The Challenge

While many social justice organizations are dedicated to challenging oppressive systems, they often find themselves embedded within the inequities they aim to combat. Working to dismantle systems while living in them can cause burnout and antipathy, impacting the field’s ability to mobilize and retain vital staff and volunteers. Without a roadmap to navigate these challenges, many social justice organizations are forced to grapple with these organizational struggles on their own.

What We Did

The Ford Foundation’s Civic Engagement and Government U.S. program, in partnership with Aurora Commons and Change Elemental, developed the Navigating Change initiative. The initiative convened nearly 200 civic engagement and democracy organizations to explore pathways to manage new organizational structures and leadership transitions, aligning their operations with their values. Collectively, their experiences represent a shift in the social justice sector toward more equitable, democratic ways of working. This article shares lessons learned and lived experiences of the 600 people who participated in the Navigating Change initiative, highlighting how social justice leaders are transforming traditional models of organizational culture, strategy, and leadership structures by introducing new, values-driven approaches.