Meet AFF’s new Interim Director

Dearest AFF Community,

After two incredible years at the Andrus Family Fund (AFF), I am nervous and excited to share that my family is moving abroad, and my last day as Interim Director will be June 30th.

While I am thrilled about my family’s next adventure, this move is bittersweet. When I joined AFF, I never could have predicted what we as a community would experience and accomplish: a pandemic, the uprisings, an insurrection (!), the losses we learned from, the joy we created, and the wins that brought us closer to youth and racial justice.

Serving and working alongside you, the AFF team, and the board has been a true honor and a privilege.

Meet Katayoon Majd
I’m thrilled to announce that Katayoon Majd will serve as AFF’s Interim Director. Many of you may already know Katayoon from her work with AFF, which helped guide our strategic refresh, and as an advocate, grantmaker, and litigator for youth and racial justice. She will be working roughly two days a week beginning today, June 23, 2022 and can be reached at kmajd@affund.org. Zaira Cedano will continue to serve as our fabulous Program Associate. Please feel free to contact Zaira (zcedano@aff.org) and Katayoon about grant-related matters.

At the same time, Koya Leadership Partners is searching for AFF’s next Director. Check out the job description and please share it with folks you think would be a good fit—maybe even you!

In It for the Long Haul
I know the news of my transition may be unsettling to some of you, but please know that AFF’s work, strategy and partnership approach will continue stronger than ever. AFF is not a fickle funder—we are in it for the long haul and committed to fulfilling our mission: Supporting the self-determination, power, and liberation of Black, Brown, AAPI and Indigenous youth impacted by the youth justice, child welfare and other disruptive systems. We are excited about how the next phase of our strategy will support the youth justice and child welfare movements.

Thank You!
Each time we lead, we stand on the shoulders of those before us. I am grateful to AFF’s former Directors—Manuela Arciniegas, Leticia Peguero, and AFF’s dedicated board and movement partners for shaping AFF into what it is today.

We know that the work of liberation is a life-long commitment. Each day, each step, each action, gets us a little bit closer to freedom. In the words of Assata Shakur, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” Thank you for your continued commitment to creating a liberated world for young people and, in turn, for us all. I look forward to cheering you on from abroad and staying connected.

In solidarity,
Nyoka Acevedo

The Next Evolution of Andrus Family Fund

Dear Movement Partners:

I have two pieces of exciting news to share with you. The first is about the Andrus Family Fund’s strategic refresh, and the second is about my next role in this movement.

Sharpening our Focus
In 2021, we embarked on a year-long journey to refresh AFF’s grantmaking strategies to meet the rising needs of the youth and communities we serve. From the outset, we were clear that the uprisings against police brutality and Black lives coupled with the compounding effects of pandemic and economic crisis disproportionately impacted the communities we support. We were also clear that our refreshed strategies must rely on our grantees’ and movement partners’ up-to-date analysis of the challenges and opportunities their communities face.

Alongside a Movement Partner Advisory Council composed of current grantees working across a range of issues, we took stock of our eight years of grantmaking—and the lessons we learned—to support systems change work that improves the lives of the youth we serve.

We analyzed the state of our communities, the political and socio-economic climate at local and national levels, and the challenges and opportunities for transformative systems change. And most importantly, we listened to the needs and aspirations of youth-serving organizations and the broader movement. We collectively charted a future vision for AFF’s work that sharpens our focus through these efforts.

I’m thrilled to announce that the AFF Board just approved a strategy refresh that will double down on youth organizing, abolition of prisons, policing and family separation systems, builds movement infrastructure and capacity, and seeds alternative models to local systems meant to serve youth and communities. 

This refreshed strategy builds on the knowledge, experience, and lessons learned through our work together as funders, movement partners, and the broader field. It clarifies our funding strategy in the work we’ve already supported for years.

Leaning into our Values
As part of this strategy, we have refreshed our mission to reflect our sharpened focus and values of racial equity, inclusion and justice.

Mission: We envision a just society in which Black, Brown, Indigenous, LGBTQIA, disabled, and undocumented youth are thriving in empowered and supportive communities, free from state violence and family separation.

