Families set the agenda for Equal Voice, MCF’s national membership organization

How do you build and sustain a national membership organization that elevates the voices of families? If you’re Marguerite Casey Foundation, you identify key people in the community and ask for their guidance.

Last July the Foundation hosted the first meeting of the Family Advisory Committee, formed to help build and sustain Equal Voice, a national membership organization that will represent the voices of families at the local, state and national level. As Advisory Committee members converged on Seattle, no one knew what to expect. They were all accomplished in their local communities, located in the 13 states where the Foundation makes grants. Yet they were 15 individuals, with varied interests and backgrounds, ranging in age from 18 to over 60. Members have worked on issues such as domestic violence, homelessness, criminal justice, the environment, education and immigration. None of them had met before. But, immediately, the group gelled. Their shared belief that no family should live in poverty and that every family should have an equal voice in determining polices that affect their lives served as the connector.

Over three days, they dug into the issues that would lay down a foundation for Equal Voice moving forward: How do you engage families and motivate them to join together? How do you structure an unprecedented organization like this? And how do you maintain its focus?

The questions were tough but the discussion was lively­. Opinions were sought­­-and valued­­-in keeping with Equal Voice’s mission: giving working families a voice at the national level. Over the course of those three days, the Foundation mostly just listened.

In the coming year, the Foundation will provide opportunities and training to help Family Advisory Committee members amplify their voices, and become ambassadors for Equal Voice in their local communities. Our hope, and theirs, is that the echo soon will be heard from coast to coast.

Equal Voice Family Advisory Committee

Alabama Maricela Garcia
Star Paschal
Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama
Arizona Cindie Nahsonhoya Tucson Indian Center
Arkansas Rev. Steve Copley National Council of Churches
California Marisol Ocampo Latino Health Access
Florida Marcia Olivo Miami Workers Center
Georgia Lara Ann Evans
Illinois Charles Jenkins Chicago Coalition
for the Homeless
Kentucky Dana Beasley Brown Kentucky Coalition/
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
Louisiana Ernest Johnson Families and Friends of Louisiana’s
Incarcerated Children
Mississippi Tisna Hall-Morris Citizens for a Better Greenville
New Mexico  Aragon Organizers in the
Land of Enchantment
Tennessee Melissa Gordon Highlander Research
and Education Center
Texas Elsa Gonzalez