To support community organizers, advocates, and activists working year-round in places traditionally under-resourced, excluded, and ignored.

To invest in hyperlocal efforts that create sustainable civic infrastructure, engage and educate voters, and build power for the underrepresented and disenfranchised.

To advocate for a more responsive and representative democracy that can deliver justice, equity, and opportunity for all.

two hands clasped in solidarity

Our Vision

In the fight to defend American democracy, frontline community organizers are our single most impactful asset. This theory of change defines Groundwork Project, an organization founded in 2021 by former Congressman Joe Kennedy III.

Conservative forces provide a compelling test case for our theory. Far outside of coastal centers and the American Midwest, they have invested, organized, and consistently base built across the Deep South, Appalachia and the Plains – largely unopposed for generations. Today, these investments are bearing fruit, as anti-democracy forces are using the awesome civic power they have accrued in these places to threaten bodily autonomy, public education, voting rights, climate action and democratic freedom for us all.

This moment demands a response, and an end to the unopposed resources regressive, anti-democratic and anti-equality forces have funneled into these regions.

Enter: Groundwork Project.

We show up in the real battlegrounds – where the fight isn't about one candidate or one election, but about the survival of our democracy and our truest ideals. With a focus on Appalachia, the Deep South, and the Plains, Groundwork Project is the sole national pro-democracy and social justice organization singularly focused on supporting frontline organizers on the most crucial fronts in this generation’s battle for civil rights, equality and democracy itself.

We do this by working with partners on the ground to resource local organizers; support statewide infrastructure, shift civic narratives; and develop local leaders.

What sets Groundwork apart is our commitment to organizers who are working in regions that have otherwise been ignored and overlooked. These advocates are essential architects of the base-building required to compete with anti-democracy power in our states. We have uniquely positioned ourselves to find the best organizers with the biggest impact and get them more resources to do the work that our country's future is, quite literally, depending on.

We believe the stakes of this work are not political, but deeply human. Facing the highest rates of poverty, incarceration, illness and oppression anywhere in the country, Groundwork’s regions live everyday with the dire consequences of our failure to protect justice and equity for all.

This lends unique urgency to the Groundwork mission.

hand stopping dominoes from falling

Our Model


Supporting Frontline Organizers

The anchor of Groundwork’s engagement model in our focus states is providing capital, community and capacity to local frontline organizers, creating a unique and powerful Groundwork Organizer Network. Through our flagship Organizer Grant Program, we deliver multi-year, unrestricted grants to the Network, as well as significant wraparound support for all of our Network partners, from trainings to 1:1 mentorship and other technical assistance.


Investing in Statewide Infrastructure

We take time to earn trust with the organizers, organizations and local leaders working in coalition to build lasting political infrastructure in our focus states. Through engagement with donor alliances, civic engagement tables, local talent pipelines and issue campaigns, we support efforts to sustainably grow progressive, pro-democracy power statewide. Using the robust relationships developed via the Groundwork Organizer Network, we help deploy collective grassroots organizing capacity towards long-term progress.


Shifting Civic Narratives

We challenge boom-and-bust civic spending and dismantle the false narrative that tough regions are not worth progressive investment, aggressively elevating the work of our state partners in front of our national networks and on our large digital platforms. Within our states, where anti-democracy voices can dominate public discourse, we utilize our digital assets and external communications vehicles to elevate pro-democracy voices and resource them to expand the reach of their voices.


Developing Local Leaders

We invest in the local leaders that change depends on, helping them build full-time organizing careers where they are challenged, cared for and compensated fairly. Pro-democracy work in Groundwork States is difficult, often dangerous work. We know that getting more resources, community and support to local leaders is essential to building the long term organizing capacity required to win. Through the Groundwork Organizer Network and The Organizing Accelerator, a first-of-its-kind partnership with the NAACP, Groundwork is training and mentoring the next generation of organizing leaders working on democracy’s frontlines.


