At Groundwork Project, we invest year-round in local community organizing. With a primary focus on Appalachia, the Deep South, and the Plains, we play the long game. Day to day, year to year: We show up to help build durable civic and political infrastructure in communities that have been overlooked, excluded and disenfranchised.
Meet our first four partner states. And stay tuned for more!
Alabama's rich political history features some of the most history-changing local organizing of the Civil Rights Era - and some of our nation's most stark setbacks to justice and equity in the form of white supremacy. Reckoning with this juxtaposition offers a path to durable power-building and progress over the next ten years.
Beginning with the infamous "Southern Strategy" of the 1960s, the conservative movement executed a successful effort to wrestle near-complete political control in Alabama at the local, state, and federal level. They've used this power with reckless abandon in recent years, imposing myriad voter suppression tactics, a near-total ban on abortions, and a transgender athlete ban.
Nevertheless there are signs of real opportunity and hope for the road ahead including demographic shifts, a broad base of likely voters committed to a more progressive future, and a vibrant, multi-racial coalition of 501c3 and 501c4 organizations and local political leaders working creatively and collaboratively to execute a long-term plan to undo conservative dominance in the state. Sustained organizing is needed to engage likely voters, listen, and build trust.
Alabama Organizer Grantees
For all of modern history, Mississippi has been the epicenter of some of our nation's most consequential fights for voting rights, racial justice and democracy itself.
Today, the legacy of Jim Crow echoes through the politics, public policy, and lived experience of residents in this still deeply segregated state. But there are signs of hope for growing progressive power in the electorate - as evidenced last cycle when voters overwhelmingly passed progressive ballot initiatives to remove the Confederate flag from its state flag and legalize medical marijuana.
With this in mind, local leaders have built on Mississippi's historic tradition of organizing and advocacy, working over the last five years to create critical infrastructure, develop voter engagement strategies and expand data capacity. But more resources are needed to overcome generations of racial disenfranchisement and build equitable power for all residents.
To counteract the powerful forces of white supremacy and segregation still at play in the state, a deep, sustained, and year-round effort is needed to engage young, Black voters, activate sporadic voters (particularly those in rural areas that have lost faith), and to implement long-term strategic persuasion campaigns aimed at shifting moveable white voters around a more progressive future.
mississippi organizer grantees
Oklahoma made headlines this year for being the first state in the country to pass a near-total ban on abortion. Its state legislature routinely makes national news for being amongst the most regressive in the nation. Public education, in particular, has been systemically defunded for years, making Oklahoma ground zero for anti-CRT and other classroom censorship efforts sweeping the country.
This largely-rural state has the lowest voter turnout and highest incarceration rate in the United States and political leadership that remains a deep shade of red.
But Groundwork sees clear seeds of opportunity on the ground if the resources can be secured to grow them. The organizing ecosystem on the ground is climbing high, despite the odds. Efforts are underway to form the first-ever civic engagement table and grassroots donor alliance. Last year, local activists captured national attention for their successful efforts to secure clemency for death row prisoner Julius Jones. Demographics provide additional opportunity, with a fast-growing Latino population that will turn Oklahoma City into a majority-minority city by 2030. And with 39 federally-recognized native tribes, Oklahoma’s native communities provide additional areas of opportunity, if approached with attention, respect and care.
Make no mistake: The political road ahead in Oklahoma is extremely difficult for those committed to a more just and equitable future for all. But that is precisely why Groundwork is choosing to work here. If we can get the incredible local organizers and leaders on the ground resources to educate, activate and engage voters they will write a new political story for Oklahoma’s future.
Oklahoma Organizer Grantees
The premier front for some of the most consequential labor battles in modern American history, West Virginia spent decades defined by proud populism, a distinct economic identity, and a deeply rural livelihood. But its rightward turn has been stark. Hollowed out political infrastructure has left progressives largely hamstrung in efforts to address the impact of the generational decline of the steel and coal industries on policy, politics, and public opinion in the state.
The only way to build back depleted trust is a coordinated, sustained, and several-cycle deep-canvassing effort, led by trusted, local community members, to persuade voters who have lost faith that a progressive future will benefit them and their loved ones.
A growing organizing ecosystem on the ground is ripe for additional investment as it begins to implement smart and sustainable strategies. From expanding 501c3 and 501c4 civic engagement tables to an energetic populist coalition, we see a rising generation of leadership who will change the trajectory of the state if they can secure the resources to do the work.
west virginia organizer grantees
Olive Tree Initiative
West Virginia Mini-Grantees
Olive Tree Initiative
While not an official focus state, the work begins at home. Groundwork Project will always be doing the work in Massachusetts!
To the outside, Massachusetts may appear to be an improbable fit for Groundwork's mission. 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.
Consider this: In 2020, wealthy, white suburbs around Boston saw voter turnout hovering as high as 90 percent. Meanwhile communities of color and Gateway Cities saw two-thirds of that, at best. In 2018, people of color made up nearly 20 percent of eligible voters, but cast only around 10 percent of all ballots - a power gap of nearly 50 percent.
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.
Delivering on Equity Collective