March 2010 Victory Pages

Austin Interfaith Victory Pages

March 29th, 2010

A newsletter on the successes of Austin Interfaith member institutions

200 leaders participate in Austin Interfaith Annual Delegates Assembly – Organizing teams from each of Austin Interfaith member institutions gathered on March 9th at San Jose Catholic Church to develop the AI organizing strategy for the coming year. Teams made commitments for institutional dues, participation in the corporate investment campaign, identifying new leaders, and issues they will focus on. AI institutions more than doubled the size of their core leadership since last years assembly (85 organizing team leaders). Councilwoman Laura Morrison was also recognized at the assembly for sticking to her commitments to the organization on support for Capital IDEA and living wages.

Living Wages for Tax Subsidies – Over the past several months Austin Interfaith leaders have pushed to require companies receiving tax subsidies to move to Austin to pay living wages with benefits, a career track, and a strategy to hire locally. AI’s work has lead to a city resolution requiring companies to disclose the wages they pay the bottom 10% of their workers, as well as a commitment to moving hearings to after work hours. Most importantly, the points Austin Interfaith has been advocating for are now part of the public debate on every deal. (See attached press links).

Immigration –

In order to increase safety and reduce fear in Austin neighborhoods, AI leaders are working with APD Chief Art Acevedo and the Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton to build relationships and trust with law enforcement officers. After conducting a house meeting campaign in immigrant parishes, AI leaders surfaced stories of fear of immigrants being jailed and possibly deported for minor traffic violations. Chief Acevedo and Sheriff Hamilton affirmed that this is not the policy of their agencies and committed to working with Austin Interfaith to continue to build relationships and trust within the immigrant community.


Individual meetings (aka “one-on-ones” or “relational meetings”) are primarily about identifying potential leaders. It is the most basic and most fundamental tool in broad-based organizing. Top leaders in the organization should be on a constant “talent search” by doing regular individual meetings. For an organizing team, individual meetings are best done as part of a campaign (1-3 months). Individual meetings are a 20-30 minute conversation focused on a persons’ story, passion, anger, important relationships, etc., and often end with a proposal for action.


Hugh Heclo, in his book, On Thinking Institutionally, makes the case that an openness to the traditions, values, and relationships, within institutions (congregations, schools, political and legal institutions, sports teams, etc) is necessary for full human development and a stable society. He makes a distinction between “bureaucratic” thinking, and “institutional thinking”, the latter being marked by an openness to receiving values passed on, and an understanding that we were formed by those who came before us, and our decisions have an impact on those who come after us.


Austin Interfaith/Austin Catholic Diocese Immigration Organizing Training, Saturday April 17th, 9:00am-12:00noon at the Austin Catholic Diocese Pastoral Center (6225 E. Hwy 290). This is open to all congregations interested in organizing around the issue of immigration. This effort has been a partnership of Austin Interfaith and the Austin Catholic Diocese Office of Hispanic Ministry.

Austin Interfaith Education Civic Academy, April 27th 2009, 6:30-8:00PM (check with the office to confirm location). This will take the place of the monthly leaders meeting and will be open to all institutions and leaders. The focus will be on understanding current issues impacting Central Texas districts as well as a strategy for education organizing.

Please call the Austin Interfaith Office with any questions: 512-916-0100



Economic Development Initiatives 2008-2009

Austin Interfaith, with a budget of under $250,000, leveraged an investment of over $18,000,000 in 2008-09 in human development and neighborhood initiatives created through its organizing
JET FUND: Austin Interfaith worked to create a $10,000,000 competitive state grant program for proven,
long-term job training programs such as Capital IDEA, started by Austin Interfaith. Austin Interfaith worked with a bipartisan group of elected officials, including Comptroller Susan Combs, Lt Governor David Dewhurst, Rep Mark Strama and other legislators, to create the Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) Fund Grants for Innovative and Successful Programs, which will match local investment.
CAPITAL IDEA: $2.5 million in direct investment in Capital IDEA by the City of Austin, Travis County
and federal government. Capital IDEA was started by Austin Interfaith and the business community.
ACCOUNT FOR LEARNING: Over $3,200,000 in resources for low-income schools in AISD through
the Account for Learning Program, including the funding of Parent Support Specialists for these schools.
ESL PROGRAMS: $222,000 City/County investment in adult ESL programs started by Austin Interfaith
AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAMS: Over $800,000 for after school enrichment programs for 28 AISD
through the Prime Time Program, created by Austin Interfaith.
INVESTMENT CAPITAL FUND: $200,000 in state grant money to AISD schools for parent and
teacher training through the Investment Capital Fund Grant created by Austin Interfaith and its Texas IAF Network sister organizations. To date, AISD schools have received over $2,000,000 in funding through this grant.
SUMMER YOUTH EMPLOYMENT: $600,000 in City and County funding for the Summer Youth
Employment Program.
WATER INFRASTRUCTURE: Over $500,000 in public and private investment to connect 40 families
in East Travis County to running water for the first time in five years.
TRAFFIC SAFETY: $100,000 for a traffic light at the dangerous intersection of Metric and Bittern
Hollow, near St. Albert the Great Catholic Church.