Headshot of Anthony Davis Jr

Anthony Davis Jr.

Position: National Organizing & Programming Advisor
Anthony Davis Jr. joined the Groundwork Team fresh off of Mayor Michelle Wu’s historic campaign where he served as Field Director. Davis is a graduate of Morehouse College and a member of the Pi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Since graduating, Davis has served as a political strategist and organizer with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and with a number of progressive leaders in Massachusetts, Alabama, Maryland, and Mississippi — including Senator Elizabeth Warren; Senator Doug Jones; Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Congressman Joe Kennedy, Candidate Ben Jealous and Candidate Mike Espy.

Anthony Davis Jr. joined the Groundwork Team fresh off of...

Anthony Davis Jr.

National Organizing & Programming Advisor
Headshot of Aspen Christian

Aspen Christian

Position: Digital Director (they/them)

Aspen has focused their career in digital communications and organizing at social justice nonprofit organizations. Before Groundwork Project, they worked as the Senior Strategist of Communications and Digital Organizing at Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates. Aspen has an MA in Women’s and Gender Studies from The Graduate Center at the City University of New York, as well as a BA in Cultural Anthropology and a BA in Gender & Activism from Indiana University of Indianapolis. In their free time, you can find them watching reality TV shows and cooking dinner with their wife, and hanging out with their two cats, Poopy and Turkey.

Aspen has focused their career in digital communications and organizing...

Aspen Christian

Digital Director (they/them)
Headshot of Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor

Position: Southern Organizing Advisor (he/him)

Charles Taylor is a graduate of Morehouse College and a member of Freedom Side, a national collective of social justice community organizers. He served as a State Organizer for the Mississippi Conference NAACP 2012 “This Is My Vote” campaign which registered 29,000+ African Americans to vote in Mississippi. Taylor was the Field Director and Campaign Coordinator for the Better Schools, Better Jobs (Initiative 42 in MS to fully fund education). Additionally, Taylor has consulted for One Voice, Inc. as a data manager, served as a Data Consultant with MS Votes, and worked as a community organizer for Energy Democracy. Taylor was the Data Director for Mike Espy for Senate Campaign in 2018 and for Jay Hughes for Lt. Governor of Mississippi in 2019.

Charles Taylor is a graduate of Morehouse College and a...

Charles Taylor

Southern Organizing Advisor (he/him)
Headshot of Emily Kaufman

Emily Kaufman

Position: Executive Director (she/her)

Emily is a political strategist, storyteller, and team leader with a deep resume of  communications experience across highly-contested federal races, state government, and Capitol Hill. From national prime-time addresses to viral digital moments, she specializes in developing simple, persuasive narratives that cut through the noise. 


For the last ten years she has served as Joe Kennedy’s communications director and chief speechwriter. Emily is passionate about progressive policy reform and supporting women who want to run for office, overthrow the patriarchy…or just take a nap. She’s the oldest of three girls and loves the ocean, her two little kids, and Dolly Parton, probably in that order.

Emily is a political strategist, storyteller, and team leader with...

Emily Kaufman

Executive Director (she/her)
Headshot of Joe Kennedy III

Joe Kennedy

Position: Founder (he/him)

Joe Kennedy has dedicated his career to social and economic justice. A former Congressman, legal aid volunteer, and assistant district attorney, he founded Groundwork Project to address pervasive disparities in the American political system and to help ensure our democracy is more inclusive, representative, and fair.


Over four terms in the House of Representatives, Kennedy built an impressive legislative record around civil rights, health care, and economic policy, emerging as a national figure in some of our most pivotal political debates. From his headline-making fights for affordable health care and compassionate immigration policy to his legislative leadership on issues like mental health parity and transgender equality, he became one of the Trump Era’s most powerful voices for moral clarity.


In addition to Groundwork Project, Joe is the Managing Director at Citizens Energy, a non-profit company founded in 1979 to help low-income families meet their basic needs. At Citizens, Joe focuses on making renewable power more accessible to households historically priced out of green energy.


