After five years of social justice advancement in Buffalo, Open Buffalo is poised to take itself to a new level by launching a new three-year strategic plan, a new mission, and a new vision to advance racial, economic, and ecological justice.
The launch will take place this week, Thursday, January 9 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. as part of the organization’s Sankofa Celebration fundraiser at the Northland Workforce Training Center on Northland Avenue in Buffalo. In addition to members of the board of directors, several social justice leaders and politicians are expected to be in attendance.
In 2014, Partnership for the Public Good, Coalition for Economic Justice, PUSH Buffalo and VOICE-Buffalo were invited to collaborate on a funding opportunity from Open Society Foundations to bring lasting systemic changes to our community by collaborating on community campaigns and increasing our region’s civic capacity. Ultimately, Buffalo was one of three communities chosen for the Open Places Initiative.
News in 2017 that the funding would conclude at the close of 2019 led the organization to look inward to determine if operations would continue or be concluded along with the funding. A year-long strategic planning process supported the place and relevance Open Buffalo has now established for itself throughout the city and Western New York Region as a whole.
Revealed through the planning exercise was Open Buffalo’s success in Leadership Development, with more than 100 individuals having completed its intensive Emerging Leaders program since its inception, and more than 600 people having been trained in community-building concepts such as policy research, arts and activism, and restorative justice. The other expertise area defined by the planning process was Advocacy and Organizing, with Open Buffalo leveraging its expertise in advocacy campaign organizing and implementation.
“I am extremely proud of the successes the Open Buffalo collaborative has accomplished in a few short years. From establishing the FB Community Land Trust to making significant changes in our criminal justice system, it shows that when communities are given the tools, resources and access, we have the innovation and power to fix our own issues.
In addition, we have regranted to over two dozen social justice organizations across our region,” said Open Buffalo’s Executive Director, Franchelle C.H. Parker.
“Not only did that contribute to our collective success, but it has made a significant difference in the fiscal viability in many of our partners in the local nonprofit sector,” Parker added. “Now that support from Open Society is coming to an end, we will narrow our focus and therefore be positioned to deepen our impact. According to the survey results and focus group, Leadership Development has had the greatest impact, and that will be the focus of our work moving forward. But, by being able to focus exclusively on areas that we do well – involving not only information purveying but usable skill-building for community leaders at the grassroots level – we will be a stronger organization.”
The result of the year-long strategic planning is that Open Buffalo will continue its operations indefinitely as a stand-alone organization responsible for diversifying its funding sources for operations and delivering its programming. Supporting this responsibility is a finalized three-year strategic plan, a new mission, and a new vision that will be officially launched at its January 9, 2020 Sankofa Celebration & Fundraiser.
Sankofa is a word from the Akan Tribe in Ghana that refers to the act of reflection on the past to move towards the future. The Sankofa bird as a symbol that reflects the bird’s feet facing forward, but its head turned to gently lift a fragile egg from its back to carry it to the front. The egg, of course, represents what has been learned from the past and when transitioned forward, the rebirth of opportunity for the future.
Parker further added, “the principle of Sankofa is a guiding principle of my life. As we embark into the next chapter of Open Buffalo, it was important us as an organization to reflect on our victories but more so- learn from the lessons of the past in order to emerge as a stronger organization and a contributor to our local movement.”
Open Buffalo’s Sankofa Celebration & Fundraiser will take place on Thursday, January 9, 2020 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Northland Workforce & Training Center on Northland Avenue. The event will feature catering by Manna@northland, live poetry performance by Emerging Leader alumnus Jillian Hanesworth, percussion by Daughters of Creative Sound, a basket and silent auction, and more. The event is sponsored by M&T Bank, Try-It Distributing, and Northwest Bank.
For more information on Open Buffalo and to secure tickets for the event, please visit www.openbuffalo.org
Open Buffalo is a 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to advance racial, economic, and ecological justice. It does so through skill building, network-connecting, and activating leadership opportunities. Its goal is for all communities in Western New York to thrive free from discrimination and poverty.