traditionally ignored by politicians and political parties. 

“Power building for us is the ability to develop collective power of people in neighborhoods and communities and across the state, being able to connect those organized forces to develop collective political power,” said Miya Yoshitani, Executive Director of APEN. “When we talk about power building, it's the process that we use to strengthen the organizations that do that collective power building among all of our communities.”

The Social Bond is a reflection of profound trust and love for the community and the people closest to the problems – and in turn, the long-term needs to create justice and equity across California.

The California Endowment is continuing to allocate the Social Bond proceeds in grants to Good Troublemakers working toward long-term power-building, grassroots community organizing, leadership development, and building economic power.  For updates, go to our grantee dashboard.

To learn more about The California Endowment’s Social Bond, watch this video  and go to the website. 

This content was paid for by The California Endowment. The editorial staff at The Chronicle had no role in its preparation. Find out more about paid content.