In 2022, UpTogether launched several pilots, campaigns and projects that changed the narrative – and even changed systems.
Making History in Texas
UpTogether members, together with community organizations and others, made history in Texas. They successfully influenced the city of Austin to bring a $1.1 million cash transfer pilot to the city, making them the first in the state to do so using public, general fund dollars.
How did they do it? By sharing their stories and organizing. They emailed, called and spoke at city council meetings, sharing stories about the financial difficulties they were facing despite their hard work and the ways unrestricted cash transfers they received from UpTogether allowed them to pay bills, get out of debt and even spend more time with their families. UpTogether members and staff also partnered with the mayor, council members and community groups to organize a press conference the morning of the city council’s vote in favor of the pilot to provide $1,000 a month to 85 households for a year. (Ends in August 2023)
Inspired by our members, our previous successes in Austin and wanting to make a larger impact, philanthropy provided funding for 50 additional families for a total of 135 families.
UpTogether members, together with their community, transformed not just a public policy position, but also planted seeds to help change the narrative about people and communities with low incomes so they can be seen for their strengths.
Co-Designing With Members in Detroit
UpTogether partnered with The Kresge Foundation to invest in — and learn from — UpTogether members who are employees of Black and/or Brown-owned businesses in Detroit. In the three-month project, 13 members worked to recommend ideas for ways to invest in and support employees of Black and Latinx businesses as well as their broader community. They came up with three policy proposals which were shared with other UpTogether members in Detroit to identify which one they most supported and would rally around. Collectively, they decided on Guaranteed Income (GI) as the best solution. In early Spring 2023, they began organizing to try to persuade city officials to implement the policy change.
Partnering with Immigrant Advocates in New Mexico
UpTogether partnered with a coalition of local immigrant advocacy organizations called the Economic Relief Working Group to launch a statewide Guaranteed Income pilot and study in New Mexico. The nearly $2 million pilot is the largest in the country to invest in immigrant families, who are largely excluded from economically beneficial policies. The goal of the pilot, which provided $500 a month to 330 families, is to produce evidence to drive state and local policy changes aligned to UpTogether’s strength-based approach. The pilot was funded by Con Alma Health Foundation, the Thornburg Foundation and anonymous donors.
A New Strategic Plan Centering Systems Change
With more than 20 years spent investing in people and learning from our members, UpTogether developed a new strategic plan that centers systems change. “Systems change” means making significant and lasting improvements to how a system operates in order to achieve a desired outcome.
Examples of systems change that would move us closer to that vision are reinstating the expanded Federal Child Tax Credit and the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit.
We aren’t changing our focus, but intentionally sharpening our efforts on the vision that all people in the United States to be seen and invested in for their strengths and able to build power, reinforce their autonomy and drive their own economic and social mobility.
In 2021, we became more intentional about narrative change and disproving the negative stereotypes about people facing financial hardship. We used that year to plan and in 2022, we implemented several narrative change activities including a virtual event called Cash without Conditions: Trusting and Investing in Families. Nearly 100 people attended, the majority of which work for philanthropy, government or community organizations. Panelists included the mayor of San Antonio and an UpTogether member, Christina, who shared her lived experience as a mother on disability trying to take care of her family with her limited income. A feedback survey indicated that attendees were more supportive of our strength-based approach of community, capital and choice after the event. Many credited Christina, with helping to change their minds.
Elevating Voices of UpTogether Members
As a part of our narrative change efforts, we launched the Moving Up Together podcast—a name voted on by members and staff. The podcast launched in November 2022 and as of late March 2023 had already received more than 4,000 listens. The podcast features members sharing their stories to showcase their creativity, joy and resilience. They also spoke about systems and policies that make it difficult for them to get ahead and their ideas for how to create change. Episodes touched on topics such as the benefits cliff, the wealth gap, and how communities come together to help each other when times get tough. The second season is scheduled to launch in 2023.