SE Uplift's 6 Month Report: Uplifting Communities
Below you can read about all of our accomplishments from January 1st, 2021 – June, 30th 2021. There were many highs even in the middle of a pandemic!
Project Summary: This project is the operation of the SEUL Neighborhood Coalition, one of the City of Portland’s seven district coalition offices supporting 95 neighborhoods of Portland, Oregon. Grant funds cover five staff positions and all operating expenses of the organization.
- Anti-hate and justice work
- Community Resiliency & COVID-19
- Program and Organizational Updates
- Trainings and Skill Building
SEUL Overview: SE Uplift (SEUL) is part of the city-wide district coalition system, a coalition of a geographic region of 20 neighborhoods in city define southeast Portland. The mission of SEUL is to collaborate with the Southeast Portland community to build informed, inclusive, and participatory neighborhoods that support our social and ecological well-being. Originally an independent 501C3, and also functioning as a government field office, SEUL has been a City of Portland district coalition since 1974. Annual funding from the City of Portland Office of Community and Civic Life (Civic Life) has been ongoing since that time in a mutually beneficial relationship where the nonprofit coalition is contracted to provide vital services that contribute to the City’s functioning at a cost much lower than the equivalent services provided directly by the City. SEUL fulfills our Civic Life contract obligations consistent with how it has met requirements in previous years, via our core programming and services.
SE Uplift staff include Interim Executive Director Leah Fisher (she/her), Operations Manager Eaen Goss (he/him or they/them), Outreach & Communications Manager Paola De La Cruz (she/her), and Community Liaison Program Manager Matchu Williams (he/him).
Leadership Transition: Leah Fisher Steps in as Interim Executive Director
March 1st, 2021, Leah Fisher stepped into the Interim Executive Director role at SE Uplift. Not only has Leah been at SE Uplift for five years as the Neighborhood Planning Program Manager, but she has over 15 years of experience working in policy and systems change, civic engagement, strategic planning, equity, and land use planning.
“I’m excited to further develop my organizational management expertise and leadership skills in this role for however long I’m needed, and I look forward to helping SE Uplift move through a time of uncertainty and change.
I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn and observe this system from various perspectives over the last five years, grapple with my own bias and white privilege as I challenge myself to think differently about, and question, systems of power and structural racism in government and in our own organization
Featured Work of SE Uplift January 1, 2021 - June 30, 2021
Anti-hate and Justice Work
Below are some examples of anti-hate and social justice work (with an emphasis on racial-justice) SEUL has done during this reporting period that falls outside of our regular programming work.
Portland United Against Hate Coalition (PUAH):
SEUL is excited to welcome Úmi Vera as the new Executive Director for Portland United Against Hate Coalition. She brings a wealth of knowledge and vision for the organization, and we are thrilled to continue our partnership with the PUAH coalition. As their fiscal sponsor we extend our 501C3 status to the organization. SEUL has provided liability insurance for PUAH meetings and events, served on their Steering Committee, and provided a significant amount of administrative support with completing contracts during the leadership transition. SEUL has been there for PUAH since its infancy and encouraged to see the tremendous growth over the years. PUAH released its 2020 Annual Report thanks to the work of Coalition of Communities of Color to analyze hundreds of community-supplied incidents of hate. PUAH coalition members concluded over 20 workshops to understand specific types of hate and develop community skills to interrupt, track, respond to, and prevent hateful acts.
Houseless Action Committee:
The work of SEUL’s Houselessness Action Committee is continuing, with the group now working on a list of priorities/values around houselessness for the SEUL board to sign onto. The committee continues to meet on a monthly basis to share neighborhood action updates, hear from guest speakers from around the city, and hear about new resources and workshop/event opportunities. Committee members have been making connections and fostering partnerships outside of meetings as well, including neighbors from the Kerns and Laurelhurst neighborhoods coming together to form a new non-profit focused around creating temporary mico-villages, WeShine. Additionally, the committee collaborated with SE Uplift’s Operations Manager (Eaen), to create a Houselessness Resource Guide for SE Portland. The guide features dozens of local organizations and resources to assist housed neighbors in supporting unhoused folks in their communities (the guide is also a great resource for our unhoused neighbors as well). As interest grows, the committee will continue to create partnerships, procedures, and policies to effectively respond to Portland’s housing crisis.
