Special thanks to South CORE representatives Ubax Gardheere and Myani Guetta-Gilbert for sharing the story of South CORE!
What is the group/coalition:
South CORE (South Communities Organizing for Racial/Regional Equity ) is a program of Puget Sound Sage, a non-profit organization based in Seattle, Washington. The coalition is comprised of 19 organizations that meet monthly. South CORE envisions community controlled development in the Rainier Valley and South King County, where communities of color and low income communities are socially included, economically self-sufficient, politically engaged, and are at the forefront of shaping the future of their city, county, and region.
South CORE’s goal is to become a long-term coalition with a unified voice to hold government accountable. South CORE already has a strong track record of both pressuring and engaging government to center racial equity in their decision making. According to the organizers of South CORE, their job is to make sure that city government is indeed “baking in” racial equity to their strategies and plans. Part of “baking in” is ensuring that the City prioritizes authentic, meaningful community engagement.
South CORE was one of the groups that was instrumental in helping pass a resolution requiring that race and social equity be at the core of the City’s Comprehensive Plan for 2035. South CORE helped shape the goals and policies within the Seattle Comprehensive Plan, which is the City’s 20-year growth strategy. South CORE has used this race and social equity resolution as leverage to hold the City accountable to its racial equity goals as the Comprehensive Plan was being developed. Concretely, they found that this process allows their membership to organize.
For example, the Comprehensive Plan now includes the Equitable Development Implementation Projects, which are place-based anti-displacement strategies designed by a coalition that includes South CORE, called the Race and Social Equity Taskforce. South CORE also hosts listening sessions with Seattle City Council members, which have helped build civic engagement among their members.
The main external challenge is the drastic increase of displacement of communities of color in Seattle.
Internally, South CORE’s main challenge is developing a consistent “inside” strategy that complements their “outside” strategy. South CORE has years of experience coordinating “outside” strategies that organize communities to influence government policies. The “inside” strategy—working with city government to shape policies and practices is relatively new.
The main question they have had to grapple with is: How do you find a “champion” within city departments, city council, or the Mayor’s office and how do you develop that relationship to influence the policies that govern the lives of our communities? Sometimes, developing that relationship takes years, and City officers come and go. For example, South CORE had a champion in the Office of Planning, but they moved on.
Another challenge for South CORE is that there’s often a tiny window of time in which they can comment on policy. For example, according to organizers, there was only a 90-day review period for the Seattle 2035 plan. South CORE, like many other community-based coalitions, is strapped for resources and capacity, which means that they aren’t able to organize to the full extent of their ability when the City is looking to either pass policies or engage them on a set of policies. Because of the short amount of time available to comment on policy, South CORE relies on capacity building and technical assistance from the coalition organizers, Puget Sound Sage, who provides policy expertise rooted in racial justice.
Another challenge is that local government does not always compensate members for their time when government is looking to engage with community.
Insights from victories/challenges:
The victories and challenges of South CORE show that community organizations and coalitions must be resourced to truly engage in a meaningful inside/outside strategy. Additionally, South CORE benefits from long term and sustainable relationships that are rooted in a commitment to a future that centers solutions created by and for communities of color and low-income communities.