“Alliance San Diego is the community empowerment organization that builds coalitions to promote justice and social change.”
When individuals try to tackle big issues on their own, they tend to have a harder time being effective.
They lose the benefit of pooling their resources, sharing what they know, and coordinating their efforts. Worse, they sometimes end up working at cross purposes. And so they organize.
But what’s true of individuals can also be true of organizations. When serving the same communities, they can find themselves competing for funds. When focused on serving different communities, they can miss opportunities to unite for a common cause.
This was the situation in greater San Diego up until 2007, when a small group of organizers from different communities, drawing on lessons from other cities, launched Equality Alliance of San Diego County (commonly known as Alliance San Diego), an organization focused on building coalitions to promote social justice and social change.
It was an unmet need whose time had come: While individual organizations could point to progress and victories in such key areas of social justice as educational access, immigrant rights, and tax and fiscal equity, vast areas of need remained, new challenges continued to arise, and some issues continued to intensify and grow.
Within a year, Alliance San Diego marked its first success–and gained early proof it could build coalitions to achieve results. Considering the lack of college preparatory curricula available in under-served communities, which effectively shut out many capable students from a range of higher education opportunities, Alliance San Diego marshaled the groundswell to convince the largest school district in the area to make such curriculum the standard for all students.
With this success, the organization moved one step closer towards realizing a vision of a San Diego where all people could achieve their full potential in an environment of harmony, safety, equality and justice.
The question remained, however: Could Alliance San Diego not only build coalitions but also sustain them? Could organizations used to jockeying for advantage find a framework for closer collaboration under Alliance San Diego?
At the same time as it was organizing to pursue equity in the public schools, Alliance San Diego was also working with a cross-section of organizations in the region’s large and diverse immigrant community to build a coalition focused on addressing immigrant’s rights. Since its beginning in 2007, the once fractious group of approximately 25 organizations that eventually formed the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC) has remained strong, vocal and intact–and highly effective at championing the humane treatment of immigrants, facilitating their integration as citizens, and making other gains on behalf of some of San Diego’s least represented residents.
In addition to this work, Alliance San Diego has focused on reaching out to individuals in under-served communities and communities of color to inspire and educate them about their rights and responsibilities as citizens–and the power for change they possess that begins with voting.
Using a peer-to-peer model that enlists hundreds of volunteers to engage voters between elections, Alliance San Diego has brought tens of thousands of voters into the election process. In a county with nearly 1.5 million voters but regular participation rates of only 60%, our efforts have made a decisive difference in electoral outcomes one election after another.
In areas of shared interest and common concern among San Diegans, Alliance San Diego holds out the promise of achieving greater impact by amplifying the voice of the community and mobilizing resources around issues that matter. Tapping into our collective power, the Alliance San Diego makes good on that promise at historic moments in time as well as incremental steps forward every day.