In December 2022, President Biden appointed Joe as the Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs, where he focuses on the long-standing U.S. commitment to peace, prosperity, and stability throughout the region.


He also serves as a senior advisor at the Emerson Collective and on the boards of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the Woodwell Climate Research Center, the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, and the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps.


Prior to serving in Congress, Kennedy was an Assistant District Attorney in Massachusetts. He attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School, where he was an active member of the Legal Aid Bureau, and spent two years in the United States Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. The grandson of former United States Attorney General Robert Kennedy and great-nephew of President John F. Kennedy and former Senator Ted Kennedy, he is married to Lauren Birchfield Kennedy, founder and CEO of Neighborhood Villages, a leading childcare advocacy group. They live in Newton, Massachusetts with their two young children, Eleanor and James.

Joe Kennedy has dedicated his career to social and economic...

Joe Kennedy

Founder (he/him)

J’Shawna Smith-Hayes

Position: Program Officer (she/her)

“Focused on Leaving a Blueprint of LOVE for people and helping Create a Better Community.”
We are Better Together!

J’Shawna Smith-Hayes is an Oklahoma native that has worked in Oil & Gas for over 15 years, and 12 of those years have been in management. Over the past 2.5 years, before getting more involved in being an advocate in the community, she also served as Chief Financial Officer at All Nations Champions Church. J’Shawna is focused on bettering the community and giving back through her non-profit called The H.O.P.E Foundation (Helping Others Persevere in Excellence), founded in 2022. The H.O.P.E Foundation aims to enhance the community, supporting our youth, providing clean laundry, meals, scholarships, and education to our less fortunate and rural communities. The H.O.P.E Scholarship Fund was birthed out of wanting to provide resources to high school students that want to attend college or a trade school but may not have the resources to do so, which will be awarded each year to a high school senior that is in a rural community. The H.O.P.E Foundation, in 2022 launched a campaign in the state of Oklahoma, called Vote For Change, alongside co-founder Julius Jones and the Julius Jones Institute. VFC’s purpose and focus is voter engagement, education and registration in our local communities, high schools, and colleges. J’Shawna is also an entrepreneur creating her own dry cleaning & laundry pickup and delivery service, Pure Dry Cleaning & Laundry, established in 1999. Her business and non-profit have had the opportunity to establish partnership with Socks of Love & Laundry Love of Oklahoma over the past two years. Raising money and providing free laundry 3 times a year for families in need. In 2022, collectively J’Shawna was able to raise over $15,000 toward scholarships, free laundry, free food, and sponsorship to help with the vision and mission of each organization. Also partnering with the Julius Jones Institute & the Julius Jones Coalition in the endeavor of bringing about change in our state. She also serves as the Voting Coordinator for the Julius Jones Coalition.

Specializing in business management, J’Shawna can use that experience not only in the corporate world or the board room, but also in her non-profit, community and within her own business. By focusing on the community, using the skills she has acquired, not only in ministry, but she has also been able to put her master’s degree, in business management, earned at Southern Nazarene University to good use. J’Shawna may spend her days working relentless hours at being an entrepreneur, mom, grandmother, advocate, sister, friend, and community organizer, but it’s the love that she has for her sons, the people, and the desire of wanting a better way of life for so
many, that gets her up in the morning. When J’Shawna is not working and giving back she enjoys traveling, shooting basketball, thrifting and spending time with family and friends. She is an ambassador for 988 Oklahoma, Oklahoma’s new Mental Health Lifeline and an influencer for Goodwill Oklahoma.

Her hope and desire are to inspire others to simply go and do the same. Lend a hand where a hand is needed, show love where love is needed and give hope where hope is needed.

“Focused on Leaving a Blueprint of LOVE for people and...

J’Shawna Smith-Hayes

Program Officer (she/her)
Headshot of Julia Hoffman

Julia Hoffman

Position: Senior Advisor (she/her)

Julia provides political fundraising strategy to candidates and elected officials who are building districtwide, statewide, and nationwide reputations as they seek to become the next generation of inspiring and dedicated public servants.