Organizing to Build Power
Our primary partners towards advancing our mission will be organizations led by directly impacted youth who are Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Asian Pacific Islander, LGBTQIA, queer, disabled and undocumented–those youth often pushed to the margins. By investing in their power building and supporting them to advance the alternative systems and policy changes needed to bring about a more just society, we commit to moving money to BIPOC-led organizations that have historically gotten the short end of the stick from philanthropy.

While we see the critical need for direct services in the communities AFF prioritizes, we are focusing our effort to resource those leaders and initiatives who are actively pushing to transform those systems and build community power. Prioritizing the organizing strategy (which sometimes also incorporates the provision of direct care for youth as they organize) is prioritizing the power of young people to construct something new that better serves and works for them.

Nyoka, Zaira and I are in conversation with the handful of grantee partners whose funding is affected by our strategy refresh. We are committed to strengthening their sustainability with a final grant and to being as direct, transparent, respectful and thoughtful as possible.

My New Chapter
February 4th was my last day at Andrus Family Fund, and I will soon join the Ford Foundation as a Program Officer in a national program that focuses on civic engagement, government and movement building. While I’m thrilled about the opportunity to continue serving youth from this national perch, this is a bittersweet moment for me. It has been an absolute honor to partner with you by investing in the leadership and brilliance of our nation’s most marginalized young people.

I know the news of my transition coupled with our strategy refresh may be disconcerting to some of you, but please be assured that the work and partnership approach of the Andrus Family Fund will continue. Our strategic refresh will be at the core of the work going forward, and I’m thrilled with the progress we’ve made in centering our commitment to building power for youth on the margins and to sharing power with communities. This perspective will be at the heart of the search for my replacement.

Nyoka Acevedo, our Program Officer, will serve as Interim Director, as we begin a national search for my successor. Please be on the lookout for the job posting on the AFF website in mid-February.

The future of AFF is bright. We have clarity in our mission and grantmaking focus and a terrific, dedicated team, board, movement advisory council and movement partners to make it happen. Individually and collectively, there is so much to be proud of.

Thank You
Thank you for trusting us. Thank you for being the burning ember that made my purpose unequivocal during this recent foray into family philanthropy. Your dedication to racial justice and movement building has been nothing short of astounding, especially in these difficult times.

I look forward to the next decade of serving our nation’s youth and, as always, wish you ease, joy, victory and enduring racial and social justice.

In solidarity,
Manuela Arciniegas
Outgoing Director

Speaking Truth to Power: Narrative Change for Youth Power Building

On October 18th, 2021, grantee/movement partners of the Andrus Family Fund, Surdna Foundation, Wellspring Foundation, Youth First State Advocacy Fund, Communities for Just Schools Fund and the Visionary Freedom Fund were invited to attend a convening entitled, “Speaking Truth to Power: Narrative Change for Youth Power Building.” When discussing narrative change we were guided by Narrative Initiative’s definition:

A narrative reflects a shared interpretation of how the world works. Who holds power and how they use it is both embedded in and supported by dominant narratives. Successful narrative change shifts power as well as dominant narratives.

The convening gathered our nation’s most influential racial justice movement narrative change makers as they discussed the various strategies they employ in their respective work. Through a series of short TED-talk like presentations, organizers, narrative changemakers, journalists, strategic communications experts, filmmakers, screenwriters/producers, and cultural/art strategists shared their approaches to advancing racial justice. 

Presenters included: Color of Change, PopCulture Collaborative, Constellations Culture Change Fund, Center for Cultural Power, Opportunity Agenda, Intelligent Mischief, PopShift, Revista Etnica, Colectivo Ile, SOUL Sisters Leadership Collective, Youth First, YR Media, Surdna Foundation, IllumiNative, Common Justice, Reframe Mentorship, Performing Statistics, Akonadi, Firelight Media, The Narrative Initiative, Padres y Jovenes Unidos, Black Futures Lab and MiJente

The inspirations for this gathering included:

  1. Our movement partners’ desire to shape the public discourse and/or reclaim the framing and understanding of their core issues.
  2. The need for philanthropy to resource narrative capacity within organizations or collaborations to support groups to work towards shared desired outcomes. 
  3. The opening of a continuous conversation about harnessing the power of narrative change to support power building within communities.
  4. The expressed desire from our movement partners to gather in a virtual space to hear from field experts, share best practices and uplift their needs to philanthropy.

