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We Were Made for These Times

Really? While we witness the divisive unraveling of so much that has been built over the years, perhaps even the dismantling of the structures that support the fundamental notion of American democracy, how can we say, “we were made for these times”?

We can say it because we deeply believe it.

We do not mean to imply that the moment we are in (which will last longer than a moment) is not profoundly disturbing and unsettling. It is. We have worked in the progressive social change community for most of our adult lives, and we have been shaken to our cores by the recent actions of the current administration and leaders in Congress.

We also know, however, that those of us who are committed to the well being of all people and the planet have a compelling vision for the future that resonates with the majority of the people in this country. The outpouring of resistance demonstrates that across the nation, in fact around the world, the longing for peace, community, caring, dignity, and justice burns strong. The clash between exploitation of land and people and the functioning of our natural ecosystems has made it increasingly clear that we live on a fragile planet and must honor the earth.

We know our partners will work tirelessly and creatively to make sure that the future reflects these values and we, as a foundation dedicated to a peaceful, just, and sustainable future, must stand with them. In the early days of 2017, we have been asking ourselves how Compton can best, and most effectively, do so.

We have also asked many of our grant partners what they need and how we can support them as they adapt to the rapidly changing context for their work. What we have heard is challenging as well as inspiring.

This moment is challenging because of the enormity of the task in front of us and because the range of issues at stake every day can be overwhelming. It is also challenging because we fund on, and our partners work on, many of the issues that are at in the crosshairs of the new administration. The forces opposing progressive change are already seeking to divide us by pitting priorities against one another. We recognize the need for an overarching approach and a comprehensive story that can encompass, engage, and activate everyone.

It is, nevertheless, inspiring, too, to witness the resilience of our grant partners as they ask hard questions, shift programming and budgets, and reach out to others. There is a real outpouring of civic engagement, and new progressive community is emerging. Strong networks of leaders and organizations have developed deep trust across issue silos, and the ability to link concern about, for example, climate change with concern about reproductive justice, or the future of our democracy. We see great potential in this ability to increasingly integrate and align movements in durable new ways, and to act from strong beliefs in shared humanity, beauty, and democracy.

There is also inspiration in the extraordinary numbers of new people who have been roused to action. They are on the streets, contacting their legislators, running for office, and engaging locally to build the kinds of community they actually want. Many of them, however, don’t have a deep history of activism. They will need new in-roads to existing advocacy to successfully sustain this engagement over time, which is what it will take to bring about real change.

While we will adjust our priorities as the world continues to transform around us, we remain committed to: 1) supporting relationship-based networks between leaders from different movements, 2) investing in artists, filmmakers, poets, writers who are helping to visualize and document visions of a just and sustainable future, and 3) working with those who are building the future now.

We will continue to focus the majority of our grantmaking on domestic work, but we believe an increased focus on progressive foreign policy and national security will be necessary in an era when nationalism has been pitted against globalism. While a portion of our funding will support defense for critical policy, and resistance to the onslaught of negative governance, we will also prioritize advancing the strategic thinking and concrete projects that will help show us how to navigate out of the current reality and will lay the groundwork for a positive future. As illustrated by many of the street protests of the past few weeks, joyful, fierce, positive visions are essential to the work of fundamental social change.

“We are all navigating treacherous terrain, seeking a way forward. At least some of us know that not a single development over the past period indicates that the way forward requires that we abandon our freedom dreams. To the contrary.”

– Linda Burnham

The Compton Team

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