DEIA Work Group:
The workgroup, comprised of SEUL staff, board members, and executive committee continued moving SEUL’s DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibly) work forward during this 6- month period, SE Uplift’s DEIA work group hosted three DEIA trainings facilitated by human rights activist, educator and consultant, Cliff Jones. As a group, SE Uplift operationalized our DEIA Commitments document by having all board members sign on to our DEIA statement and values.
Supporting Unhoused Neighbors: Collaboration with Beacon PDX and other community groups
Over the last 6 months, SE Uplift has engaged in a variety of partnerships to support our unhoused neighbors, and we are excited to highlight a few of those efforts.
Beacon PDX Partnership:
SE Uplift has had a longstanding relationship
with Beacon PDX and have supported their work
with unhoused neighbors in a variety of ways,
including providing storage space for clothing
donations. Beacon is preparing to open Beacon
Village in the Montavilla neighborhood, which
will host 10 tiny homes for currently unhoused
individuals. While Beacon waited to move into
their permanent location, they used SE Uplift’s
parking lot for 3 months to serve lunches to
unhoused neighbors for an hour each day of the
week. We are excited to continue supporting
and partnering with Beacon as they move into
their new space.
Image from Beacon PDX facebook
Most recently, SE Uplift provided building space for community groups and individuals to distribute water, ice, sunscreen, and other vital supplies during the heatwave in late June. Hundreds of cases of water and thousands of pounds of ice were distributed over the course of 3 days to help keep both housed and unhoused neighbors who were unable to accessing cooling shelters alive and safe.
SE Uplift had an additional new partnership with the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association (SNA) to benefit our unhoused neighbors for a few months, which involved hosting porta-potty at our space. This provided a much-needed resource for unhoused (and housed neighbors) to be able to access a restroom whenever it was needed. It was serviced weekly, and all upkeep was paid for by SNA. The funding for the porta-potty has ended as of July, but we are looking forward to partnering with SNA in other areas, such as potentially hosting a community dumpster.
Community Resiliency & COVID-19
During this reporting period, SEUL had to continue to modify and evolve, not only the work we do in a way that was safe and accessible to our community, but also support our Neighborhood Associations and other partners in doing the same. As more community members have access to being vaccinated, we have increased activity on-site and are in the process of incrementally re-opening our building. We are adapting our policy to welcome more in-person events Figure 2. Via Defense Fund PDX that are done safely and with immunocompromised and unvaccinated community members in mind.
Program and Organizational Updates
Small Grants Program
Now in its 14th year, the Community & Civic Engagement Small Grants program continue to infuse funds into the community to increase the number and diversity of people engaged in the community, strengthen community capacity to create social change, and increase community impact on public decisions and community life. This reporting period, due to the houseless crisis and COVID-19 crisis facing our community, these funds were leveraged by community more than ever to support community resiliency and to support those most impacted by social inequity.
Delivering relief during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was an additional category taken into consideration in the 2021 cycle as Matchu Williams, new Grants Manager, took over the program. Two workshops, one held during the workday and another in the evening, were held online to assist people with applications in February and expand access for people working outside of first shift professions.
Thank you to all 32 grant applications and our Small Grants Review Committee – Destinee Rogers, Keller Dean, and Linda Nettekoven – for their careful consideration and funding recommendations. Special thanks to Communications & Outreach Manager, Paola, for support and coordination of the program. With over $100,000 requested by the community, eights projects ultimately received funding with the $20,000 in funds available. SEUL in partnership with Multnomah County has connected all applicants who requested supplies, personal protection equipment (PPE) as an additional level of support. Further grant resources throughout Portland are available on the website thanks to a new community resource page with information on where to apply. Community & Civic Engagement Small Grants are made possible by the City of Portland & the Office of Community and Civic Life. Click here to see the complete list of funded projects.
