In January of 2016 MRG officially launched the Capacity Building Initiative (CBI). The CBI provides multi-year funding, individualized technical assistance, and peer learning opportunities to ten grassroots social change organizations across the state. Our pilot project is currently being funded in partnership with Meyer Memorial Trust. 

Voices of CBI is a blog series that features cohort members, grassroots capacity builders, and community partners involved in the program. By hearing their stories we hope that you will better understand the values, inspiration, and important work being done by this cohort of leaders to build a stronger grassroots social movements across the state. To start things off in our 40th year Capacity Building Director, Stephan Herrera shares a little bit about himself, his values, and how they are guiding the development of the CBI Program.

 Turning 40 can be a significant milestone that represents an arrival, of sorts, to life as a middle-aged person. I am working to embrace this arrival as an opportunity to take stock, reflect on lessons learned, and move forward with a sense of earned wisdom.

CBI_Stephan Selfie

Stephan with members of the Rogue Valley Oregon Action team.

This year, both MRG and I are turning 40. As I reflect on this milestone year, I am reminded of my social justice journey and my experience learning how philanthropy is used as a tool for social justice. Turning 40 has given me a deeper understanding of the world we live in and more clarity around my role and contributions as a social justice practitioner.



My social justice story began almost 19 years ago, when I found myself new to Oregon and in search of community. Little did I know, that by building my community I would also be beginning my career in social justice and a new important chapter of my life. I met people who transformed the way I think about social justice by helping me to see how I contribute to and learn from the movement. I also strengthened and learned to apply a social justice framework to all of the different elements of my work.

Reflecting on these moments of personal growth, I’m excited to see how my core values are both deepened through my work and in line with the core values of MRG’s Capacity Building Initiative (CBI). In our 40th year both MRG and I strive to work within the following values:

  • Prioritizing accessibility by welcoming contact, making time to meet people where they are, and understanding the importance of their role in the movement.
  • Utilizing an asset-based approach when engaging underserved and underrepresented communities.
  • Learning to be comfortable with ambiguity, an essential skill for social justice practitioners – especially when working in the non-profit industrial complex.
  • Agility is not only necessary, but also essential when leveraging tools, resources, and relationships to navigate dominant culture in the ongoing struggle for social change.
Stephan working

Stephan works with cohort members to explore their Theory of Change at the first convening.

These core values are a critical guide to deepening MRG’s understanding of what it means to support grassroots social change groups working to make Oregon a more just state.

We head into this first year of the CBI rooted in these values and I am looking forward to working with other MRG staff, capacity builders, and community partners to.

Support CBI participants’ organizational development by strengthening their ability to develop leaders, fundraise, implement organizational systems and tell their story.

Lean deeper into the communities we support to broaden our understanding and strengthen our movement building analysis. At our first convening leaders from Right 2 Survive shared how many houseless people also face food insecurity and fish in the Willamette River, understanding this reality has pushed them to expand their work to include environmental justice.

Elevate the work of experienced social justice practitioners in the movement. A team of capacity builders or consultants who have worked in the movement and understand the challenges being faced first hand supports CBI participants.

Strengthen and develop regional partnerships by exploring the intersectionality of a variety of issues. We recently worked to build these partnerships by participating in a solidarity rally with individuals in Harney County, organized by Rogue Valley Oregon Action, as a part of our first convening in Ashland.

Expand my own learning around the needs of rural communities by identifying intersections of oppression while supporting the development of social justice groups and leaders in different communities.

CBI Conveening #1_Capacity Builder

Capacity builder Yee Won Chong leads the cohort in an engaging activity.

Through this year of celebration and reflection I’m excited to continue to help lay the groundwork to ensure Oregon’s grassroots social justice movement is strong and has access to the necessary tools and resources needed to thrive and grow for years to come.

Over the next three years we will be using Voices of CBI to elevate the CBI cohort members as they share their values, inspiration and work to further the social justice movement across the state.

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