The Latino Congress was conceived around two decades ago as part of the community organizing effort that generated the Latino Community Credit Union, a financial institution created in response to an intense wave of crime in Durham. The credit union first opened in Durham after large mobilizations in response to violent crimes and home inasions against unbanked Latinos. The blending of community organizing and financial services proved to be a strong way to build collective power.
The unprecedented growth of the credit union in Durham (400 members a month), and the need for financial services across the state generated the vision for expansion. The Latino Congress was then envisioned as the statewide field of membership of the credit union. After its initial organizing drive the Latino Congress became an independent organization. Today it functions as an independent non-partisan organization.
Over the past years, the Latino Congress has demonstrated an ability to effectively organize Latinos across the state through deep relationships of trust with key leaders and institutions, as well as our longevity in this work. The Latino Congress is currently positioned as a strong grassroots statewide organized network focused on leadership development, civic engagement and direct public action. We support Latino leaders in learning about the political and economic reality of the state, and to act together in order to change it. In this model, our grassroots networks function as hubs for leaders to multiply the impact of our civic engagement strategy.
Together we have organized several public discipline actions with decision makers averaging turnout of 1000 delegates of the Latino Congress.
In 2016, Latino Congress implemented an ambitious civic engagement strategy including the registration of new Latino voters, voter education contacts in person, by mail, and by phone, and GOTV. We held trainings across nine counties. The Latino Congress sponsored a 1,200 person statewide, nonpartisan gathering with candidates for governor and attorney general. In 2017, our leaders held public negotiations with the newly elected governor, the attorney general, the secretary of health and human services as well as with several police chiefs ad sheriffs across the state.
The Latino Congress is a vehicle for the development of leaders, community organizing, public action and non-partisan electoral work. We generate collective power by bringing together several local chapters formed by diverse grassroots religious congregations, community centers, unions, non-profit institutions and their leaders. Those institutions are often the most stable and trusted local Latino networks in communities.
We sustain our relationships through individual one-to-one conversations, house meetings and listening campaigns. Chapters engage hundreds of leaders in local campaigns that improve the quality of life in their communities at the local level. All local chapters unite around a collective state/national agenda which is built with input from thousands of grassroots leaders.
Latino leaders engage in careful collective planning and research and initiate strategic action around issues that have been identified. Actions often involve thousands of our members during disciplined and public negotiations with key stakeholders, policy makers and public officials on the issues that impact our families the most.
The Latino Congress utilizes the organizing model of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), the nation's largest and longest-standing network of local faith and community-based organizations. The IAF created the modern model of faith- and broad-based organizing and is widely recognized as having the strongest track record in the nation for citizen leadership development and for helping congregations and other civic organizations act on their missions to achieve lasting change in the world.
RELATIONSHIPS ACROSS LINES
Relational organizing is the foundation of the Latino Congress work. Relational organizing requires developing relationships of trust among a diverse array of institutions and their leaders.
This model of broad-based organizing has been developed by the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) over the last sixty years, and engages leaders in a cycle of organizing that incorporates:
- identifying and developing leaders within and across member institutions;
- building relationships among leaders of diverse backgrounds, both one-on-one (individual meetings), and in larger groups
- discerning the issues that motivate broad participation and can lead to successful action within each member organization
- engaging in strategic action around issues that have been identified, researched, and negotiated within and between member institutions
- reflecting and evaluating during every step of the cycle to ensure that leaders deepen their understanding of their experience, and continue to improve their organizing skills
Leadership development takes place through participation in local, regional and national training sessions where leaders are equipped with community organizing skills that increase their capacity to affect change in their communities.
The staff and consultants of the Latino Congress provides the leaders of member and allied organizations with access to training opportunities to increase their capacity to affect change in their communities.
Community Organizing is the chief strategy of the Latino Congress. Organizing is the process through which leaders are brought together to build a common agenda for change by identifying problems that are impacting their communities and potential solutions. Leaders act in their common self-interest by engaging decision makers in public conversation to make those solutions a reality.
COMMON AGENDA OF CHANGE
Our common agenda for changes emerges democratically as a result of thousands of 1-1 and small group face to face conversations. Research actions help us better understand issues and potential solutions.
COLLECTIVE PUBLIC ACTION
Our leaders organize large and disciplined public negotiations with decision makers and on different arenas. Actions are the best source of development and recognition for our leaders.
NON PARTISAN ELECTORAL WORK
The Latino Congress is a vehicle for civic engagement of Latinos. Latino leaders learn a combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make a difference by being civically responsible individuals and promoting non partisan electoral work.