News, articles, resources, and information regarding policy and advocacy efforts impacting New York State
Dear Colleague:

This newsletter is full of updates about what this network has been working on during the first two quarters of 2019, and also with updates from our partners working on the key issues the ENY advisory committee has selected in 2018:

  • Criminal Justice Reform
  • Immigrant and Refugee Policy
  • Rural Philanthropy
  • Census 2020
  • Safe and Health Housing (with a focus on lead poisoning in children)

The first six months of 2019 have been busy. First and foremost, ENY received a grant from the New York Community Trust to support the NYS Census Equity Fund, which has allowed us to keep all of you informed about the bi-weekly happenings around Census. Three is a lot happening right now as we wait for the Supreme Court's decision around the addition to the citizenship question, municipalities create their local Complete Count Committees, Census hiring is in full-steam, and nonprofits are preparing for get out the count efforts. We also spent the first few months of 2019, preparing for the Hudson Valley site visit that brought over 50 sector leaders to the Hudson River cities to engage in dialogue around community change.

As this network continues to think about its future, we invite you to participate in the topics and conversations that matter to you and your foundation. In the upcoming months, there will be conversations focused in each of these areas named above. We hope that if your Foundation is interested in working towards an action agenda with your colleagues around these topics, that you join us.

Lisa Fasolo Frishman
In May, in partnership with the Ford Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, the Dyson Foundation, North Star Fund, and the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, ENY organized a site visit for over 50 funders from nearly ever region of the state to learn about the changes taking place in the Hudson Valley region. The tour focused on movements and investments in Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Millerton, Kingston, and Hurley and the conversations focused on housing, displacement, economic empowerment, community prosperity, community organizing/resident voice, and the impact that local policy has on creating a more equitable state for all New Yorkers.

Site visit information and pictures from the tour will be posted on the ENY website in the upcoming weeks. We will keep you informed of when you can find the information there. In the meantime, here are a few highlights:
Highlight - Gathering at the Center for Creative Education in Kingston to engage with state-wide campaign leaders from the Green Light Coalition, Upstate Downstate Housing Alliance, Caring Majority, and the Advocacy Institute. The focus of the conversation was the need for true state-wide coalition infrastructure, and dissecting what it takes to move policy forward in New York.
Highlight - Touring Newburgh with key leaders from RUPCO, City of Newburgh, Habitat for Humanity, and the Newburgh Land Bank Authority understanding the housing challenges residents are facing, along with the increase in community prosperity efforts to revitalize the community.
Highlight - Understanding the power of movements goes beyond just policy for this group of funders! The funders participated in a short dance lesson from Drew, a key leader in Kingston changing how youth engage in the community.

Highlight - Being able to spend the evening at the Watershed Center , a social justice retreat center, in Millerton, NY, in community with rural leaders building power to fight unjust deportation, preservation of native lands, food justic e, student empowerment, and so much more. A truly remarkable place, an inviting place, and amazing discussions.
Highlight - Connecting with colleagues from across the state and learning about innovative approaches to grantmaking and policy change.
The Green Light Campaign
Takes on Albany
On May 22nd, immigration advocates flooded the halls of legislators in Albany declaring that the Green Light legislation had the votes, but it would take the courage of Assembly and Senate leaders to pass this it into law.

For those unfamiliar with the Green Light coalition, it is a state-wide campaign to expand access to drivers' licenses to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status. Nationally, 12 states currently offer drivers licenses to undocumented individuals.

To learn more about why this legislation is important for New York, click on the following resources:

There is a broad range of statewide and community groups in this campaign, including the  Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State , Worker Justice Center , the  Worker’s Center of Central NY Community Voices Heard Make the Road NY NYCLU , and the  New York Immigration Coalition .

Engage New York continues to partner with advocacy organizations to think through the best ways to support New Americans in our communities across the state.
Over the past year, Engage New York has been talking to key allies in the criminal justice reform movement. Our work to date has been more behind the scenes, but we are pleased to share some updates with you from our key partners in the movement for equity in bail reform.

In New York, we have several groups that have been working on bail reform, but two partners that Engage New York speaks with regularly are Katal: Center for Health, Equity and Justice and VOCAL-NY.

Through their efforts, the New York State Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo have passed  comprehensive pretrial reform legislation that enact dramatically reform discovery, speedy trial, and bail practices. This is a major victory for the movement to end mass incarceration in New York. What does this mean? Read more below about how our partners analysis of the reforms.. .

  • Bail reform: The new rules will prohibit people accused of most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies from being detained pre-trial. People accused of these charges will be released from court either to return on their own or with non-monetary conditions. People accused of violent felonies will still be subject to the money bail system as they were before. Fewer people will be held in jail pre-trial – the results should have an especially significant impact upstate, where some counties jail up to 70% of people arrested. While we want to acknowledge this victory, we need to be clear that these reforms leave a lot of people behind. 

