Here are some of the lessons we have taken with us from the past decade:

  • Believe in people and communities. We had to push Arkansas toward a vision of justice, and we along with our partners had to be specific and compelling enough to drive toward the transformation of our communities and state.
  • Tell stories. We used WRF’s voice effectively to shape attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors to ensure state and local leaders saw, celebrated, and did their part to scale what works.
  • Embrace failure. We pushed ourselves to not just accept failure but celebrate it as well because the “facepalm” moments—times when things “went off the rails” and did not go according to plan—are the greatest opportunities for funders to learn.
  • Support the sector. WRF invested in advocates, activists, and ambassadors for policies that advanced justice for working families and their children. We also had to build relationships with unlikely partners and create new initiatives and organizations to drive change.
  • Measure impact to learn. The foundation learned with partners and acknowledged that voices from partners and the communities they served helped WRF track progress to change lives and the state.
  • Be curious when faced with the unexpected. Change was not a linear path, and some of our greatest lessons arose from unintended outcomes that resulted from investing in transforming systems.
  • Invest in operations and innovation rather than programs. WRF provided organizational and back-office support so partners could sustain impact, develop innovative approaches, and learn because we knew programs would not be enough to transform systems.
  • Be comprehensive and ready to play the long game. We needed to build all-encompassing, long-term campaigns with Arkansans to drive an agenda through public will-building, policy change, and partnership with community; and we had to be prepared to invest over the course of a generation.
  • Attract additional resources. The Foundation leveraged relationships with funders across the U.S. to build a thriving and prosperous state that would benefit all

Read the full article about advancing social justice by Rev. Cory S. Anderson at PEAK Insight Journal.