Julia has experience advising and leading fundraising teams for nonprofits, political committees, several members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, as well as U.S. Senate and House campaigns across the country. In 2012, Julia directed record-breaking fundraising efforts for Congressman Joe Kennedy III’s successful campaign for Congress, and continued to envision and execute Rep. Kennedy’s fundraising strategy through five election cycles. Julia also served as a part of the fundraising team for Forward Majority, an organization focused on flipping state legislatures in states with Republican trifectas, with the goal of dismantling the systematic disenfranchisement of Democrats through gerrymandering and voter suppression.

Julia is passionate about leveling the playing field to enable women to run for and win elected office. She helped spearhead the creation of a powerful political giving group in Massachusetts, which supports women candidates and elected officials, and educates women donors on the importance and impact of their political giving.

Julia provides political fundraising strategy to candidates and elected officials...

Julia Hoffman

Senior Advisor (she/her)
Headshot of Matt Kearney

Matt Kearney

Position: Massachusetts Organizing Advisor (he/him)

Matt is an experienced political organizer from Massachusetts who has executed a diverse array of voter engagement campaigns at the local, state, and federal level. Last cycle he worked on Joe Kennedy’s campaign for the U.S. Senate as well as for the Democratic nominee for Governor in Montana. Matt grew up in Scituate, Mass., loves to sail and can usually be found spending time with his (very large) extended family.

Matt is an experienced political organizer from Massachusetts who has...

Matt Kearney

Massachusetts Organizing Advisor (he/him)
Headshot of Tracey Lewis

Tracey Lewis

Position: National Organizing Advisor (she/her)

In 2020, Tracey returned to Georgia to lead her third statewide election as State Director for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and then continued on as the senior advisor for the Democratic Party of Georgia’s Senate Runoff Coordinated Campaign for Senators Ossoff and Warnock.  Tracey has experience working on campaigns at all levels including five national presidential races and has campaigned in seventeen states from New Hampshire to Mississippi. Tracey started organizing as a volunteer in Boston, Massachusetts and would eventually become the first African American to manage a coordinated campaign in Massachusetts.  Tracey grew up in Syracuse, New York.

In 2020, Tracey returned to Georgia to lead her third...

Tracey Lewis

National Organizing Advisor (she/her)


Headshot of Alexis Mangan Callaway

Alexis Magnan-Callaway

Fairness Project (she/her)

Headshot of Amber Thomas

Amber Thomas

NAACP (she/her)

Headshot of Amy Curran

Amy Curran

OK Center for Nonprofits (she/her)

Headshot of Andy Moore

Andy Moore

Let's Fix This. (he/him)

Headshot of Beth Huang

Beth Huang

Tides Foundation (she/her)

Headshot of Brandon Jones

Brandon Jones

Southern Poverty Law Center (he/him)

Headshot of Cassandra Welchlin

Cassandra Welchlin

Mississippi Black Women's Roundtable (she/her)

Headshot of Clay Milton

Clay Middleton

Dirt Road PAC (he/him)

Courtney Body

One Voice Mississippi (she/her)

Headshot of Dana Kuhnline

Dana Kuhnline

ReImagine Appalachia (she/her)

Headshot of Doug Turner

Doug Turner

EveryVoice (he/him)

Headshot of Tiffany Crutcher

Dr. Tiffany Crutcher

Terence Crutcher Foundation (she/her)

Headshot of Erica Iheme

Erica Iheme

Jobs to Move America (she/her)

Headshot of Eva Kendrick

Eva Kendrick

Alabama (she/her)

Evan Milligan

Alabama Forward (he/him)

Headshot of Jataune Bosby Gilchrist

JaTaune Bosby Gilchrist

ACLU Alabama (she/her)