  • Discovery reform: New York’s new discovery rules will be perhaps the most expansive in the country. The previous set-up had been among the most unfair, with prosecutors able to withhold evidence right up until the day of trial. While we fought for evidence to be required at first appearance, this demand was not met. We did however win full discovery 15 days into a case, and pre-plea, meaning that no one will have to evaluate a plea offer before having a chance to consider the evidence that a prosecutor has against them, if any evidence exists at all. This is a game-changer.

  • Speedy Trial: New York’s new speedy trial rule tightens the rules requiring prosecutors to bring cases to trial in a timely manner--but it's not very strong. Despite not getting much on this issue, it’s our hope that the new bail and discovery rules will help move cases more quickly through the system.

  • Next Steps: All of the new bills will become effective on January 1, 2020. While we must wait for the new laws to be legally binding, prosecutors across the state can start implementing the changes now. Advocates will be demanding that they do, so that people arrested between now and next year will experience the criminal justice system differently.
A Letter to the field about investing in Rural America

The Progressive Funders Looking to Build Power Across Divides in the American Heartland, Tate Williams

The American heartland has been the source of endless soul searching since the 2016 election. Many in philanthropy found themselves reckoning with just how disconnected they had become (or always were?) from people and problems outside of the coasts and major metropolitan areas. Despite that soul-searching, progressives and funders still often underestimate the diversity and misunderstand the values in these parts of the country, according to the founders of a new pooled funding initiative trying to bridge this gap.

The Heartland Fund , and the foundations and consultants behind it, are trying to facilitate a turnaround of decades of philanthropic neglect
of rural and suburban areas and small cities, starting with organizing and issue advocacy in the Midwest. Launched in 2018 with founding donors Wallace Global Fund and Franciscan Sisters of Mary, the new fund is backing work on economic justice, the environment and health. It also aims to find some common ground around these issues, and as a result, forge connections across cultural and
political divides. 

The fund made its first round of grants for $500,000 last year, and has a grantmaking budget of $1.5 million this year, although it’s continuing to grow,
says Ryan Strode, head of Heartland Fund’s steering committee. It’s one of a number of emerging pooled funding efforts and networks seeking to build stronger connections between the communities, grassroots action, and the often rarefied philanthropic sector. The fund is taking on tough important challenges, including how to best support those with roots in the region and be responsive to needs on the ground. Those involved are also trying to challenge some of the false dichotomies between supporting rural versus urban communities, or white working class versus communities of color, and instead build power across these perceived divides.
The Misunderstood Midwest
A big part of what’s behind the Heartland Fund is the level of economic need in the region. Many areas of the Midwest, along with much of rural and small-town America, have been suffering as a result of globalization, automation, a weakened public sector, and much more. At the same time, state and national progress isn’t possible without these communities on issues from climate change
to health care.

That’s part of the message of a 2018 report by Minnesota-based consultant Ben Goldfarb, former executive director of Wellstone Action. Goldfarb was
commissioned by Wallace Global Fund to prepare the report “ All the People, All the Places , ” which looks at the political context in rural and small-town America, and opportunities and best practices for donors to build power and connections there. The report contributed to the creation of the Heartland Fund—the team now considers it their strategy paper—and Goldfarb is serving as their lead strategist. All the People, All the Places” paints a picture of a more diverse heartland than many city-dwellers would recognize, in demographics, potential support for
social justice issues, and dynamic leadership on the ground. While areas outside of major metros have certainly been trending to the right over the
years, they hold far more complex political landscapes than the stereotype of unemployed, angry white men that might come to mind (although they are there).

For example, rural and small-city America is only 14 percent less diverse than the country on average, and that gap is shrinking, the report points out. There’s powerful organizing already happening there (consider Standing Rock and the Flint water crisis), and even greater potential in indigenous communities an communities of color in small-town, rural and suburban areas. And there’s potential to connect across partisan and cultural divides when issues are framed in the right way. Much of the American progressive identity, the report reminds us, has roots in the farming and labor history in these areas. Goldfarb also calls out “reductionist caricatures of rural people as uneducated,
backward and racist,” misconceptions that feed into disinvestment and neglect from philanthropy. Of course, many of the country’s largest foundations and donors are based in major metropolitan areas, which also contributes to the fact that just some 6 to 7 percent of philanthropy benefits rural areas

That’s not to say organizing in these areas is a breeze. The report acknowledges some very real challenges: the importance of nurturing authentic relationships over time, needing to acknowledge and work through deeply felt cultural divides, right-wing media and communications dominance, and the impracticality of relying on the national or urban-focused organizing playbooks. 

