CitizensNYC, Rising Together: Changing the Trajectory of New York, One Community at a Time
“Anybody can change the trajectory of their neighborhood or their community if they’re willing to step up.”
This ethos has always guided the work of CitizensNYC – from its origins empowering New Yorkers to respond to citywide cutbacks and widespread poverty in the 1970s to its current focus on grantmaking in communities of color hit hardest by COVID-19. “CitizensNYC democratizes civic engagement,” continues CEO Dr. Rahsaan Harris. “It democratizes everybody's ability to be part of positive change in their neighborhood.”
Micro-grants that give people the resources they need to effect change in their own neighborhoods are a cornerstone of CitizensNYC’s work. Beyond that, the organization serves as a platform for New Yorkers whose voices have historically been ignored or oppressed by those in positions of power. “We prioritize collective action that comes from places that have been traditionally either low income or had low access to resources,” says Harris. “The ideal applicant is someone that isn’t part of the nonprofit-industrial complex."
In April 2021, NFF partnered with CitizensNYC through Rising Together: a Morgan Stanley-funded effort to co-design programs that boost nonprofits’ financial health in direct response to their interest in financial management and planning. Through Rising Together, NFF staff are engaging one-on-one with ten members of the CitizensNYC network, offering grant support and tailored financial management training while working with these organizations to shape the scope of the initiative over time.
Harris is hopeful that this partnership – and the network it's creating – can help these community leaders achieve impact in their communities and beyond. “We're calling in these different leaders...so that they can thrive in places that weren't necessarily made for them, but that they can transform by their mere presence.”
Read on to learn about the critical work CitizensNYC member organizations are engaging in across the city.