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University: In a just released study of Austin Interfaith’s work with East Austin Schools over a six year period, Austin Interfaith’s work with AISD schools increased student achievement on standardized tests by an average of 15-19%, improved professional culture and parent involvement, and yielded substantial new resources to all high poverty, low-performing schools.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs: In her Texas Works Report, recognized Austin Interfaith for its work in creating Capital IDEA, long term job training initiative started by Austin Interfaith which prepares low-earning adults for careers in living wage jobs.
The Governor’s Select Committee on Global Competitiveness: This committee chaired by businessman Woody Hunt called on the legislature to invest money in successful workforce strategies, singling out Austin Interfaith’s Capital IDEA as successful example.


2009 Summary

Austin Interfaith “Let justice pour down like waters”….Amos 5:24 1301 S. IH 35, Suite 313 Austin, Texas 78741 Phone (512) 916-0100 Fax (512) 916-0251 December 30, 2009 Dear Austin Interfaith Clergy, Leaders, and Supporters: We wish you and your families a Happy New Year as we enter 2010. We especially want to recognize all the hard work that you have done to make 2009 an important and successful year for Austin Interfaith. In 2009, our organization along with the Texas IAF sister organizations, worked with Comptroller Susan Combs to create and pass the $10 million JET Fund for successful long term job training programs. Capital IDEA received two of the first JET funds this fall…$500,000 for the Austin area and $250,000 to start a satellite of Capital IDEA in collaboration with our sister organization TMO in Houston. The collaboration of Austin Interfaith congregations and schools was featured in a landmark study by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. In the first nationwide study to measure the impact of education organizing, Austin Interfaith’s work in AISD schools was shown to have a dramatic impact on test scores, professional culture, parent-teacher collaboration, and resources for all low income schools. Their final conclusion was that all low-income schools in AISD benefited from the programs and resources created by Austin Interfaith. As you can see from the list of accomplishments in this letter, in 2009 Austin Interfaith with an organizational budget of under $250,000, leveraged $18million in funding for original programs it has created through its organizing. That is a return of 72 to 1 for programs like ESL, Prime Time After School Program, water infrastructure at Santa Barbara Catholic Church, the Summer Youth Employment Program and Capital IDEA. This does not include our advocacy for existing programs and initiatives like CHIP, AISD employee compensation, and statewide funding for schools. Austin Interfaith itself does not accept public money, and is funded primarily through institutional member dues, corporate investment, and foundation support. Austin Interfaith also held a successful Economic Summit with the Central Texas Business Community in February, as well as an Accountability Session in April which again was the largest event of the municipal election season. This work, and the resulting accomplishments, was the result of hundreds of one-on-one relational meetings, house meetings, research actions, training sessions, civic academies, and meetings with public officials. Two issues have come to the forefront in 2009 and will be major initiatives in 2010. Austin Interfaith has begun an intensive collaboration on immigration organizing with the Catholic Diocese of Austin. This is in response to increasing political pressure on immigrant families trying to work and live in Central Texas. Additionally, the issue of Living Wages is at the center of our work given the economic situation and growing inequality in Austin. Specifically, Austin Interfaith is working to hold the Mayor and all City Council members to their pre-election commitments that companies receiving public tax subsidies to move to Austin must provide jobs that pay living wages of $18/hr with benefits, a career track, and have a strategy to hire locally. Again, we wish to recognize your investment in Austin Interfaith, in terms of your institution’s leadership development, financial investment, and time. Obviously this commitment has paid off for Austin and the Central Texas region as a whole. But renewing our commitment to this work is more important now than ever. Austin has a poverty rate, child poverty rate, and uninsured rate that is higher than the national average. Travis County has the fifth highest inequality in the country. And although we have worked with Santa Barbara Catholic Church to raise over $600,000 in public and private investment in water infrastructure, over 30 families are still without running water because of government delays. We must continue to challenge ourselves to have the imagination, perseverance, and tenacity to organize effectively for the families in our communities. This happens through in an investment in leadership and an investment in people. We look forward to continuing this important work together in 2010. Please put on your calendar the following two important events coming up in the New Year: 1. On Saturday, January 9th 2010 the TX IAF will hold an Economic Conference in San Antonio starting at 10am and ending at 3pm. (Leaders will be traveling down on a bus. Please check with the Austin Interfaith office for further information) 2. On Tuesday, February 23rd at 7pm Austin Interfaith will hold its delegates assembly. Location to be announced. Again, congratulations on organizing effectively for all families in Central Texas. Sincerely, Austin Interfaith Executive Team