 

Reporting Back: Building Power through Narrative

Our speakers shared that narrative change is rooted in shifting power and building power. Through the reshaping of stories, and identifying the locations where stories/words have the most impact, we collectively have the ability to reclaim, and define narratives that best serve the interests of our communities.

Amity Payne, Interim Director of Storytelling and Marketing at Color of Change posits “narrative strategy is a tool to restructure the way that people think and feel; and understand the ways that systemic racism causes harm to Black people. Narrative change must build power.”

Joseph Phelan of Reframe offered that we must move beyond tactical responses and develop strategic communications that support narrative power so we can start to shift the field. Strategic communications is defined as “consistently, persistently saying the right thing to the right people at the right time to mobilize social power and advance your narrative so you can accomplish short-term objectives and set up long-term victories.” This allows us to move past reactionary responses and think about the ways long-term narratives help move the needle towards justice. Again, narrative is about power-building for the purpose of creating change across time. Furthermore, he offered that diverse movements need to move in coordination and in collaboration in order to be effective. This work takes time and resources.

Supportive and Harmful Narratives

In 2020, we witnessed the “defund the police” narrative used to call for the reallocation of policing resources back into community stewardship and programs of care. This call was made across the nation and, as a result, we witnessed victories in the removal of police from schools in several districts across the nation and a ballot initiative in Minneapolis that called for disbanding the police force in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. Simultaneously, we witnessed a national push back on localized efforts to defund police, and the weaponization of critical race theory in schools teaching history and civics. In 2020 we also witnessed the rise of harmful narratives and effective deployment of narrative infrastructure and institutions from the right, which catalyzed abortion bans, raising white supremacist violence, anti-trans legislation, the rollback of voting rights, and a lack of adequate responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in Black and Indigenous communities.

These real life victories and losses are examples of:

  1. How narrative efforts create change and are always already shifting power in all directions
  2. And, the importance of crafting accessible strategic messages that build long term narratives, effectively capture hearts and minds, and move people to action to create change.

 

Arts and Culture as Critical Narrative Changemakers

The convening also gathered leaders from the cultural sector to share ways that organizers are working hand-in-hand with artists to create immersive art experiences such as No Kids in Prison and support the coordinated efforts of the Pop Culture Collaborative to shift the stories that are consumed by mainstream America. Cultural leaders reminded us that the artist and cultural workers are vital designers of narrative infrastructure and critical deployers of narrative. Their contributions are often critical to organizing and power building yet underfunded or construed as tangential.

Artistic work can help catalyze the imagination and build understanding and investment in a vision for change that resonates and compels people into taking action to construct new solutions to systemic racial justice problems. To do so, we must use narratives that align and contend for the hearts and minds of many people and move us into new possibilities.

State of Narrative Power + Infrastructure in Our Communities

A key strategic theme that arose is the importance of meeting people where they are. This may mean defining your issue and busting myths on TikTok and other social media platforms, using cultural programming to connect hearts and minds, hosting podcasts, leaning into relational organizing techniques or educating those in the writer’s room to shape narratives in mainstream media. The goal is to amplify your message by identifying the most impactful location and messenger.

Movement partners shared that their narrative building needs are vast and often unmet. Many identified the need for consolidation of a shared narrative and coordinated dissemination. Access to opportunities to train and increase skills, along with resources, are needed in order to effectively integrate this request into the larger youth serving field. Community mapping is needed to support this work — who is doing what and where so that we can identify the gaps and move in strategic alignment. Additionally, it will be necessary to determine how to more effectively use data to tell stories that shift hearts and minds in order to support policy change. Rinku Sen shared that more impactful narrative strategies highlight the change or solutions and signal where these changes are already taking place, instead of hyper focusing on the data that reinforces what is already wrong. How we partner with cultural workers to amplify the messages they identify as key to movements will be an important component of the work ahead.

Narrative change is about coordination and collaboration. Coordinating across sectors and movements will take time and resources.

Call to Action

Narrative change infrastructure for power building is critical to the work of changing hearts and minds in our communities. It will also be essential to sustaining the change of which we aspire.