SE Uplift Neighborhood Coalition Awards $16,576 in Communications Grants SEUL has been proudly working towards equity in the way that communications support, including direct funds use to support communication efforts in the community, are distributed between our 20 neighborhood associations and community groups in Southeast Portland. In 2020-2021, SEUL re-evaluated the program and distribution of funds once again, to strive for greater equity among the population we serve. SEUL transitioned half of our communications funds from direct payment to neighborhood associations into a small competitive grant process open to all community groups. We received an array of powerful applications, most prioritizing DEIA values and missions, as well as creative strategies to reach out and engage community members. For the 2021 grant round, 21 eligible projects were awarded up to $1,000. Learn about the grant recipients here.
Fiscal Sponsorship Program
: SEUL provides fiscal sponsorship services to numerous community groups including 11 neighborhood associations and 8 community groups. Fiscal sponsorship is a contractual arrangement between a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization and a project that allows the project to receive grant funding and solicit tax-deductible donations. Capacity is added to projects that allow SEUL to handle financial reporting while projects develop programming and outreach. The service helps build connections with the SE Portland community.
Thanks to the projects that have renewed their agreements. Congratulations to the Woodstock Neighborhood Association on graduating from fiscal sponsorship after receiving an IRS determination letter of nonprofit status! Staff have made it easier to donate towards grassroots community projects via an updated donations page.
The following is a list of fiscally sponsored projects that rely on SEUL staff to administer and support:
• 11 Neighborhood Associations
• Black and Beyond the Binary Collective
• Portland United Against Hate
• Portland Through a Latinx Lens
• Congo Peace Project
• Inner SE Action!
• Sensory Integration Project
• United Congolese Community Organization of Oregon
• Kitchen Share SE
Land Use and Transportation Program:
In addition to offering monthly meetings with educational speakers and timely land use and transportation topics and responding to land use and transportation –related questions from community, SE Uplift has been in process of launching a land use & transportation leadership program. This program is intended to increase the number and diversity of folks we serve via this program in southeast. Land use and transportation-related topics are already challenging, and this program has struggled to support community outside of the neighborhood associations due to a number of challenges.
In response, funding was set aside to pay a consultant, We All Rise, with expertise in this area and SEUL will provide a technology stipend for the 5-6 participants to participate in a focused leadership program with the hope that these leaders will connect with agencies, SEUL, and other neighbors about this important topic. This reporting period, We All Rise, developed a robust 8-module/16 week curriculum on the history and role of land use and transportation planning and civic engagement in Portland. We hoped to recruit and launch the leadership program in June, however, due to staffing turnover and shortage, the project is delayed until the fall. However, recruitment materials, the curriculum, and funds set aside for a stipend are all ready to go for a program launch in the fall.
Staffing shortages have most greatly impacted the Land Use program this reporting period. The Neighborhood Planning Program Manager stepped into the Interim Executive Director position and SEUL hired a temporary employee who only stayed with SEUL for 2 months before securing a permanent position at Albina Vision Trust. It was decided to leave the position vacant in the interim given the timeframe. We have had to cancel 3 meetings and leveraged our partnership with Northeast Coalition of Neighbors (NECN) to host a joint land use meeting in June.
Trainings & Skill Building
In the past six months, SEUL staff has hosted and co-hosted several virtual trainings for board members and the community.
Coalition Board Orientation:
In June, SEUL co-hosted a non-profit board orientation with the other three non-profit Coalition District Offices. Since we all struggle with similar challenges this offered an opportunity to leverage our resources, address common challenges, and create a board networking opportunity for board members. We hired an outside consultant to develop and conduct the training on non-profit boards and best practices.
Disability and Accessibility Trainings:
In June, Operations Manager, Eaen Goss, conducted a training for staff on creating a culture of accessibility within SE Uplift. Eaen will be working on a collaboration with staff at Neighbors West Northwest to bring the training to the community in the coming months. In the meantime, they created an accessibility resources page on our website and the team formalized and put into use an accessibility statement that past staff had worked on. Eaen is also working to create resources for neighborhood associations looking to transition to hybrid meetings.
