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Common Defense Civic Engagement

Progressive U.S. military veterans fighting to preserve the core American values they swore to uphold.

© Common Defense

Common Defense Civic Engagement invests in the leadership of its members through the Veterans Organizing Institute (VOI), a nonpartisan training program that trains cohorts of 30-40 veterans from around the country to be grassroots organizers within their communities.

Recognizing that veterans are often used as political props, and not seen as agents of change, Common Defense (fiscal sponsor: Commonwealth Foundation) aims to train up the highly diverse and largely working-class veteran population into organizers and community leaders. 

Our long-term intervention is to cultivate the skills, savvy, and leadership of veterans who have developed a critique of war and foreign policy, equipping them with the political skills to be lifelong leaders in progressive social justice movements.

Jose Vasquez
Common Defense

The Compton Foundation has long been interested in how to bridge the divide between “domestic” and “foreign” issues in U.S. politics in general, and progressive movements in particular. Common Defense’s veteran members have lived experience at those intersections, understanding from their personal experiences the connections among militarism, white supremacy, immigration, police violence, economic justice, and more. The network’s power comes from how it helps veterans augment that lived experience with political education and organizing skills, with the vision of embedding a network of progressive veterans as leaders across a range of organizations and movements.

Listen to one VOI alum, Kyle, speak about his experience with VOI:

In the years since its launch, Common Defense has continued to scale up its organizing trainings and has taken on several campaigns, from getting out the vote in election season and ending US support of the war in Yemen to increasing democratic oversight and accountability of American military interventions. 

Recent grant history

YearProjectGrant Award
2020General Support$225,000 over 3 years
2018General Support$100,000 over 2 years
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