Dear Members of the Maine Initiatives Community,
We are pleased and proud to share with you the opening of the 2019 Grants for Change application process.
In 2016, Maine Initiatives made a multi-year commitment to prioritizing racial justice and racial equity in all aspects of our work. As we kick off the 2019 Grants for Change funding cycle, we reaffirm that commitment: honoring the work of the past three years while looking forward with a realignment and restatement of our funding priorities. This realignment is rooted in feedback from community leaders and grounded in our evolving understanding of specific communities, approaches, and strategies that will allow us to optimize our impact.
In the first three cycles of the Grants for Change program (2016-2018), we designed and implemented a radically participatory grantmaking process that invited our community to gain a deeper collective understanding of the spectrum of racial equity and racial justice work happening in Maine. This process elicited applications from more than 100 organizations doing important and inspiring work at different points along this spectrum; engaged more than 550 people in a process of individual and collective learning about these organizations; and allowed us to make $750,000 in grants to 30 community-based organizations working on different aspects of racial equity and racial justice in Maine communities. We take great pride in the success and impact of this work to date.
At the same time, our community-based process is intentionally designed to allow our model and priorities to evolve as our shared understanding of racial equity and racial justice evolves and as we identify gaps or omissions in our funding process and in the broader funding ecosystem. The following highlights three innovations in the 2019 Grants for Change Program that reflect this evolution.
We prioritize Native American/Wabanaki and African-American communities in both our decision-making and our funding. We recognize that the work of and by these communities has been and continues to be systematically undervalued and underfunded in Maine. We also acknowledge that the legacy of genocide, colonization and slavery, combined with the pervasive and persistent realities of bias, discrimination and racism affect these communities in unique ways that have not been adequately recognized or addressed in Maine’s social justice and funding landscape, despite the extraordinary leadership and advocacy efforts of leaders from these communities. In order to reflect Maine Initiatives’ evolving understanding of what a more just and equitable Maine looks like and requires, we are prioritizing the work of these communities in our 2019 grantmaking.
We prioritize work being done on institutional, structural and systemic expressions of racial injustice and racial inequity. The second innovation in our work this year is to prioritize work that addresses the institutional and systemic, rather than the individual, expressions of injustice and inequity in our society. Along the spectrum of racial justice and racial equity work, we respect the contributions of all those who engage in the work of building a more just Maine. Within our process, however, we will seek to identify, highlight, celebrate, fund and strengthen work that seeks to reform unjust institutions, dismantle unjust structures and attack unjust systems.
We prioritize work being done to strengthen community-building, community organizing, grassroots advocacy and policy change as central strategies for advancing racial justice and equity. Maine Initiatives has long prioritized the work of community organizing and grassroots advocacy in our grantmaking, recognizing that the wisdom, visions and voices of directly impacted communities are the most important for understanding any problem and the solutions to that problem. Our 2019 Grants for Change process will continue to honor this wisdom and practice.
Each of these three priorities will be reflected in modifications to this year’s Request for Proposals document and the Evaluation criteria used in the proposal review process. Recognizing each of these innovations as unique and important, it is not necessary that organizations meet all three of the above funding priorities to be eligible for funding. However, we expect that successful applications in this funding round will demonstrate that they are effectively addressing at least one of these priority areas in a substantial way.
We look forward to answering any questions you might have about these innovations, and to working alongside our community partners and allies, throughout the Grants for Change process.
The Maine Initiatives Board and Staff