Interrupting Harm Training:
SE Uplift’s Operations Manager (Eaen) and Communications and Outreach Manager (Paola) hosted an Interrupting Harm Workshop for the SE Uplift board in July 2021. The purpose was to encourage and build skills for board members to interrupt to create a safer, more inclusive environment rather than letting harm go unaddressed. With some slight changes to the content, we are looking to bring that training to the broader SE community as well.
Revamping Website Resources:
Through staff conversations and community feedback, SE Uplift staff revamped some of the community resources on our website, especially the areas that guide community members through the process of making advocacy requests. SEUL has an updated Advocacy Resources page and added more clarity/visuals around our own process for advocacy requests made to the SE Uplift Board. We have also added language around thinking through diversity, equity, and inclusion and how that can impact requests.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Access (DEIA) Board Trainings:
SEUL conducted a 3-series DEIA training for the SE Uplift Board in March, April, and May. The purpose was to continue DEIA training for new and longstanding board members, and to support the implementation of our recently adopted DEIA documents (can be found at https://www.seuplift.org/deiastatements-documents/). Trainings were co-developed with our trainer Cliff Jones and the DEIA workgroup to address specific needs of our organization and Board. The first session focused on baseline DEIA information and content moved to skill building and taking action by the third session.
That said, despite on-going training and resources on this topic, developing cultural competency on our Board remains an ongoing challenge for our organization. With such a large board that has inconsistent member attendance and high turn-over, it’s a challenge to build capacity in DEIA. Board members are at significantly different places in their learning, many requiring supplemental independent learning for our trainings to have an impact. While others are highly advanced, come with lived experience, and do not need to sit through introductory information. Despite ongoing trainings and resources, board members from dominant identify groups intentionally and unintentionally harm and hurl micro-aggressions at meetings which result in board members from non-dominant identify groups eventually leaving due to frustration/ exhaustion and/or harm. Despite these setbacks, SEUL will continue to work to create an inclusive welcoming board meeting space.
Community partners that SE Uplift engaged with this reporting period include, but are not limited to:
Black and Beyond the Binary Collective (BBBC):
Black and Beyond the Binary Collective (BBBC) is dedicated to advocacy and healing for transgender and gendervariant Oregonians who are Black and have lived experiences as a member of the African diaspora. Throughout their relocation to Tabor Commons and as SEUL supports the growing organization as a fiscal sponsor, SEUL and BBBC have found a number of education and community building opportunities to collaborate on. We continue to work on the Neighborhood Watch sign replacement project and community safety initiatives together,
SEUL is providing insurance for BBBC’s Constructing Civic Dialog series, and SEUL staff is participating in BBBC’s National Night Out for Safety and Liberation to name a few. Additionally, SEUL has learned more about how to be a white ally and resource for historically marginalized groups like BBBC through its close partnership. This reporting period, SEUL has revisited its fiscal sponsorship policy and gone above and beyond to support BBBC’s transition into the Mount Tabor and South Tabor neighborhood. Helping BBBC into their new space at Tabor Commons has taught us what it means to support and offer a physical space for an organization that focuses on marginalized communities. The property will allow BBBC to find a safe space to have complete autonomy, while helping displaced groups return to places they have been displaced from while supporting their journey into placemaking and taking up space.
Congo Peace Project:
SE Uplift acts as fiscal sponsor to Congo Peace Project. Congo Peace Project is a grassroots organization committed to fight for women’s educational and menstrual equity in the Congo through regular supply drives in Portland. The project is run by Asukulu Songolo, a student at Central Catholic High School in the Buckman neighborhood, and a group of youth and includes a network of several hundred volunteers. SE Uplift staff have been excited to see the project grow and have supported the project with grant reporting, invoicing, and additional assistance in the last half of the fiscal year. Learn more about Congo Peace Project at Facebook.