Build Back Better



As we prepare this newsletter, inside negotiations are shaping  the Build Back Better agenda.  The final package may well define President Biden’s first term in office. It is also the Democrats’ best hope for holding onto the House and the Senate in 2022. 

But this moment is more than a political play. It also represents a transformation in policymakers’ decades-long consensus on the limited efficacy of government spending in the lives of ordinary people. Not since the 1960s and President Johnson’s Great Society has a leader–from either party–set forth a vision for federal policy that centers those communities in greatest need.  

But neither President Johnson nor President Biden set out their agendas for transformational change by accident. Movements–and movement groups like Community Change–set the agenda, and the vision it reflects will far outlast this congressional session.  The Build Back Better package gained traction thanks to over two decades of organizing among Black, brown, immigrant, working class, and low-income communities across the country. And this year, it made it to the White House because of Community Change Action’s work  to change the balance of power in politics.

In 2020, Community Change Action, along with Community Change Voters (PAC) and our grassroots partners, had real conversations with millions of voters across the country to mobilize and persuade those who are invisible to traditional campaigns. These voters created this governing moment, and they are the heart of the electoral powerhouse that Community Change Action is building

Since Election Day, Community Change and our partners on the ground have poured our energy into mobilizing voters on issue advocacy campaigns for bold, national legislation that significantly improves their lives and communities.  

Delivering with and for these voters–showing that their voices do matter–is the best way to create favorable conditions for the 2022 midterms. We are fighting for four specific policy goals: child care, housing, an inclusive and refundable Child Tax Credit (CTC), and citizenship. 

Whether or not the final package includes all of our priorities–and we are doing everything we can to make sure it does–we should all claim victory for the role we played in this pivotal moment. Because of the economic, racial, and immigrant justice movement and political powerhouse Community Change has helped to build, our communities are at tables of power. Our leaders shaped the statements coming from Congressional decision makers. And the policies that emerge will crystalize our power at this moment in time.

Regardless of what makes it to a final vote, it will not be enough. The fight and our collective work will continue. Community Change is ready to take these wins and make sure that our communities experience all the benefits of the policies they’ve fought so hard to achieve. And through the implementation of these policy wins, we have an extraordinary new power-building opportunity with our partners. We can build on our voter engagement work, bring more people into the movement through implementation work, and mobilize these leaders to reach more voters in 2022. When ordinary people come together, we can win extraordinary change. Our commitment to that core principle cannot be shaken.  



Building an Electoral Powerhouse: Expanding our Model for Relational Voter Contact & Organizing

Community Change Action’s year-round relational  organizing model, first piloted in 2018, trains voters to reach out to their friends and family on the issues that matter most to them. A meta analysis by the Analyst Institute found that relational organizing is one of the most effective strategies for increasing civic engagement. It also brings voters into a lasting political home–long past Election Day–where they can build power to deliver change from the ballot box to legislative halls. 

Since November 2020, we’ve mobilized relational organizing leaders on issue advocacy campaigns to pass bold, popular national legislation that significantly improves the lives and communities of our voters — and to create favorable conditions for the midterm elections. They’ve organized 30 meetings with Congressional staff and driven calls, texts, and tweets to up political pressure in this pivotal moment for the Build Back Better legislative battle.   

 Outreach to friends and family is an element  of all good organizing. What makes our model unique  is the linking of relational organizing to a larger digital engagement strategy, connecting people online and offline, and  creating space for leaders to learn and lean in together. 

In 2021 and 2022 we are building on our success and lessons learned to launch a new federated model for our relational voter organizing programs. We will capitalize on Community Change Action’s existing digital and relational infrastructure — as well as our long-term investment in voter contact programs in pivotal electoral states —to integrate into other forms of voter contact, like door canvassing, phone banking, events, or voter registration. By working hand-in-hand with our grassroots partners in priority states, we will grow local capacity, deepen our mobilization and persuasion reach, shape new narratives, and build lasting political power.  

Want to learn more about how our relational organizing program works on the ground? Join us on November 5 for a briefing co-hosted with our Wisconsin-based partner Voces de la Frontera Action. 

Where is the House In Build Back Better?

Congress has the chance to change the housing landscape. This opportunity is how we will build back better, so we are applying housing justice narrative strategies to promote our federal housing priorities and bring more people into the housing movement. Together we are showing Congress that safe, affordable housing for all is a fundamental right. 


We recently concluded  our nine-month Housing Justice Narrative (HJN) Fellowship, which trained leaders and organizers to use the research findings of the narrative initiative to advance local, state, and federal housing campaigns, and apply it as a tool to organize and expand our base of supporters. Fellows were embedded with partner groups in Louisiana, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Michigan, and California, where they combined the HJN research with power-building strategies. Victor, an HJN fellow and housing organizer, said “narrative empowers directly impacted individuals to overcome the injustices they face” and  “[puts] a strategy in the hands of a person that wants to see change.”

