How Grassroots Organizing & Allyship Can Drive True Systems Change, with Jennifer Ching

In today’s episode, I have the absolute delight of talking with Jennifer Ching, Executive Director of the Northstar Fund here in NYC. Northstar is a social justice fund that supports grassroots organizing led by communities of color building power in New York City and the Hudson Valley.

I was excited to talk with Jenn about the report that they released, in partnership with the New York Foundation, called Streets To Statehouse.  The first part of the report shares the lessons learned from two 2019 statewide campaigns that were led by grassroots organizations working in coalition with broader policy and advocacy networks. The second part of the report examines how grassroots organizing is not only essential for building campaigns from outside City Hall or Albany, but is also critical in building a more robust multiracial democracy.

Jenn talks about the purpose and focuses of the report in our conversation, and she does a fantastic job of articulating the “why” and “how” behind the research. But I wanted to share my own reasons for why it felt so important to me to have a conversation about the report.

First, I am always on the lookout for tools that the growth stage-organizations that I work with and care so much about can use to build their capacity for true and lasting impact. So when I come across a report that functions like a how-to guide for creating systems change, I get really excited. Jenn and I talk not only about the actual how-to lessons that the report shares, but also how organizations – whether they use organizing as a primary vehicle for creating change or not – can use the findings as a tool.

Which relates to the second theme that Jenn and I touch on, which is near and dear to my heart. True, lasting social change requires looking beyond the walls of our own organizations and mission and working in partnership and collaboration with other groups – especially those that use different methodologies. And it requires centering the lived expertise of people most impacted by the problems we’re working to solve. Whether you’re a direct service provider or an advocacy group, collaborations and networks must be part of your vision for impact. This report introduces some concrete ways to plug in to systems work.

Finally, Jenn and I talk about how long true impact takes, and how it’s incumbent on funders to invest in models that may take longer, but that create more tectonic shifts in our society.

I always truly love talking with Jenn, and this conversation is no different. It’s a great blend of the why and the concrete – enjoy!