In the fall of 2000, the Boston Women’s Fund began to explore new ways to deepen its support for community organizing and movement building in the region. The Organizing Institute (OI) was co-founded by the BWF and grantees with the purpose of creating a stronger coalition of women’s and girls’ activists through resource development, movement building, and networking.
The main components of the Organizing Institute are the Activist-to-Activist mini-grants and the Brown Bag Luncheon Series. Mini-grants help build the capacity of our grantees and enable grantees to build networks. The Luncheon Series provides an opportunity for dialogue with grantees and constituents.
The Organizing Institute’s pilot year was powerful. The Luncheon Series held four community forums, which included information and dialogue about the impact of the Patriot Act on immigrants and communities of color, movement building, and vision building. These events help the Fund connect to our grantees and foster grassroots dialogue on issues of relevance and importance to our constituents’ communities. Activist-to-Activist mini-grants are helping grantees build collaborations and share experiences with other local and national groups doing similar work.
By its nature, the OI crosses many borders. Donors, grantees, and community organizers discuss critical issues of race, class, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. They share experiences of exclusion and resilience, and the significance of a collective voice. Grantees and other organizations discuss common challenges: How can we connect across social-justice issues, such as political empowerment, affordable housing, and discrimination, to build a stronger united front? How can we help each other sustain the movement to empower women and girls?
The OI opens the door for unique cross-border experiences as women and girls learn about diverse issues, share lessons and models of organizing, and inform the Fund of the daily realities of the communities it supports. As organizers and community workers, we need to allot time for spiritual growth and reflections on the meaning of our work. For true border crossing, we have to take the time to learn, grow, and teach together.