Our movement partners have shared that this body of work — a necessary limb of organizing, advocacy, and policy work — has been underfunded and under-resourced, leaving communities to struggle unnecessarily.

What Can Funders Do?

  1. Philanthropy can respond to the call by listening, resourcing and amplifying narratives set forth by organizations and movements. Leveraging philanthropic relationships with power brokers or existing philanthropic communications efforts to highlight or reinforce the narratives emerging from movement partner organizations is critical.
  2. Make general operating grants (unrestricted dollars), offer capacity dollars and support for grantees, make room for support offered by cultural workers, artists, narrative change makers and strategists as integral to long-term power building.
  3. Support the youth justice and child welfare field to map narrative infrastructure and initiatives currently in existence. Help organizations identify who exists, what efforts they are currently engaging in, what is missing and which regions have higher resourcing needs or abundant investment opportunities.
  4. Leverage existing funding infrastructure like funder tables or donor collaboratives to invest in a narrative change strategy that is supportive of, and in sync with, existing movement partner organizations.
  5. Directly fund frontline groups to bring on full time strategic communications directors, development staff, cultural or artistic, or other narrative strategy leaders who are expert in embedding a power building approach through narrative in the organization’s policy, organizing, fundraising, and strategy development goals. Support groups to learn, experiment, collaborate, and integrate narrative power building with existing narrative change organizations.

Below is a short list of organizations leading narrative change work or accounting for narrative change within organizing and policy work (listed in no particular order):

Youth Justice 

  • Youth First State Advocacy Fund
  • Visionary Freedom Fund 
  • Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing 
  • Communities for Just Schools Fund
  • YR Media

Racial Justice

  • Color of Change
  • Black Futures Lab
  • IllumiNative
  • MiJente
  • Advancement Project
  • Constellations Culture Fund
  • Beloved Fund
  • Art for Justice Fund
  • ReFrame Mentorship

Narrative Movement Builders and Content Producers

  • Reframe Mentorship
  • Narrative Initiative
  • Firelight Media
  • Op-Ed Project
  • Pop Culture Collaborative

If you are a funder and would like an introduction to any of these groups or would like to strategize or collaborate on narrative change investments, please reach out to info@affund.org.

Speaking Truth to Power: Narrative Change for Youth Power Building

On October 18th, 2021, grantee/movement partners of the Andrus Family Fund, Surdna Foundation, Wellspring Foundation, Youth First State Advocacy Fund, Communities for Just Schools Fund and the Visionary Freedom Fund were invited to attend a convening entitled, “Speaking Truth to Power: Narrative Change for Youth Power Building.” When discussing narrative change we were guided by Narrative Initiative’s definition:

A narrative reflects a shared interpretation of how the world works. Who holds power and how they use it is both embedded in and supported by dominant narratives. Successful narrative change shifts power as well as dominant narratives.

The convening gathered our nation’s most influential racial justice movement narrative change makers as they discussed the various strategies they employ in their respective work. Through a series of short TED-talk like presentations, organizers, narrative changemakers, journalists, strategic communications experts, filmmakers, screenwriters/producers, and cultural/art strategists shared their approaches to advancing racial justice. 

Presenters included: Color of Change, PopCulture Collaborative, Constellations Culture Change Fund, Center for Cultural Power, Opportunity Agenda, Intelligent Mischief, PopShift, Revista Etnica, Colectivo Ile, SOUL Sisters Leadership Collective, Youth First, YR Media, Surdna Foundation, IllumiNative, Common Justice, Reframe Mentorship, Performing Statistics, Akonadi, Firelight Media, The Narrative Initiative, Padres y Jovenes Unidos, Black Futures Lab and MiJente

The inspirations for this gathering included:

  1. Our movement partners’ desire to shape the public discourse and/or reclaim the framing and understanding of their core issues.
  2. The need for philanthropy to resource narrative capacity within organizations or collaborations to support groups to work towards shared desired outcomes. 
  3. The opening of a continuous conversation about harnessing the power of narrative change to support power building within communities.
  4. The expressed desire from our movement partners to gather in a virtual space to hear from field experts, share best practices and uplift their needs to philanthropy.

