Since 1988, in an effort to foster effective schools for all students, Hazen's grantmaking in the area of public school reform has focused on Education Organizing as a way to build the collective capacity and power of parents and residents in low-income and minority communities to demand and achieve quality education for their children. Similarly, since 1994, seeking to contribute to the development of young people as leaders for social change, the Foundation has focused its youth development funding on Youth Organizing as a way of developing leadership among middle and high school-age youth in low-income communities and young people of color and to enable them to play a lead role in shaping public policy and making public institutions and systems more responsive and supportive of their development and accountable to them and their communities.
An assessment by Rainbow Research of the Foundation's grantmaking during 1999-2003 found that Education Organizing and Youth Organizing are viable strategies for involving parents, students and communities in education reform, and for developing young people's leadership and engaging them in social change efforts. Based on these findings and other information gathered from conversations with grantees, as well as from youth development and education reform thinkers, the Hazen Foundation will make available approximately $7.5 million dollars in grants during 2005-2009 to sustain its commitment to Education Organizing and Youth Organizing, build on previous accomplishments, and move these two fields forward.
In 2005, the Foundation launched a five year strategy of grantmaking and related activities with the explicit goals of fostering effective schools for all children and contributing to the development of young people as leaders for social change. During 2009, Hazen undertook a review of this work and found that grantees had achieved concrete victories; in education they had success on issues directly related to the quality of teaching and learning in their schools and in youth development on issues of concern to their members in a variety of fields including environmental justice, access to public space and services, juvenile justice and public education. We also found that relationships among organizing groups and with allied organizations were strengthening, enabling them to build power and achieve systemic impact. And that, per grantees’ responses, the Foundation’s support had enabled them to build stronger organizations, increase leadership among their members and collaborate effectively, all explicit objectives of the strategy.
These findings have led us to commit to maintaining our focus on organizing and to continue our two primary program areas – public education reform and youth organizing. We also commit to making racial justice the framework for all of our grantmaking and related activities. The Foundation understands that, for most of our country’s history, laws and traditions were developed to reflect attitudes of overt racism resulting in a set of social institutions, regulations, and customs that are in force today. Further, because these structures constitute the scaffolding on which our primary public and many private institutions are based, they will inevitably result in racially biased outcomes despite the presence or absence of racist beliefs in individuals. Therefore it is imperative to pursue strategies that directly address racial disparities and inequities, as opposed to those that are supposedly “race neutral” or use poverty as a proxy for race, if we are to achieve our vision of a fair and just society. Further, since the change sought is structural rather than individual, collective action and organizing are appropriate tactics to pursue. The Foundation has decided that in the coming five year period we will use our financial and human resources to build an appreciation of the importance of being explicit about the role of race as a basis of oppression in order to develop strategies and policies that result in equitable outcomes.