Headshot of Jeffrey Thomas

Jeffrey Thomas

Mississippi Delta Voter Engagement Project (he/him)

Headshot of Jilisa Milton

Jilisa Milton

Greater Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution (she/her)

Headshot of Johnna Bailey

Johnna Bailey

For West Virginia's Future (she/her)

Headshot of Joshua Harris Till

Joshua Harris-Till

Oklahoma (he/him)

Headshot of Justin Vest

Justin Vest

Hometown Action (they/them)

Headshot of Katey Lauer

Katey Lauer

West Virginia Can't Wait (she/her)

Headshot of Lorena Quiroz

Lorena Quiroz

Immigrant Alliance for Justice & Equity (she/her)

Headshot of Maria Martinez

Maria Martinez

Activist/Organizer (she/her)

Headshot of Matthew Campbell

Matthew Campbell

Delta Regional Authority (he/him)

Headshot of Paula Hodges

Paula Hodges

Committee on States (she/her)

Headshot of Renee Hagerty

Renée Hagerty

West Virginia Civic Engagement Table (she/her)

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Rep. Chris England

Alabama (he/him)

Headshot of Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray

ST Comms Shop | Cherokee Nation/Muscogee Nation/Kiowa Tribe (she/her)

Headshot of Scott Douglas

Scott Douglas

Greater Birmingham Ministries (he/him)

Headshot of Stephen Smith

Stephen Smith

West Virginia Can't Wait (he/him)

Headshot of Sulma Arias

Sulma Arias

People's Action (she/her)

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Groundwork Project do?

Groundwork Project supports local community organizers in places traditionally under-resourced, excluded and ignored. We help them scale their efforts via unrestricted funding, capacity-building, digital amplification/narrative support, and other forms of direct aid.

What entities comprise Groundwork Project?

Groundwork Project Action is a 501(c)(4) organization that primarily focuses on supporting local community organizers working to build power in historically excluded communities.

Groundwork Project PAC is a federal political action committee that can engage in partisan activities aligned with our larger mission.

Where does my money go?

Your generous contribution supports Groundwork Project in providing direct financial assistance to our partner organizations on the ground in Groundwork states via the Groundwork Organizer Grant Program and Groundwork Mini-Grant Fund, as well as assists with operations (like paying the staff that support our amazing partners).

Where is Groundwork Project focused?

At this time, Groundwork Project is focused on supporting community organizers in three regions: Appalachia, the Deep South, and the Plains. Within our three regions, our first four partner states are Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia. We plan to roll out additional partner states in the years ahead.

We've chosen these regions and states because we believe they are the frontlines of the biggest battles of our time and we know that, despite this, they have most acutely felt a lack of attention and resources from national funders and the larger progressive movement. They tend to get written off as 'too tough’ or ‘not worth it’. We strongly disagree. These places are home to some of the most celebrated civil rights movements and history-defining fights for progress, and they remain home to some of the fiercest and most talented community organizers anywhere in the country. With sustained investment in long-term civic infrastructure, these organizers will change the trajectory of their states, our political map, and the entire country.

Where is Groundwork Project located?

Groundwork Project is a national organization with a diverse and digitally-connected team. Staff members and advisors work remotely. Groundwork Project was born in Massachusetts, where its founder is based.

What makes Groundwork Project unique?

A focus on the "toughest" places: The vast majority of dollars and attention from national progressive funders goes to traditional “battleground states.” We focus on the regions that others don't – the Plains, the Deep South and Appalachia – and fill a persistent gap on the map when it comes to long-term progressive infrastructure.

A commitment to multi-year investments: We are focused on ten-year plans, not two-year plans, because creating infrastructure requires sustained, year-round organizing which requires sustained, year-round resources. Through our flagship Organizer Grant Program we deliver multi-year, unrestricted grants to highly effective local organizers.

A deference to local leaders: Our job is to give local community organizers the additional resources and support they need to do more of the good work they're already doing; not to tell them how to do that work. We are partner-led and listen to what they need, rather than assuming we know.