 

Reporting Back: Building Power through Narrative

Our speakers shared that narrative change is rooted in shifting power and building power. Through the reshaping of stories, and identifying the locations where stories/words have the most impact, we collectively have the ability to reclaim, and define narratives that best serve the interests of our communities.

Amity Payne, Interim Director of Storytelling and Marketing at Color of Change posits “narrative strategy is a tool to restructure the way that people think and feel; and understand the ways that systemic racism causes harm to Black people. Narrative change must build power.”

Joseph Phelan of Reframe offered that we must move beyond tactical responses and develop strategic communications that support narrative power so we can start to shift the field. Strategic communications is defined as “consistently, persistently saying the right thing to the right people at the right time to mobilize social power and advance your narrative so you can accomplish short-term objectives and set up long-term victories.” This allows us to move past reactionary responses and think about the ways long-term narratives help move the needle towards justice. Again, narrative is about power-building for the purpose of creating change across time. Furthermore, he offered that diverse movements need to move in coordination and in collaboration in order to be effective. This work takes time and resources.

Supportive and Harmful Narratives

In 2020, we witnessed the “defund the police” narrative used to call for the reallocation of policing resources back into community stewardship and programs of care. This call was made across the nation and, as a result, we witnessed victories in the removal of police from schools in several districts across the nation and a ballot initiative in Minneapolis that called for disbanding the police force in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. Simultaneously, we witnessed a national push back on localized efforts to defund police, and the weaponization of critical race theory in schools teaching history and civics. In 2020 we also witnessed the rise of harmful narratives and effective deployment of narrative infrastructure and institutions from the right, which catalyzed abortion bans, raising white supremacist violence, anti-trans legislation, the rollback of voting rights, and a lack of adequate responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in Black and Indigenous communities.

These real life victories and losses are examples of:

  1. How narrative efforts create change and are always already shifting power in all directions
  2. And, the importance of crafting accessible strategic messages that build long term narratives, effectively capture hearts and minds, and move people to action to create change.

 

Arts and Culture as Critical Narrative Changemakers

The convening also gathered leaders from the cultural sector to share ways that organizers are working hand-in-hand with artists to create immersive art experiences such as No Kids in Prison and support the coordinated efforts of the Pop Culture Collaborative to shift the stories that are consumed by mainstream America. Cultural leaders reminded us that the artist and cultural workers are vital designers of narrative infrastructure and critical deployers of narrative. Their contributions are often critical to organizing and power building yet underfunded or construed as tangential.

Artistic work can help catalyze the imagination and build understanding and investment in a vision for change that resonates and compels people into taking action to construct new solutions to systemic racial justice problems. To do so, we must use narratives that align and contend for the hearts and minds of many people and move us into new possibilities.

State of Narrative Power + Infrastructure in Our Communities

A key strategic theme that arose is the importance of meeting people where they are. This may mean defining your issue and busting myths on TikTok and other social media platforms, using cultural programming to connect hearts and minds, hosting podcasts, leaning into relational organizing techniques or educating those in the writer’s room to shape narratives in mainstream media. The goal is to amplify your message by identifying the most impactful location and messenger.

Movement partners shared that their narrative building needs are vast and often unmet. Many identified the need for consolidation of a shared narrative and coordinated dissemination. Access to opportunities to train and increase skills, along with resources, are needed in order to effectively integrate this request into the larger youth serving field. Community mapping is needed to support this work — who is doing what and where so that we can identify the gaps and move in strategic alignment. Additionally, it will be necessary to determine how to more effectively use data to tell stories that shift hearts and minds in order to support policy change. Rinku Sen shared that more impactful narrative strategies highlight the change or solutions and signal where these changes are already taking place, instead of hyper focusing on the data that reinforces what is already wrong. How we partner with cultural workers to amplify the messages they identify as key to movements will be an important component of the work ahead.

Narrative change is about coordination and collaboration. Coordinating across sectors and movements will take time and resources.

Call to Action

Narrative change infrastructure for power building is critical to the work of changing hearts and minds in our communities. It will also be essential to sustaining the change of which we aspire.

Our movement partners have shared that this body of work — a necessary limb of organizing, advocacy, and policy work — has been underfunded and under-resourced, leaving communities to struggle unnecessarily.

What Can Funders Do?

