Inside MCF

Equal Voice Networks: Planting Seeds for Community Change

April 24, 2019

Network-building is at the root of Marguerite Casey Foundation’s grantmaking strategy. To connect our grantees across issue and across the communities they serve we’ve established Equal Voice Networks.

In a country with growing inequality where more than 41 million Americans live in poverty, we need to work more effectively.  Marguerite Casey Foundation believes that lasting change requires sustained collaboration among philanthropic organizations, communities, and families fighting for policy reform.

Network-building is at the root of our grantmaking strategy. To connect our grantees across issues and across the communities they serve we’ve established Equal Voice Networks. These strategic multi-issue alliances empower grassroot nonprofit and community leaders to set their own local priorities, develop best practices, and share resources for improving the lives of low-income families.

We first planted the seeds in 2005 in the Rio Grande Valley and the Mississippi Delta. Since then, we’ve grown to 15 regional networks across the country—and a national Native Voice Network and national Youth-led Network—that have the passion and patience to confront old challenges in new ways.

With nearly $7 million invested to support these networks – in addition to the $435 million of general support grants intended to back all network members – our collaborative approach elevates the voice of low-income families to advocate on behalf of their own community.

Each Equal Voice Network brings together leaders and experts that represent different issue areas that were identified by families to create the national family platform.

A network weaver unites the group, builds up capacity, and facilitates work across differences of race, region, issues, and egos. The idea is to unite people and organizations – with the objective of helping families create solutions and change. We know that families experiencing poverty don’t lead single-issue lives.

Our model helps organizations plant new seeds by joining them with others who share similar goals. Together, networked organizations can bridge the gap from outrage to action.

From day-to-day community organizing to town halls, network meetings and rallies, these local coalitions build strategies on affordable housing, education, a living wage, and more, to identify solutions at state, regional, national, and global levels. Empowered by the progress of these networks, more individuals are campaigning for and winning political elections, strengthening their communities’ leadership and representation.

  • In California, four networks have worked together to secure a higher minimum wage for 6.4 million workers, more affordable housing, and shorter sentences for non-violent crimes.
  • Chicago’s Equal Voice Network rallied around a voter engagement campaign resulting in $88 million going back to the city’s public schools.
  • And in Florida, we built two networks for rural and urban communities that helped to pass Amendment 4, which gave 1.4 million returning citizens the right to vote. Because when it comes to solving the biggest challenges, one-size-fits-all does not work.

The progress of the 16-and-counting networks has yielded meaningful change around the country, and new campaigns regularly bloom as networks expand, collaborate, and find specific solutions together.

Equity is achieved through hard work and accountability. Giving families and organizations a platform to find power in their collective voice, each network, bolstered by long term general support grants, grows a movement that’s based on a new form of philanthropy—one that’s effective, measurable, and can be broadly replicated. Marguerite Casey Foundation is seeing results from this innovative approach.

These networks are an opportunity for collaboration with all foundations wanting to create a more just and equitable society. Join us to help nurture healthier families and stronger communities.

Equal Voice Networks: Planting Seeds for Community Change