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This brief builds on Streets to Statehouse: Building Grassroots Power in New York, a report released jointly by North Star Fund and New York Foundation in 2020. Streets to Statehouse documents the crucial role of grassroots organizing in achieving progressive policy wins in New York and sowing a more inclusive and responsive democracy. The report calls on funders to resource these movements more deeply to ensure we build upon the progress that has been made. This brief serves as a companion to Streets to Statehouse and lifts up the ways in which grassroots organizing is building electoral power by engaging new constituencies and seeding a new cadre of progressive elected leaders.
This report shares the lessons learned from two 2019 statewide campaigns that were led by grassroots organizations working in coalition with broader policy and advocacy networks. Housing Justice for All and Green Light NY won significant changes for low-income renters and driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants, respectively. The campaigns challenged the model of traditional top-down advocacy by centering directly-impacted people from low-income communities of color in leadership and decisionmaking. Both campaigns also demonstrated that community power can be leveraged between grassroots electoral organizing and issue-based legislative campaigns. Finally, by centering member-led organizations from rural, suburban and urban communities, the campaigns demonstrated how progressive policy changes require long-term investment in groups that build people power across regional difference through shared mass mobilization strategies.
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