  1. Philanthropy can respond to the call by listening, resourcing and amplifying narratives set forth by organizations and movements. Leveraging philanthropic relationships with power brokers or existing philanthropic communications efforts to highlight or reinforce the narratives emerging from movement partner organizations is critical.
  2. Make general operating grants (unrestricted dollars), offer capacity dollars and support for grantees, make room for support offered by cultural workers, artists, narrative change makers and strategists as integral to long-term power building.
  3. Support the youth justice and child welfare field to map narrative infrastructure and initiatives currently in existence. Help organizations identify who exists, what efforts they are currently engaging in, what is missing and which regions have higher resourcing needs or abundant investment opportunities.
  4. Leverage existing funding infrastructure like funder tables or donor collaboratives to invest in a narrative change strategy that is supportive of, and in sync with, existing movement partner organizations.
  5. Directly fund frontline groups to bring on full time strategic communications directors, development staff, cultural or artistic, or other narrative strategy leaders who are expert in embedding a power building approach through narrative in the organization’s policy, organizing, fundraising, and strategy development goals. Support groups to learn, experiment, collaborate, and integrate narrative power building with existing narrative change organizations.

Below is a short list of organizations leading narrative change work or accounting for narrative change within organizing and policy work (listed in no particular order):

Youth Justice 

  • Youth First State Advocacy Fund
  • Visionary Freedom Fund 
  • Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing 
  • Communities for Just Schools Fund
  • YR Media

Racial Justice

  • Color of Change
  • Black Futures Lab
  • IllumiNative
  • MiJente
  • Advancement Project
  • Constellations Culture Fund
  • Beloved Fund
  • Art for Justice Fund
  • ReFrame Mentorship

Narrative Movement Builders and Content Producers

  • Reframe Mentorship
  • Narrative Initiative
  • Firelight Media
  • Op-Ed Project
  • Pop Culture Collaborative

If you are a funder and would like an introduction to any of these groups or would like to strategize or collaborate on narrative change investments, please reach out to info@affund.org.

The Visionary Freedom Fund Announces Inaugural Cohort of Grant Recipients in Grantmaking Led by Youth Organizers to Transform Youth Justice System

VFF distributes $2.5 million to 26 youth-led groups transforming the justice system and invites donors to join the movement to fund all 600 applicants

NEW YORK — The Visionary Freedom Fund (VFF) today announced its inaugural cohort of grant  recipients, distributing $2.5 million over two years to resource 26 youth-led organizations on the frontlines of transforming the youth justice system. 

“Young people are articulating solutions and realizing wins to end our nation’s systemic punishment, criminalization and violence against Black, Brown and Indigenous youth,” said Manuela Arciniegas, director of the Andrus Family Fund, which launched the Visionary Freedom Fund. “Yet, few funders support youth justice movements, let alone give young people a say in what gets funded. In response, the Visionary Freedom Fund formed the Power Table where youth organizers collaborate with movement leaders and funders to set the grantmaking strategy and determine how VFF’s resources are deployed. Power Table members know firsthand what’s wrong with the youth justice system and what their communities need, so they’ve funded an inspiring  group of grantees.”

Selected by the VFF’s Power Table of eight youth organizers, four adult movement leaders and 11 funders, this first round of two-year general operating grants will help organizations advance their long-term visions for a youth justice system that helps, not harms, young people, communities and society. All organizations and projects are led by Black, Immigrant, Indigenous, Queer and Trans and AAPI communities. The grantees are working on a range of efforts, including abolition, restorative justice, calls to divest from policing and prisons and invest in vital community services and building the leadership and power of young people.  

“We know that the youth legal system has to change and that youth organizers like myself, who are impacted by this issue, have the necessary analysis and vision for how best to transform it long term,” said Andrea Colon, a youth organizer member of the Power Table and co-director of Sis & Non-Cis. 

“As youth movement leaders, often we’re told to sit back and hope that our calls for funding and support will reach the right ears without a chance to have a voice in the process of distributing funds. So I was thrilled to seize the opportunity to lend my voice to the Power Table to help maximize the impact of these grants and support as many incredibly transformative groups as possible,” said Jemima Abalogu, former youth justice ambassador at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

“We are proud to kick off the Visionary Freedom Fund with this inaugural cohort of grantees and we are humbled by the overwhelming amount of interest and applicants,” said Bryan Perlmutter, VFF’s project coordinator. 

