Strengthening our local democracy has been central to the work of Coleman Advocates since our inception more than three decades ago.
We believe that opportunities for low-income families improve as those families have a stronger voice in local policy-making and are able to hold elected officials accountable to their needs. In a thriving, vibrant democracy, residents feel empowered to do more than occasionally vote. They identify collective problems, work together towards solutions, and take responsibility for the common good.
We have successfully engaged tens of thousands of San Franciscans in city budget decisions, school policy-setting, in school bond, parcel tax and other school-finance campaigns, and in grassroots field campaigns to win local economic justice ballot measures. Often, getting involved in a Coleman community campaign is a residents’ first experience in being part of something “bigger”, speaking in public, and taking once ‘private’ concerns into the public arena to have those needs addressed.
We know that voters who may be middle class, or who are not raising children, will support the needs of the city’s children and low income communities, if they have the opportunity to become educated on our issues. Each year, Coleman members – young people of color and struggling parents — hit the streets to talk directly to voters in our neighborhoods about the issues on the ballot that will impact children.
Now that Coleman has built a grassroots membership base, we have an “integrated voter engagement” approach to civic engagement, that ensures that we are building a stronger political voice year-round, not just once a year in November. Our approach to power and impact involves building a grassroots base of hundreds of active leaders and a larger supporter base of thousands, including voters we meet during fall election campaigns who become supporters of our work throughout the year. Since 2008, Coleman has identified more than 10,000 voters in District 11 alone who support an agenda for progressive taxation, increased investments in public schools, and building more affordable housing for low and moderate income families.
In 2007, we began a new chapter in our civic engagement work, and launched an affiliate organization, a 501c4 organization that can engage more directly and explicitly in electoral campaigns, called the Coleman Action Fund for Children. That organization has helped to elect former Coleman staff to our school board (Sandra Fewer) and Board of Supervisors (John Avalos), and has trained a new generation of low-income Black and Latino parents and young people in the nuts and bolts of successful field campaigns: doorknocking, phonebanking and Precinct Captain coordination.
San Francisco Rising Action Fund (c4): www.sanfranciscorising.org