Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative

2020 in Review: Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative

 

In the midst of a global health pandemic, racial-justice uprisings, and political upheaval, RFDC grantees and partners across the country were able to quickly pivot and reimagine their work under constantly changing conditions.

In Georgia, all of our grantee partners were deeply engaged in the civic-engagement efforts that were spotlighted across the world. In the face of the pandemic and rampant voter-suppression efforts, Atlanta Jobs with Justice, Equality Foundation of Georgia, SisterSong, and Women Engaged reached tens of thousands of voters and decision makers, educating people across the state on issues relevant to reproductive justice, LGBTQ equality, and the misuse of religious refusals; the groups’ nonpartisan voter guide alone reached more than 15,000 Georgia voters across the state.

As our partners in New Mexico saw sharp increases in requests from people seeking abortions in neighboring states, they revealed the many ways that access to reproductive health care has been limited during the pandemic. The NM Entiende coalition members conducted public outreach and educated elected officials to ensure New Mexicans had access to the full range of reproductive health services. They also continued to produce videos that highlight the ways that a faith perspective can support people seeking abortions during this challenging time.

Our Minnesota partners—Gender Justice, Outfront MN, TakeAction MN Education, and Jewish Community Action—were able to leverage their collaboration with the Unrestrict MN campaign to show how cross-issue messaging can be used to counter to the dominant conservative notions of religious freedom, while also drawing a connection between White Nationalism and those who seek to abuse religion for political gain.

In addition to our long-term place-based grantmaking, the RFDC embarked on two new initiatives this year: resourcing Narrative Development efforts and launching the Rights, Faith, & Democracy Network.

Because many grantees are looking to connect issue areas with their messaging efforts, the RFDC formed a partnership with ReFrame, a Proteus FSP that builds “grassroots infrastructure that links people across campaigns, sectors and regions to build narrative power.” ReFrame trained staff from each of our grantee organizations through their nine-week boot camp. Using the skills and models shared by ReFrame, participants are now forming working groups in each state to elevate stories that illustrate the need to advance more inclusive policies and disrupt efforts to use religion as a political weapon.

For instance, grantees coordinated a swift response to the SCOTUS nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, highlighting concerns that she would vote to expand religious exemptions that roll back queer and reproductive rights.

To expand our role as a convener of a learning community for both donors and field practitioners, the RFDC responded to our grantees’ request to establish the RFD Network. In our initial outreach to over 40 organizations and stakeholders, we repeatedly heard there was interest in advancing opportunities for strategic collaboration at the intersection of LGBTQ equality, reproductive justice, and religious freedom issues, but there was limited capacity and funding for this work. Because of this, rather than create a formal structure or closely cultivated working group, the agenda and actions of the RFD Network will be led by the community itself, based on the emerging needs of the field. The network is open to a broad range of national and state-based allies, and activities are focused on facilitating peer-led learning, information sharing, and networking opportunities in service of broader field building, as well as providing a space to strategize around fast-moving threats and opportunities. In less than one year, the network has grown from 12 members to a list of nearly 100 representatives from various movement areas and faith traditions.