“We are inspired by the innovative leadership of youth organizers supporting their communities and carving out paths towards collective healing,” said Jessica Pierce, VFF’s project coordinator. The impressive pool of applicants makes clear that young people across the country are not only seeking resources for transformative change, but they are also fundamentally community leaders who are building a vision for a future that is for everyone.” 

VFF received more than 600 applications from youth organizations across the nation, representing a variety of innovative approaches to transform the justice system—from campaigns and leadership development to healing justice, arts and community building efforts. “I have been supporting youth organizers across 14 states to build state campaigns and close prisons. Knowing that there were 600 organizations doing similar powerful work just reveals the glaring funding gap that we must all galvanize to close,” said Hernan Carvente-Martinez, national youth partner strategist at Youth First Initiative.

“As a funding community, we have the opportunity to fund all 600 applicants if we can raise an additional $24 million,” said Erik Stegman, director of Native Americans in Philanthropy, an adult movement and philanthropic leader at the Power Table. “Investing in youth traditionally left out of philanthropic resources, like Native youth, gender expansive youth, women and girls or Black youth, is a must for philanthropy. They carry the burden, live the impact and are the untapped and underinvested visionaries for change.” 

“Together, by pooling our resources, we can boldly transfer power to young people and ensure that resources are deployed precisely to where and to whom needs them the most,” said Loan Tran, adult movement leader at the Power Table and co-chair of the Third Wave Fund advisory council. “We invite funders and donors to join the Visionary Freedom Fund and our learning community at affund.org/visionaryfreedomfund.”

You can also learn more about VFF on the latest episode of the Out Of The Margins podcast. In this episode, you’ll hear from members of the Power Table, including one of its youth leaders, and learn about the importance of funding youth-led organizing, the grantmaking process and lessons learned along the way.

The 26 organizations selected for VFF’s inaugural cohort are:

###

About the Visionary Freedom Fund:
The Visionary Freedom Fund (VFF) seeks to ensure that frontline communities have the resources, capacities, supports, infrastructure and relationships that they need to develop and implement inspiring long-term strategies to transform the youth justice system. VFF’s Power Table is a youth-led collective whose members come together to inform values-aligned funders about how to support their long-term visions for youth justice. Together, they will help transform the way philanthropy partners with frontline communities by creating equal representation at the table where grantmaking strategies and decisions are made. VFF’s philanthropic partners include the Akonadi, Hazen, Heising Simons, Libra, Ms., Perrin Family, Pinkerton, Satterberg and Public Welfare foundations, as well as Wellspring Philanthropic Fund and the Andrus Family Fund. Learn more at affund.org/visionaryfreedomfund

About the Andrus Family Fund:
The Andrus Family Fund (AFF), a program of the Surdna Foundation, is a leading national social justice funder that believes that young people deserve more than one opportunity at a good, sustainable life. AFF supports youth ages 16-24 who are impacted by child welfare, youth justice or other disruptive systems. Learn more at affund.org

The Visionary Freedom Fund Announces Inaugural Cohort of Grant Recipients in Grantmaking Led by Youth Organizers to Transform Youth Justice System

VFF distributes $2.5 million to 26 youth-led groups transforming the justice system and invites donors to join the movement to fund all 600 applicants

NEW YORK — The Visionary Freedom Fund (VFF) today announced its inaugural cohort of grant  recipients, distributing $2.5 million over two years to resource 26 youth-led organizations on the frontlines of transforming the youth justice system. 

“Young people are articulating solutions and realizing wins to end our nation’s systemic punishment, criminalization and violence against Black, Brown and Indigenous youth,” said Manuela Arciniegas, director of the Andrus Family Fund, which launched the Visionary Freedom Fund. “Yet, few funders support youth justice movements, let alone give young people a say in what gets funded. In response, the Visionary Freedom Fund formed the Power Table where youth organizers collaborate with movement leaders and funders to set the grantmaking strategy and determine how VFF’s resources are deployed. Power Table members know firsthand what’s wrong with the youth justice system and what their communities need, so they’ve funded an inspiring  group of grantees.”

