On our blog this summer, we’re sharing stories of those working to create social change here in Oregon—and beyond. If you have news or events that deserve to be championed here, let us know.

Artwork by Ameya Marie, used with permission of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon.

Making Change

Reimagining What a Family Looks Like

Families don’t all look the same. Yet our policies—often based on incorrect assumptions—have failed to take into account the “glorious multitude of shapes, sizes, colors, and relational arrangements” that can constitute a family. The Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) wanted to challenge such assumptions as it pushed for inclusive family and medical leave legislation in Oregon.

Yet our policies—often based on incorrect assumptions—have failed to take into account the “glorious multitude of shapes, sizes, colors, and relational arrangements” that can constitute a family.

In support of this effort, APANO enlisted the help of six artists and writers to make a wider spectrum of families more visible. Their Families, Reimagined project celebrates expanded definitions of family, pairing vivid artwork with original poetry and prose. APANO shared these pieces during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and also collected them in a chapbook.

The latest word? In its last session, Oregon’s legislature passed a new family and medical leave bill. And APANO continues to support artists through its AMP event series that continues throughout the summer.

Revolutionizing Higher Education

Is the primary purpose of higher education to prepare students to enter the workforce? Many say no, and a number of programs are providing an alternative vision of what education can be. One of these institutions is Portland’s Wayfinding Academy, founded by Michelle Jones in 2015. Jones spent years teaching in mainstream educational institutions, but felt that they had become too businesslike and “detached from student experience.”

In contrast, Wayfinding Academy pairs students with mentors to help them direct their own personalized coursework that pushes them to think deeply about their purpose in the world. Accredited by the state of Oregon, the school offers a two-year associate’s degree in “self and society.” Read a recent New York Times article featuring the school here.

Helping Families Move Out of Poverty

We work in order to make a better life for themselves and our families. But in several neighborhoods in Washington’s Cowlitz County, limited childcare options, a mismatch in the job skills required by employers, and other factors all conspire to make it difficult for many to find and keep good jobs. And when someone does find a higher-paying job, they can lose access to critical services like housing.

The organization and its partners will team up with employers to provide targeted resources that enable workers—and their families—to thrive.

But a newly funded $1.6 million program from Workforce Southwest Washington will offer jobseekers the support they need to achieve their career goals and move out of poverty. The organization and its partners will team up with employers to provide targeted resources that enable workers—and their families—to thrive. Read more about this innovative program in a Daily News article.

Collected Wisdom

Comedy As A Strategy for Social Change

For Caty Borum Chattoo, comedy is no laughing matter—it’s a subject for serious study. As director of the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University, she researches the ways in which humor can act as a powerful mechanism for social justice communication. In a talk at the University of Florida’s frank 2019 gathering, Borum Chattoo discusses her research into depictions of Syrian refugees. She’s found that comedy can cut through our complacency around serious issues, reframing them in a way that makes people care.

Use comedic messaging that is rooted in optimism to help “keep your audience engaged in conversations about important social issues without the risk of overwhelming or exhausting them.”

One of her research-informed recommendations? Use comedic messaging that is rooted in optimism to help “keep your audience engaged in conversations about important social issues without the risk of overwhelming or exhausting them.” Read her other recommendations in a Spitfire Strategies post here.

Sharing Stories Responsibly

Film and video can also serve as a powerful tool to illuminate important social issues. However, when sharing the stories of others, special care needs to be taken to make sure these stories are presented ethically. A new guide from Charity Comms UK provides an in-depth look at what changemaking organizations need to know as they consider using video in service of their cause.

Organizations should be “unwaveringly conscious of how the way we portray people can change how the wider public view both the subject [we] are representing and the issues that [we] are trying to highlight around them.” Read the full guide to making films here.

Investing in Social Change

When you are charged with managing millions of dollars, how do you ensure that these funds are being invested in a socially responsible manner? Most of us won’t face this particular problem—barring a lucky lottery ticket—but it’s one that Rukaiyah Adams confronts on a daily basis. Adams is the chief investment officer at  Meyer Memorial Trust. She has recently been awarded Stanford University’s Tapestry award honoring African American business school alumni who have demonstrated “inspirational leadership, intellectual excellence, and service to others.”

In an interview with the school, Adams discusses her philosophy around social change, and reveals how Meyer has shifted its investing strategies to promote affordable housing in Oregon. A conscientious realist, she argues that you must stay focused and keep your feet on the ground even as you push for change: “we have to thrive in the world that we actually have if we are to succeed in the face of challenges that we want to wish away but cannot.” Read the full interview here.

Participate

Help Set the Table for a Growing City

Portland is growing fast. As it does so, how can it keep its best qualities, and also change for the better? On July 18th, Bridgeliner and WeWork are hosting a Setting the Table gathering featuring a panel of stakeholders from organizations that are heavily invested in Portland’s future. The panel will tackle questions like how to improve Portland’s affordability, and attendees will have the opportunity to join in this important conversation. Scholarships are available to attend the event—read more about it here.

Learn From Northwest Philanthropies

“How do we align our histories, our people, and our resources to put community at the center?”

Philanthropy Northwest’s annual conference brings together people working in philanthropic organizations across the Northwest. This year’s conference will invite discussions of racial equity and racial justice and consider the following questions: “How do we support healthy communities and strong social systems? How do we align our histories, our people, and our resources to put community at the center?” The conference will be held in Seattle in November, and you can register for it here.