A depth of work: We show up and go deep. We don't just write checks and move on. We build relationships in our partner states and work tirelessly to understand the local landscape, build trust with local leaders, and become valuable partners on the ground.

How does Groundwork Project specifically support its partner states and organizations?

Hyperlocal Grantmaking: We deliver multi-year, unrestricted grants to the most effective hyperlocal community organizers in our focus states. With a deep commitment to creating sustainable organizing capacity, our grantees receive wraparound support from the Groundwork team. Our wraparound support includes a vibrant peer-learning community, access to best-in-class training opportunities, and 1:1 mentorship.

Infrastructure Investments: We take time to earn trust with the organizers, organizations and local leaders working in coalition to build lasting progressive infrastructure in our focus states. Through engagement with donor alliances, civic engagement tables, local talent pipelines and issue campaigns, we support efforts to sustainably grow statewide political power.

Narrative Change: We challenge boom-and-bust political spending and dismantle the false narrative that tough regions are not worth progressive investment. We elevate the work of our state partners in front of our national networks and on our large digital platforms, encouraging our audiences to take a long-term, more strategic approach to their political giving.

How do I apply for a Groundwork Grant?

Click here to learn more about Groundwork’s Grant opportunities.

Click here to fill out our Grant Interest Form, the first step in the grant application process.

Why can't I just give directly to these local groups?

You can! If you need an introduction or advice on where best to directly send resources in our partner states, drop us a line at team@groundworkproject.com and we will share with you everything we know. Connecting our partner organizations with funders directly is a big part of our work.

What we bring to the table is a commitment to multi-year investment informed by a holistic picture of the progressive organizing and infrastructure-building landscape across our partner states - and a well-informed, locally-sourced view of where the areas of greatest need and highest impact are. This is what drives the Groundwork Organizer Grant Program.

Does Groundwork Project support groups that advocate on a specific issue or set of issues?

Groundwork Project supports groups doing the deep organizing that sustainable political infrastructure requires, across a variety of issues and constituencies. We recognize that there are different issues that motivate communities to organize. We follow the lead of local groups; for one group, that might mean advocating for environmental justice, for another it might be advocating for safety for immigrants, and for another voting rights and reform.

How is Joe Kennedy involved?

Former Congressman Joe Kennedy is our founder, and he is deeply involved in the long-term vision for Groundwork Project. Over his years in office, Joe traveled the country extensively to help elect Democrats. This gave him a first-hand view of where progressives have not shown up as meaningfully as they should; and the consequences of that, not just for the political map but for people's lives. After leaving office, he founded Groundwork Project to re-direct the networks, resources, and assets he built up during his time in Congress towards the local community organizers who need support most.

Do you do work in Massachusetts?

Groundwork Project has an active presence in Massachusetts, where our organization was born and founder is based. This work has its own unique track, separate from the 'tough terrain' that anchors our national footprint, but mirrors those efforts in focus and priorities.

With its liberal reputation and wealth of progressive representation, it's easy to assume that our state lacks little when it comes to blue infrastructure, coalitions and capacity. That reality is much more complicated and reveals a state wrestling with profound racial, social, economic and political disparities.

We believe that dramatic investment in community organizing is the only way for Massachusetts to address this systemic divide in political power and build a Commonwealth that is as inclusive, representative and innovative as its reputation leads the nation to believe.

In Massachusetts we offer our flagship grant program, the Organizer Grant Program, to hyperlocal organizers who are working in communities with the lowest voter turnout in the state. This program awards unrestricted, multi-year grants along with access to a vibrant cross-state grantee community and wraparound support from the Groundwork team.

To learn more about Groundwork’s programs in Massachusetts, click here.

Is my donation tax deductible?

Contributions to Groundwork Project Action Fund and Groundwork Project PAC are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes. If you are interested in making a 501c3 donation please contact us at team@groundworkproject.com.

How can I support Groundwork Project besides giving money?
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