Public policy has wide implications that affect individuals and communities. However, traditional policymaking typically involves policy development in distinct administrative siloes that fail to include the people who will be most impacted by the policies. Empowering communities to own and have decision-making powers over policies that directly impact them creates a better understanding of their challenges, opportunities, and options, thereby helping to improve equity.

Race Forward’s Policy Innovation Lab aims to disrupt traditional policy development and to position local communities as owners and decision-makers over policies that directly affect their daily lives. Through the Lab, Race Forward supports community-led policy development by providing tools and capacity-building training, and creating space for local organizations to share strategies to advance community-based initiatives.

The Lab is a way to re-imagine and create racially-equitable policy solutions.

Addressing complex and intersecting issues, the Lab’s current four people of color-led grassroots organizations are working to move community-led policy development to advance racial and climate justice. 


Our Lab Partners

Food For the Spirit

Based in Buffalo, NY, uses the arts and creative facilitation to support racial healing, ecological justice, and equitable food systems. They are the conveners of the Buffalo Food Equity Network, a network of over 200 people of color working to support a movement for Western New York’s (WNY) new food economy and initiatives that fight the conventional food system which currently underserves communities of color. Food for the Spirit also builds relationships with farmers and gardeners of color, both rural and urban, local and statewide. Together, Food for the Spirit and the Buffalo Food Equity Network participate in the Policy Innovation Lab to build out a policy platform to advocate collectively around a more just and equitable food system that serves communities in Buffalo, WNY, and beyond.

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Philly Thrive

Based in Philadelphia, PA, addresses environmental degradation, widespread health issues such as cancer and asthma, disinvestment that has shrunken or eliminated community programs, facilities, and businesses, and gentrification and displacement of long-term Black residents. Through the Policy Innovation Lab, Philly Thrive hopes to build a strong campaign for policy change to increase funding for home repairs in neighborhoods impacted by generations of pollution from the largest oil refinery on the East Coast.

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West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA)

Based in Atlanta, GA, focuses on building resident-led, watershed-based stewardship councils to harness the collective power and voice of community members in each of their watersheds to impact environmental, community, and systems change. WAWA participates in the Policy Innovation Lab to continue to grow stronger community coalitions and to better translate policy and action agendas for positive change on the ground in their communities, particularly as it relates to addressing watershed-based climate change and infrastructure impacts in West Atlanta communities.

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Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA)

Based in Santa Fe, NM, with members throughout the state of New Mexico, ensures the climate conversation in New Mexico is no longer dominated by large, white, NGOs from out of state, but is conducted in a way that is relevant to and makes connection with their communities’ struggles for worker justice, Native liberation, immigrant rights, community-driven and accountable development, education reform, and social and economic justice.  YUCCA also works to ensure adults make space for youth leadership and intergenerational justice. Fighting against false solutions to fossil fuel extraction and contamination, YUCCA hopes to build a better energy and environmental future in New Mexico and is participating in the Policy Innovation Lab to build the capacity of their member leaders through political education, strategic and campaign planning in energy democracy and the Just Transition framework, and to build out their internal operations and infrastructure as a collective.

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