Locally grounded IAF organizations are capable of remarkable inventiveness in a public world starved for new approaches. The stories - a cumulative body of evidence - are legion. Among them are:
- Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) power coupled with local knowledge spearheaded a public works initiative that effectively ended flooding of San Antonio’s West Side. Once conceived as an act of nature, the organization accomplished what for decades had been unimaginable much less doable. COPS sharply reduced water flows in flood prone areas by building a power organization capable of taking on a series of battles with a power structure that for generations had ignored the needs of mostly Latino neighborhoods. At that time sociologists were declaring culturally passive Latinos were fated to live in conditions determined by others. COPS changed all that.
- East Brooklyn was the classic “burned out ghetto” (the language of the day) before being resurrected by East Brooklyn Congregations (EBC). Housing deterioration was so advanced that no urban planner or politician could conceive of birthing vital new communities. The best they could conceive was small projects that were quickly swallowed by an ocean of blight. Then along comes IAF’s East Brooklyn Congregations and, like the Nehemiah of Hebrew Scripture, painstakingly brings the power of organized institutions and their money to the table of transformation. Politicians and city bureaucrats resisted EBC’s imaginative vision every step of the way until ultimately giving way to the superior vision and power of broad based, citizen organizing.
- Separate and unequal neighborhoods have characterized Austin, Texas in recent decades. As the story goes, some parts of Austin town are inhabited by individuals and families who just can’t compete in the newly minted high tech economy. Their condition is fated by family instability, race/culture problematics, corrupt politics, and a clear absence of the entrepreneurial spirit. But nobody delivered the message to Austin Interfaith (AI) as they organized a challenge to business as usual. AI’s power base, a diverse mix of community based institutions, impossible to deny even by big power, kicked over a series of initiatives that shattered conventional wisdom. Capital Idea, to name one of AI’s economic game changers, reengineered job training, reinvented job access and in so doing deep-sixed the myth that motivated low wage or no wage workers can achieve high wage jobs with a career ladder and that the neighborhoods they inhabit are condemned to separate and unequal status.
- Las Vegas and prostitution, including paid sex with minors, are conjugal. Anyone who thinks otherwise is hopelessly naive. Big money in Nevada is committed to the buying and selling of bodies, mostly female, often children, as part of the Las Vegas business model. Lamentable for sure but inevitable as a reality and intractable as a socio-political challenge. The odds against the Nevada legislature passing ground breaking legislation to attack sex trafficking in decades past were long indeed. But then along came IAF’s disciplined relational organizing, leader training, power analysis, citizen lobbying knowhow in the shape of Nevadans for the Common Good (NCG). NCG picked a fight with the powers that be, conspired with allies (including NV AG Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican Assemblyman John Hambrick) to invent a legislative package, drove the resulting legislation into the heart of Nevada’s decision making machinery and emerged victorious when Governor Sandoval signed a comprehensive anti-sex trafficking bill into law in June of 2013.