Vibrant Democracy In Action
“I am voting and I am part of democracy.”
November 22, 2016
By Judy de Barros
A few weeks before the election, I volunteered on my own time to canvas in Rainier Beach to Get Out the Vote by doorbelling and asking folks if they were registered, and informing them how to register if they were not. I was inspired to volunteer by seeing many friends, colleagues, Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) grantees and community members working to make sure all folks were registered and understood the democratic process.
While we were walking through the neighborhood, I met one young Somali woman who told me she was very excited to vote for the first time in the U.S. Curious, I asked her when and how she had registered. She mentioned that it was at a workshop where she learned about the importance of civic engagement and participating in American democracy. There they helped her learn how to register to vote.
That particular workshop was held in the New Holly neighborhood hall, hosted by the Somali Family Safety Task Force and their Executive Director and community leader, Farhiya Mohamed. The young woman deeply appreciated the workshop and Farhiya’s outreach. She thanked us for coming by to make sure she could vote.
As we left she said proudly, “I am voting and I am part of democracy.”
The workshop she attended was funded by a partnership between Seattle Foundation’s Vibrant Democracy Initiative and King County Elections. This was one of many grants that engaged new Americans in civic participation, and is aligned with our mission to ignite powerful and rewarding philanthropy to make Greater Seattle a stronger more vibrant community for all.
Prior to receiving the Vibrant Democracy grant, the Somali Family Safety Task Force received two N2N grants, one of which was the very first grant they ever received. They continue civic engagement workshops to encourage local participation in the democratic process, along with other classes and services.
The connection between N2N, Vibrant Democracy and Communities of Opportunity, all part of Seattle Foundation’s Center for Community Partnership, is clearly evident. Without the early N2N funding and support, the Somali Family Safety Task Force and others may not have had the experience or capacity to receive the Vibrant Democracy grant.
We have heard from N2N grantees that they value the credibility N2N grants give them, as well as the technical assistance and recognition of their work as much as the funding they receive. More than half of the Vibrant Democracy Initiative grants were awarded to grassroots organizations that had first received N2N funding and technical assistance.
Now more than ever, we need to ensure that grassroots organizations receive adequate support in the form of funding, recognition and technical assistance. It is a time to double down on building relationships with, investing in and championing the work of N2N groups and other grassroots groups that are building the engagement, resources, and power of those most impacted by racial and economic disparities.
healthy community framework,
communities of opportunity,