Moving Money
The Heartland Fund is currently backed by Wallace Global Fund, Open Society Foundations, Franciscan Sisters of Mary, and two anonymous backers. It’s housed at the Windward Fund, a nonprofit that incubates environmental initiatives, in partnership with philanthropic consultant Arabella Advisors. Wallace Global is a progressive funder that backs a lot of movement-building efforts, and while
based in D.C., founder Henry Wallace had roots in Iowa. Franciscan Sisters of Mary is a Missouri-based congregation that does philanthropy, impact investing and environmental advocacy.

In addition to funders, it’s steered by an advisory committee of grassroots leaders from the communities it supports, including representatives from the networks like Midwest Environmental Justice Network and Western Organization of
Resource Councils. “This combination of local, state, and national expertise and networks helps to ensure diverse representation from communities of color,
rural communities, and other experts when making decisions,” Strode says. The fund backed nine groups in its first round, working across a mix of
environmental justice, clean water, sustainable agriculture, climate and more. One grantee the fund highlighted , in particular, is the Missouri Rural Crisis
Center. The group began in response to the 1980s family farm foreclosure crisis, and builds multi-racial coalitions for justice across rural and urban communities.

The cool thing about the Heartland Fund is that it confronts a truth that I think many on the left (especially those working on climate change ) sometimes ignore. We hear a lot from city leaders about how so much of the population, wealth and power lives in urban centers. But logistically and politically, on the deep issues the country is struggling with, we can’t ignore communities outside of these populous islands—nor would it be conscionable. The Heartland Fund also acknowledges the complexity and diversity of beliefs in the United States, and challenges the firewall often depicted between blue and red America, and between the interests of people who come from different backgrounds. 

At the same time, our divides can be very real around the issues themselves, and sometimes as a matter of cultural identity, both of which can be very hard to overcome. I do wonder to what extent philanthropy can address that problem (as
in the case of Hewlett’s evolving Madison Initiative). But getting as local as possible, and re-engaging in these parts of country, seems like a good place to

Engage New York, in partner-ship with Neighborhood Funders Group's (NFG) Integrated Rural Strategies Group, is working to bring foundations making investments in rural communities throughout New York State into a national dialogue around the importance and value of investing in rural America using an equity lens. More information will be shared with the field over the summer. Stay tuned for more details.

Why the 2020 Census Matters for Rural America , Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown University

Trump is wrong to say we're 'full', Across Iowa and rural America, we need immigrants , USA Today

Inside Philanthropy Articles on Rural Philanthropy:

June 25, 2019
1:00-2:15 pm, EST
Hosted by NCRP and PNY

When immigration enforcement detains families and unaccompanied children seeking asylum at the border or long-term residents of our communities, they most likely send them to prisons and detention centers that are privately owned and operated. The number of these for-profit facilities has quadrupled in the past 10 years. As separations and detentions increase, so do the profits of private prison companies -- and their shareholders.
Divestment by foundations from the prison industrial complex is a key part of the fight against mass incarceration of communities of color and to reduce the political influence of private prison companies.
While an increasing number of foundations have made grants to prevent family separation within our immigration system, reduce the detentions of immigrants and asylum seekers, and prevent the trauma and abuse that occur in detention, many of these same funders are simultaneously invested in immigration private prisons and the prison industrial complex.
The webinar will explore how philanthropy can follow the recent divestment decisions by JPMorgan Chase & Co., the state of New York, the United Methodist Church, General Electric and others. The speakers will discuss how you can initiate divestment discussions at your foundation and positively engage investment committees, and how divestment is 1 of a spectrum of corporate accountability measures.
July 20 - July 21
Albany, NY

We fight for justice. We know it works. We fight for justice for our children, at our workplaces, and in our communities. When we win justice, we see it in the faces we love and the lives that have had an opportunity to succeed. But as our world seems ever more violent, jobless, sick, polluted and disenfranchised, we know we must continue the fight. Because Justice Works, we work for it, every day.
On July 20 & 21, 2019, hundreds of New Yorkers who fight for justice will join together. Regardless of the issues you work on, or how you work on them: if you’re an organizer, a volunteer, a door knocker, a blogger, a policy wonk, or all of these things – Justice Works is the conference for you. Too often in our movement for justice, we feel like we are all alone, all working on issues, all going in different directions. But the fact is, we are all in this together, fighting for a society where we all do better, where government and the economy work for every person, not just the rich, and where justice is something shared by everyone, regardless of the color of our skin, our sexual orientation, our religious beliefs, where we live or how much money we make.
Justice Works will be a conference that brings together a cross section of progressive politics and activism in New York State, at a time when our united power, coordination and understanding is essential to beat back the powers of greed and individualism that are succeeding at dismantling our social structures and further tearing down our communities. Together we’ll train, share, network, teach and learn how each of our fights, our campaigns, our efforts, make up the gears that move New York toward justice. Come to be inspired. Join us July 20 & 21, 2019 in Albany!
For more information, email