800 leaders turn out for April Accountability Session

In the largest event of the local election season, Austin Interfaith leaders turned out in force to set the agenda for candidates running for Austin City Council and AISD and ACC boards.

Held on April 20 at St. Ignatius, Martyr Catholic Church in South Austin , leaders shared their stories of pressures they and their families are facing in the areas of health care, employment, education, ESL, immigration status, relations with the police, and traffic concerns.

Firm commitments were made by candidates to vote for increased funding and support for these initiatives that help bring people into the middle class and keep them there. Leaders collected over 5,000 signatures on agendas of issues. In a strong showing of organized political power, leaders from Austin Interfaith institutions gathered over 5,000 signatures on local and organizational agendas of issues from their institutional members and from the public. These signatures were used to help turn out the vote in the local May elections.


First House Gets Running Water in Plainview Estates

Santa Barbara leaders have succeeded in getting the first of a total of forty families in the Hornsby Bend area fully connected to running water.

Last year over $400,000 in infrastructure was invested in the project to get running water for the families, some of whom had been without water for five years,. By organizing residents to work together with the utility company, applications were approved, pipes laid on properties, and meters activated to start the water flowing! The community is now focused on organizing to get the financial resources needed for the remaining families to get their water too.

Plainview Estates to Finally Get WaterAustin Chronicle


Welcome to new member institutions!

Three new members have joined Austin Interfaith since the start of the year. 

Congregation Kol Halev:  a Jewish congregation with a focus on community that meets at the Dell Jewish Community Center in Northwest Austin :

ACC/AFT (Austin Community College American Federation of Teachers Union):  
local branch 6249 of the national and state federation of teachers and represents all non-administrative employees of Austin Community College . 

Simpson United Methodist Church :  a historically African-American, central East Austin congregation established in 1880 that has played a significant role in the city for over 100 years.


Austin Interfaith conducts Research Actions on Health Care, Education, Workforce, and Police Relations

Dozens of leaders held over forty conversations in the first months of the year with policy makers, academics, community leaders, and public officials to learn in detail about these issue areas. Relationships, knowledge, and analysis gained in these meetings informed the action strategies and questions asked to candidates at the April Accountability Session.


Austin Interfaith holds Capital IDEA orientations that reach over 1,000 Austinites

Austin Interfaith leaders and Capital IDEA staff collaborated to host two rounds of orientations at Mt. Olive Baptist Church , Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, Dolores Catholic Church, St. Albert the Great Catholic Church, and San Jose Catholic Church in February and June.

A particular success was the doubling of the number of men who attended the orientations. This success was due in part to the new Ambassadors program that targets minority men for participation in Capital IDEA.



Leadership training in Spanish co-hosted with the Catholic Diocese

50 leaders from Catholic parishes throughout Austin gathered at Dolores Catholic Church for a half-day of intensive leadership training.

Spanish-speaking Austin Interfaith leaders collaborated with Gil Leija, Director of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese, to conduct the session and support leadership among immigrants and Spanish-speakers in Catholic churches.


Collaborations established with the University of Texas at Austin

Austin Interfaith was a community partner in a spring semester graduate course that focused on health disparities in central Texas .

Two leaders were enrolled in the course itself and Austin Interfaith collaborated with the professors and students to host a public education workshop for Spanish speakers at Dolores Catholic Church and to present at the international Abriendo Brecha: Activist Scholarship Conference. In addition, an undergraduate anthropology student interned with Austin Interfaith to support research and organizing efforts around health care issues.