Challenging Injustice, Advancing Human Rights

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UUSC’s Impact

Strengthening Grassroots Movements for Systemic Change

A Note About UUSC’s Impact

Rachel Freed, Vice President and Chief Program Officer, and Michael Kourabas, Associate Director for Grantmaking and Impact

At UUSC, we believe that a more just, equitable, and regenerative world is not only possible, it is necessary. To create that future, we must do more than just address the symptoms of injustice—we must also treat “the groundwater.” This means dismantling the systems that were designed to oppress – colonialism, racism, extractive capitalism, and patriarchy to name a few – and replacing them with alternatives that allow every human life to flourish without destroying our planet. Of course, the systemic solutions we so desperately need are unlikely to come from our institutions. More often, change arises from principled, interconnected social movements pursuing dynamic actions and alternatives.

Yet, activists and grassroots organizations around the world – including many of UUSC’s partners – often do not have the time or resources necessary to build and strengthen those movements by themselves. Overworked and on the verge of burnout, selfless movement leaders need more opportunities and resources to connect and build relationships, learn from each other, and plan together. Access to funding is itself a significant hurdle for many grassroots groups, and those who receive it are frequently hamstrung by overly restrictive and purely transactional relationships with funders that begin and end with financial support.

UUSC strives to be different. We aim to be a true movement partner, in eye-to-eye relationship with the grassroots organizations we support. As one of our partners told us, “We don’t consider UUSC as our donor, we consider UUSC as our longstanding partner…”

That is our impact.

This year, our partners lifted up their collaborations as examples of “broader movement-building, including efforts to build a formidable base of directly impacted communities and allies…” Others told us what a difference it makes that UUSC “actually understands well the work we do and the challenges that it brings and accommodates the requests we may have arising from the changes in our legal and political environment.”

Because successful movements must be led by those most impacted by injustice, over 90% of UUSC’s partners this year were led by women, immigrants, Indigenous Peoples, people of color, people identifying as LGBTQI, and/or people living with disabilities. Most are leading smaller, emerging organizations – more than two-thirds of our partners operated with annual budgets of less than $500,000 this year. Yet, many have been able to use our support to expand the scope of their work, strengthen their organizations, and increase their impact, growing from “emerging” leaders to powerful forces for change.

These are just some of the ways we support grassroots movements working for systemic and transformational change. For others, please read our full impact report and explore the impact section of our website below.

Another world is possible, one that celebrates the inherent dignity of every human being and one where everyone has a place they can call home. And the good news is: we already have all the tools we need to create it. With your support and collaboration, UUSC will continue working alongside those grassroots groups around the world who are challenging injustice, defending human rights, and fighting for a more just, equitable, and regenerative world.

Download Report

Highlights of the report include:

Creating a Compassionate Response to the Border “Crisis” – Emergency Assistance Through Coordinated Volunteer Placement

In the fall of 2018, as large groups of asylum-seekers began making their way from Central America to the United States, the U.S. government sent more than 5,000 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. UUSC helped create an alternative response of compassion, solidarity, and support for migrant rights. As part of an interfaith coalition in regular communication with people accompanying the exodus through Guatemala and Mexico, UUSC’s immediate response through the UU College of Social Justice was to coordinate the recruitment and placement of volunteers with organizations on the ground in Mexico and the United States whose shelters were being overwhelmed by asylum-seekers.

A Participatory Convening of First & Indigenous Peoples Impacted by the Climate Crisis

UUSC is addressing the human rights violations that First and Indigenous communities are experiencing from the climate crisis by helping to build and support an international network of affected communities
that can support one another and advocate for their rights at the local, national, regional, and international levels. In early October 2018, UUSC brought together more than 60 representatives from impacted First and Indigenous communities in Alaska, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Bangladesh, Washington State, and Louisiana to Girdwood, Alaska, for a three-day gathering to discuss the impacts of climate change that they are experiencing, build community, and share strategies about how to address the devastating effects of the climate crisis, particularly the threat of displacement.

UUSC’s Grassroots Partners

These types of partnerships are critical — they help build and strengthen movements and directly challenge systems of oppression by supporting the leadership of communities who have historically been denied their rights, equal access to resources, and participation in decisions affecting them and their future. Partnering with “directly led” groups also ensures that UUSC’s programs and strategies will have the most impact because they are informed and led by those most proximate to the harms we are addressing together.