The Silicon Valley Community Foundation's publication, One, was in my mailbox today, and I was delighted when I saw the cover story - Civic Citizens: Building Communities Cause by Cause, Person by Person. Even more delighted when I turned to the article and read the lead-in:
Impassioned people change their communities, and community involvement changes people. Call it the hopeful cycle of public progress.
The article tells the story of regular people, "unlikely advocates", who stepped forward or were drawn into public stages and found their public voice. The article notes that "engaged citizens develop the knowledge, skills, values and motivation needed to promote better quality of life in a community." Voila! The perfect description of the power of grassroots grantmaking! Grassroots grantmakers - at the most basic level - use small grants as an invitation to regular people to turn off the television, get off the couch, connect with their neighbor, and move an idea or a dream into action. And central to grassroots grantmakers' theory of change is the change that occurs in people - and in communities - when people accept that invitation.
This article includes lots of wonderful nuggets - about engaging donors, the power of deliberation, the importance of social capital, info on advocacy and lobbying - but I especially loved the attention that the article gives to regular people who have been involved with PACT, San Jose's PICO (Pacific Institute for Community Organization) affiliate, and a Silicon Valley Community Foundation grantee. I loved reading about Adrian Cerda, an electronic engineer who joined PACT - and that Cerda says that his involvement with PACT has helped him be a better a citizen, a better employee and a better leader. And Elizabeth Alvarez, who says that involvement with PACT has taught her that the more civic engagement she sees in a community, the better the quality of life in that neighborhood. And Philip Crosby, a retired scientist who says that civic engagement has redefined his understanding of his faith and behavior. Amazing stories - so much like other stories I've heard from people who are doing "civic engagement at the block level" type of work, but stories that don't often end up as cover stories of publications.
This is recommended reading for any funder who is wondering if grassroots grantmaking is a good investment or for funders who need some help telling the story of the power of grassroots grantmaking.
Kudos to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation for shining a light on the power of regular people in this article!