Selected by the VFF’s Power Table of eight youth organizers, four adult movement leaders and 11 funders, this first round of two-year general operating grants will help organizations advance their long-term visions for a youth justice system that helps, not harms, young people, communities and society. All organizations and projects are led by Black, Immigrant, Indigenous, Queer and Trans and AAPI communities. The grantees are working on a range of efforts, including abolition, restorative justice, calls to divest from policing and prisons and invest in vital community services and building the leadership and power of young people.  

“We know that the youth legal system has to change and that youth organizers like myself, who are impacted by this issue, have the necessary analysis and vision for how best to transform it long term,” said Andrea Colon, a youth organizer member of the Power Table and co-director of Sis & Non-Cis. 

“As youth movement leaders, often we’re told to sit back and hope that our calls for funding and support will reach the right ears without a chance to have a voice in the process of distributing funds. So I was thrilled to seize the opportunity to lend my voice to the Power Table to help maximize the impact of these grants and support as many incredibly transformative groups as possible,” said Jemima Abalogu, former youth justice ambassador at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

“We are proud to kick off the Visionary Freedom Fund with this inaugural cohort of grantees and we are humbled by the overwhelming amount of interest and applicants,” said Bryan Perlmutter, VFF’s project coordinator. 

“We are inspired by the innovative leadership of youth organizers supporting their communities and carving out paths towards collective healing,” said Jessica Pierce, VFF’s project coordinator. The impressive pool of applicants makes clear that young people across the country are not only seeking resources for transformative change, but they are also fundamentally community leaders who are building a vision for a future that is for everyone.” 

VFF received more than 600 applications from youth organizations across the nation, representing a variety of innovative approaches to transform the justice system—from campaigns and leadership development to healing justice, arts and community building efforts. “I have been supporting youth organizers across 14 states to build state campaigns and close prisons. Knowing that there were 600 organizations doing similar powerful work just reveals the glaring funding gap that we must all galvanize to close,” said Hernan Carvente-Martinez, national youth partner strategist at Youth First Initiative.

“As a funding community, we have the opportunity to fund all 600 applicants if we can raise an additional $24 million,” said Erik Stegman, director of Native Americans in Philanthropy, an adult movement and philanthropic leader at the Power Table. “Investing in youth traditionally left out of philanthropic resources, like Native youth, gender expansive youth, women and girls or Black youth, is a must for philanthropy. They carry the burden, live the impact and are the untapped and underinvested visionaries for change.” 

“Together, by pooling our resources, we can boldly transfer power to young people and ensure that resources are deployed precisely to where and to whom needs them the most,” said Loan Tran, adult movement leader at the Power Table and co-chair of the Third Wave Fund advisory council. “We invite funders and donors to join the Visionary Freedom Fund and our learning community at affund.org/visionaryfreedomfund.”

You can also learn more about VFF on the latest episode of the Out Of The Margins podcast. In this episode, you’ll hear from members of the Power Table, including one of its youth leaders, and learn about the importance of funding youth-led organizing, the grantmaking process and lessons learned along the way.

The 26 organizations selected for VFF’s inaugural cohort are:

###

About the Visionary Freedom Fund:
The Visionary Freedom Fund (VFF) seeks to ensure that frontline communities have the resources, capacities, supports, infrastructure and relationships that they need to develop and implement inspiring long-term strategies to transform the youth justice system. VFF’s Power Table is a youth-led collective whose members come together to inform values-aligned funders about how to support their long-term visions for youth justice. Together, they will help transform the way philanthropy partners with frontline communities by creating equal representation at the table where grantmaking strategies and decisions are made. VFF’s philanthropic partners include the Akonadi, Hazen, Heising Simons, Libra, Ms., Perrin Family, Pinkerton, Satterberg and Public Welfare foundations, as well as Wellspring Philanthropic Fund and the Andrus Family Fund. Learn more at affund.org/visionaryfreedomfund

About the Andrus Family Fund:
The Andrus Family Fund (AFF), a program of the Surdna Foundation, is a leading national social justice funder that believes that young people deserve more than one opportunity at a good, sustainable life. AFF supports youth ages 16-24 who are impacted by child welfare, youth justice or other disruptive systems. Learn more at affund.org