To learn more about the fellowship and how the fellows applied their learnings to their organizing campaigns, use the passcode Dj5Xu^.P to watch the October 15 learning session here

Still Rooted & Rising: Our 2021 Champions and the Fight to Build Back Better

On September 30, our Community Change Champions Awards recognized visionary leaders who are rooted in purpose and rising in power. Weren’t able to join us? Catch up on YouTube or Twitter.  

While our celebration has passed, the energy and spirit of our event and this year’s honorees carries forward at this pivotal political moment. Each of our 2021 Champions are playing key roles in the movement-wide fight to Build Back Better. Together they are pushing us to imagine a better world and expand the boundaries for what is possible, while also building the conditions to make that vision possible. Lorena-Quiroz Lewis of Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity in Mississippi is mobilizing grassroots leaders to create the pressure for true, lasting immigration reform. She is joined in this work by national forces, including the National Domestic Workers Alliance, whose members stand at the intersection of immigration as well as care economy fights. Front Line Essential Workers and the union members who carried us through the pandemic are also at the forefront of advocacy work to rebuild a just economy where all of us can thrive. And Nikole Hannah-Jones reminds us of an essential truth in each of these pressing campaigns: that no justice is possible without racial justice — and that we must begin by acknowledging the hard truths of our own history.


Meet Afua Atta-Mensah, Our First-Ever Chief of Programs

Community Change is thrilled to introduce Afua Atta-Mensah as our first-ever Chief of Programs. Afua, formerly the Executive Director of Community Voices Heard, brings a wide range of talents, expertise, and experience  organizing in and advocating for the communities most directly impacted by injustice. As Co-President Dorian Warren said, “As Community Change continues to make advances in building electoral and governing power among low-income communities of color, Afua is the perfect addition to take our strategy to the next level.” In the interview below, Afua shares her journey to this moment.

How did you get started in community and power building work? 

From a young age I knew that as a Black person and as Black people we were treated differently. That moved me to want to do something about it. At first I wanted to be a lawyer and did that for several years at the Legal Aid Society. However after a while it became clear to me that the law was not the tool that would or could transform society that would allow for full liberation for Black and brown people. As I came into deeper consciousness around this, I was working with an amazing community based organization Community Voices Heard (CVH). It was at CVH that I learned about building power with people as opposed to over them, and I loved watching the growth of individuals who felt powerless coming together and demanding what they wanted. Those were and still are true moments of watching people grow into leaders.

What are you most excited to experience or tackle as you take on your new role of chief of programs?

I am most excited about being able to build relationships and work with some of the best organizers, policy advisors, and strategists in the nation who are doing amazing work here at Community Change. I cannot wait to uplift the strength of our partners to do no less than change the world.

How do you envision the movement that Community Change is involved in (immigration, housing, reinvestment in communities of color, and child care) building in the coming years?  

The extraordinary individuals working day and night in these movements will continue to challenge current narratives by uplifting intersectionality as a key framing of the movement. It’s so important to consider how racism interrupts the progress of immigration, child care, housing, and reinvestment in communities.  For example, systemic racism and white supremacy consistently get in the way of advancing policies like child care and immigration. These issues are not just issues for people of color, these are issues that affect all people and we need to break the mental paradigm to continue to move these movements forward as a whole.

Interview Conducted By Karla McLean


Stephanie Land’s MAID: A Netflix Hit!

Turn on Netflix now(!) to watch their powerful adaptation of former Communication Fellow Stephanie Land’s book “Maid.” You can learn more about Stephanie’s journey through motherhood, writing of the book, and pathway to critical acclaim in her recent interview with Vox.

PODCAST ALERT: The Takeaway featuring Dorian Warren with a Deep Dive on Political Cruelty

Most of us tend to think of cruelty as individual actions motivated by personal hatreds. For the first Takeaway Deep Dive, host Melissa Harris-Perry and Community Change Co-President Dorian Warren explore the phenomenon of political cruelty with Professor Cristina Beltran offers up a definition of civic and political cruelty.

Kelly Allen: What is meant by 'entitlement mentality?

Read this opinion piece in the Charleston Gazette Mail by Kelly Allen, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, where she explores why the word “entitlement” has unfairly gotten a bad reputation

They Gave Black Mothers in Mississippi $1,000 a Month. It Changed Their Lives.

Read about the basic income experiment that changed the lives of over 100 low-income mothers thanks to our Mississippi partner Springboard To Opportunities. The experiment provides key lessons for politicians as they weigh a permanent Child Tax Credit.

FIRM Partner NAKASEC protests for Immigrant Rights in Action Day

On October 5 our FIRM partners gathered in Washington, D.C., to protest the Senate parliamentarian’s move to block immigrant rights in the Build Back Better Package. Explore the twitter thread here to understand why these protestors–including Community Change staff–shaved their heads in a plea to Vice President Kamala Harris.