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Headwaters Foundation for Justice has announced that Maria De La Cruz will join the staff as the organization’s new Development Director. Maria comes to Headwaters as a seasoned fundraising professional, most recently as the Development Director of OutFront Minnesota and Co-Finance Director of Minnesotans United.
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In the last week, the St. Paul Foundation announced its Ambassador Awards and the Bush Foundation announced its 2014 Bush Fellows. These announcements provided an opportunity to reflect on Headwaters Foundation for Justice’s enduring commitment to leadership development within our communities.
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Headwaters Foundation for Justice has unveiled the Community Innovation Grants in partnership with the Bush Foundation. This represents a new, unique grant fund for Headwaters, and is in addition to the existing Social Change Fund and Fund of the Sacred Circle.
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A spirit of joyful rebellion. That, according to Executive Director Dan McGrath, is a common trait of TakeAction Minnesota’s thousands of members. “The idea is that we are up against some big challenges, but we’re also going to have fun as we go do it”, he says. The large and bustling office space surrounding him seems to be testifying to his point: a constant stream of people breezily walk by, stop for a cup of coffee, hold impromptu hallway meetings or poke their heads into one of the office’s many conference rooms. The dynamism of the environment is striking, inviting, and undoubtedly energizing. Perhaps that is the secret behind TakeAction Minnesota’s tremendous growth since its inception seven years ago—membership has multiplied tenfold, social media presence is booming and victories from the past legislative session remind all members of just how much can be achieved in this ‘joyful rebellion’. “TakeAction is a state-wide people’s network”, explains Dan. “We connect individuals and organizations to make change in a way that wasn’t possible before.” As big and complex as TAMN is as a coalition, it can be summed up in one word: interconnectedness. A young organization with deep roots, TakeAction was started when two progressive coalitions, Minnesota Alliance for Progressive Action (MAPA) and Progressive Minnesota, joined forces after having an important wake-up call: “They realized,” says Dan, “that we’ve got to be better than the sum of our parts. Let’s be real, they said, we are not winning a lot as a movement right now. We need to find a way to operate on a bigger scale and be better connected to each other if we are going to turn things around.” TakeAction provides a space and a focal point where people from all walks of life can rally together to push forward the movement for social, economic and racial justice. The organization’s members are excited to have a place to go where they can feel connected and feel like a part of something larger. There’s a lot of people out there who, says Dan, feel like “I’m the only one on my block, or in my neighborhood, or on my cul-de-sac that thinks this way.” When people are able to find each other, there is not only a sense of hopefulness—a sense of possibility—but a sense of joy, a sense of “we can do this, we can actually make a difference”. The issues that TakeAction takes on are as interconnected as its members. Minnesota is infamously home to the nation’s worst racial job gap in the nation, a key problem TakeAction is ceaselessly fighting against. The organization also works on healthcare access and quality, fair revenue, voting rights, voter engagement and expanding grassroots democracy. Results are concrete: in the 2013 legislative session, TakeAction was involved in passing the “Ban the Box” bill, the new Health Insurance Exchange, the closure of milllions in corporate tax loopholes and a major expansion in the MinnesotaCare program.. Despite such impressive victories for the progressive movement, Dan’s attitude about the road ahead is very clear: “Our movement is getting stronger and we are winning huge policy victories for Minnesotans. But the truth is—life is not getting better for most of the people we are accountable to. It’s getting worse. Things in this country and this world are getting harder, especially for people at the low end of the economic ladder.” That honesty, says Dan, is why the movement for equity and justice is moving away from empire-building and towards outcome-oriented collaboration. A new generation of leaders is emerging, leaders who are honest about the fact that not a whole lot has been won, leaders who are way more interested in changing things than in building a resume, and who above all are experimenting with new ways to rise to the challenges they face. “And Headwaters has been at the front of that,” adds Dan. “Whenever we have wanted to take a risk, Headwaters has been the first one to jump in with us. And that is very unique. When you are thinking about what is going on in MN, you can trace a lot of that back to the sort of risk Headwaters was willing to take with a set of organizations that were just emerging, not yet proven, but had some sort of conviction and belief that something could change.” Today, the cycle continues: after all, those who best know the ebbs and flows of the ever-changing justice landscape are members from the very communities that are affected. And when these members are brought together by organizations such as TakeAction Minnesota, there are plenty of reasons to believe that we are not in an era of ‘talk the talk’ but in, as Dan says, an era of “walk the talk”.
For Larry Olds, education is part of all social movements. That is why he has established a Popular Education Fund at the Headwaters Foundation for Justice.

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