Journey to Justice100

May 25, 2022

On June 13, over 60 participants joined People’s Climate Innovation Center for a virtual convening to strategize, align and move forward collectively across various efforts relating to President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative and what lessons are coming forward about how to make progress toward Justice100–public funding systems that meet the needs of all communities. 

The Journey to Justice 100 convening was inspired by an op-ed by Denise Fairchild, former Executive Director of the Emerald Cities Collaborative, entitled “To Truly Build Back Better, We need a Justice 100 Solution,” which challenges us to go beyond the White House Justice40 Initiative. Launched in 2021, the Initiative aims to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of federal investment in areas such as clean energy and climate preparedness to communities that have the greatest need–low-income communities and communities of color which are historically under-invested in. Fairchild writes, “we will perpetuate the same institutional structures that created those inequities without careful attention to the other 60 percent of federal spending.” 

This convening aimed to provide information to community-based organizations across the country on how we can engage with local, state, and federal governments to actively direct funding to benefit our communities. 

Access to public funds is often an overly technical process with many requirements for eligibility. For community-based organizations working tirelessly to sustain their work with very few resources, it’s critical to have access to funding, capacity, and support that enables them to maintain work beyond the initial funding period. It is high time to put public dollars back into the hands of the people and ensure our communities receive what has always rightfully belonged to them. 

Sure, we can plant trees and track carbon capture, but in order to do this effectively and in a way that benefits the communities we work alongside, we must have the staffing, labor and supplies to see it through; because who is going to care for the many trees that need to be planted that will take years to grow and provide the environmental impact needed in the first place? The reality is often unknown, and sometimes that can mean waning capacity over time–a reality that leaves many projects abandoned and community-based organizations even more economically strained than when they began. These patterns continue to persist in various ways because the organizations doing the work of these federal investment directives are often not set up for success when it comes to having the requirements in place, let alone the time, capacity, technical assistance, and access needed to apply. 

In a Justice100 vision, organizations are equipped to move beyond the hustle for public funds and federal dollars that requires them to subcontract with larger organizations who are deemed more desirable, and who have bigger budgets and greater capacity to compete for funds… and so continues the cycle of underfunding grassroots. With Justice100, the very real concerns about extracting grassroots and frontline knowledge, expertise and intellectual property by larger organizations is quelled because community-based organizations no longer have to rely on capacity building partners for survival and to remain afloat. 

One thing is for sure, there are a lot of lessons to be learned and room for possibilities. While business as usual in the federal funding world won’t change overnight, this is a long game to transform systems (political, economic and cultural) so that our public dollars can do what they are supposed to: help everyone and ensure the communities most impacted are thriving instead of struggling to survive. 

The good news is that this work has been and is happening already. There are substantial efforts to mitigate barriers in the short term as responsive tactics such as the Justice40 Accelerator, Justice40 Equity Fund, and other allied efforts that can get us closer to building the key, transformative shifts we need so the dollars flow easily and more justly. 

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