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A 5 Step Playbook: Closing the Missing Middle in Economic Justice Policy

It’s no secret that nonprofits face unique restrictions when it comes to lobbying and policy work. Yet, these organizations, who are often the primary community-engaged organizations play vital community roles despite these limitations and often possess unique knowledge and expertise.

Authors: Lauren Paul, Vice President of Strategic Alliances

Policy Incubator


Thanks so much for your interest in our economic justice policy playbook. My name is Lauren Paul and I'm the V P of Strategic Alliances at Common Future—a national racial and economic justice think-and-do-tank designed to incubate power building solutions and marginalized black and indigenous majority communities. 

Together with my colleagues at Common Future and our advisors, we grounded the recommendations you'll find in this playbook in the work of our policy incubator, our interview series with over 40 policy experts and nonprofits in a national survey.

This playbook is primarily for nonprofits that are early to mid stage and developing their capacity to engage in economic justice policy change work particularly nonprofits who serve majority BIPOC and marginalized communities.

Specifically, this playbook supports community engaged nonprofits to influence local state and federal economic policies for the benefit of people not profits.
We define economic justice policy work broadly inclusive of fiscal policy, which means government spending and taxation, monetary policy, redistributive policies, pre distributive policies and policies that govern consumption, production and wealth.

There are major structural barriers limiting nonprofits ability to engage in policy related activities from limited funding to opaque loss.

This playbook is one resource to support you in your exploration of economic justice policy work. In the playbook, we walk you through a five step framework to guide you in your journey.

In step one, we provide a values based framework for organizations to assess the potential impacts of engaging in policy work by reflecting on your values intentions and the potential costs associated with developing a policy strategy.

In step two, we explore the benefits of having an expansive understanding of economic policy and we offer supports to help develop a mission statement that is aligned with economic policy change work.

In step three, we highlight a number of tactics and strategies nonprofits use to successfully leverage their existing strengths to support meaningful policy change work as a trusted connector to community. These range from strategies that leverage a nonprofits network to strategies that center your expertise.

In step four, we identify policies, nonprofits might be most interested in influencing offering frameworks and resources to balance the tension between making an impact in the near term with developing strategies that have the potential to bring about long term change.

And lastly, in step five, we offer tips to develop a tight policy strategy from outlining the type of research required to develop an effective strategy roadmap to framing that might be supportive to nonprofits raising dollars from philanthropic sources.

As you're working through the playbook, make sure to check out the assessment tool to help you assess the value of potential policy strategies at your organization and funders, please check out our accompanying guidance document to learn how to support community oriented nonprofits, build effective policy oriented work.

Thanks so much.