Pioneers in Justice Winning Kudos for Inspiring Leaders

Levi Strauss & Co.
March 3, 2017

As business leaders take a hard look at the role they can play in helping the nation heal from and adapt to this extraordinarily polarizing period in our history, our Pioneers in Justice initiative is receiving praise for supporting grassroots leaders working on the frontlines of change to protect the most vulnerable communities.

The Levi Strauss Foundation launched the groundbreaking Pioneers in Justice initiative in 2010 to invest in the leaders of a group of bedrock Bay Area civil rights organizations over five years as they sought new approaches and partnerships to reshape the next wave of social justice movements. These all-star organizations included the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, Equal Rights Advocates, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and Chinese for Affirmative Action.

Last year, the foundation published a case study examining the achievements and lessons learned for young leaders looking to scale their impact.

It’s critically important to invest in long-term movement leadership, wrote Aaron Dorfman, Executive Director for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, in the Philanthropy News Digest.

“At the end of the day, individuals are the ones who drive social change. When funders invest in the leadership of social movements, it invariably leads to profound and lasting benefits. Leadership by and mobilization of marginalized communities is essential to success. If you need ideas or an example of a funder that does this well, check out the Levi Strauss Foundation, which runs a terrific leadership program for social justice leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Philanthropy should seize this opportunity to innovate and step out of silos, agreed Pamela David, Executive Director of the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, in the The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

“We’re now engaged in a long-term struggle for the soul of our country: for democratic practice, for democratic institutions, for diversity, equity, and inclusion. That struggle needs great leaders with the skills and resilience to endure the twists and turns in front of us. They need to connect to each other, build off each other’s strengths, and link issues, movements, and people.

Philanthropy has done some very promising work to develop leaders. The Levi Strauss Foundation’s “Pioneers in Justice” study, the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund’s Flexible Leadership Awards, the O2 Initiatives, and the Durfee Foundation’s range of leadership programs have all made important contributions.

But there’s much more to be done. We need more programs to support existing leaders, develop new ones, and, most importantly, connect them with each other in meaningful ways.”

The Levi Strauss Foundation continues its commitment to investing in the capacity of Bay Area social justice leaders with the second Pioneers in Justice class – Pioneers 2020 – convened last year: Kris Hayashi (Transgender Law Center), Rev. Michael McBride (Live Free), Terry Valen (Filipino Community Center), Aparna Shah (Mobilize the Immigrant Vote), Maria Poblet (Causa Justa/Just Cause), Zachary Norris (Ella Baker Center for Human Rights), and Miya Yoshitani (Asian Pacific Environmental Network).

Learn more about the Levi Strauss Foundation here.