Supporting social justice issues is uncharted territory for many socially responsible companies and corporate funders. But the Levi Strauss Foundation (LSF) is committed to bridging this divide by investing in communities and leaders of color.
In 2010, LSF launched our Pioneers in Justice initiative, a five-year program empowering a cohort of next-generation leaders of established Bay Area civil rights organizations — all of them leaders of color — to experiment with bold new strategies for movement-building. The program was so successful that we built upon the program in 2015, selecting a second cohort of social justice leaders working at the grassroots level on systemic change in the areas of gender equality, climate change, criminal justice, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equity, immigrant rights and gun violence.
This week, we are excited to announce plans for our third cohort of Pioneers, which will run through 2023 — and this time we are seeking nominations of women and femme identified Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders, including trans and nonbinary individuals. Research by our program partner Open Impact found that movements led by women of color are largely ignored both for funding and for leadership development. Our goal is to shift this dynamic by investing in a cohort that supports the learning, resilience, and impact of all female-identifying social justice leaders of color.
We are now accepting nominations through March 19 — self-nominations are welcome.
Through the Pioneers initiative we’ve learned that partnering with movement leaders is not a top-down process, but rather a side-by-side effort, with learning and influence flowing both ways. It calls for uncomfortable candor, radical empathy and a kind of flexibility not often practiced in corporate philanthropy. Yes, we’ve helped the leaders in the initiative strengthen their voices, reach new audiences and elevate their ability to lead today’s movements. But in turn, they have improved our ability as a foundation and a company to deliver on our core values: empathy, integrity, originality and courage. We look forward to building on these efforts together with our incoming Pioneers class.
Know someone who may be a good fit or are you personally interested in the initiative? Please submit your nomination here. We will reach out to your nominee and ask them to submit an application. If you are self-nominating, please fill submit your application form here.
To learn more about the Pioneers in Justice initiative, please the Foundation’s recent report, Pioneers 2020: Funding the Frontlines of Social Justice.