Making Change through Community: An Organizer’s Story

Our guest blogger Julia Moen, an organizer for The Sound Alliance, is working to inform the community about King County’s Proposition 1 or “Best Starts for Kids”  which aims to improve the health and well-being of children, youth, families, and communities in King County by investing in prevention and early intervention.

Julia shares how her personal experience of supportive communities led her to become a community organizer and speaks to the importance of building relational trust and uniting across our various institutional and social divisions to call out for change. 

Contact Julia with any questions about Best Starts for Kids:

Julia Moen
Organizer, Sound Alliance

Making Change through Community

 By Julia Moen

Throughout my life the communities I have been a part of offered me support, challenged me to grow, and shaped my identity.

17585334183_74a145c884_oWhen I was about nine years old, my mom got really sick and no one could figure out what was wrong. It turned out that something inside her ear was upsetting her balance. She ended up hospitalized for almost a month and spent about six months after recovering with a walker. Two of my aunts flew to Texas to support us, but because we lived far away from extended family, it was our church community that offered the most day-to-day support. During the months of my mom’s recovery, the small group of women from my mom’s spirituality group provided my family material support, bringing food and carting me around to school and various activities.

As I grew up, our church community also offered me the safe space I needed to grow and question. For most of my childhood I attended my mom’s Wednesday night spirituality group, often bringing toys and books and playing quietly (and sometimes not-so-quietly) in the corner. At the same time I was empowered to think deeply about my own faith identity, to ask questions, and to make my own decisions about what living out my Catholic faith would mean.

During high school, I became even more involved in my church and began participating in a yearly retreat that created a tight-knit group of teens. High school was a vulnerable time for many of us and we supported one another through mundane drama and teenage angst as well as heavy personal experiences and challenges. Some of my best friends and deepest relationships came from this group.

These are just some of the communities I have been blessed to have been a part of. Other communities in my life have also supported me emotionally and materially and allowed me to be in communion with people who knew to hold and encourage me when I needed. My communities have challenged to be my best self.

Having a deep respect for community building, and having learned what people can accomplish when they work together drove me to my current work as an organizer with the Sound Alliance. The Sound Alliance serves as a vehicle for 30 faith, labor, education, and community organizations to act together in the public arena for the Common Good. Through this work, I have reflected on the relationships and trust I experienced in various communities in my life and have seen how that “relational trust” can be cultivated across diverse institutions. It is rewarding to build relationships and a sense of community on a broad level where we are also building power to take action. I have learned that when people come together, bringing their own unique experiences and institutional values and sharing with one another, every-day people can create meaningful change.

The Alliance is non-partisan and multi-issue and the issues we take on come from the stories, experiences, and concerns of our members. As an Alliance, we work on issues that cut across our institutions. When we did a listening campaign in January—holding conversations after church, in cottage meetings held in peoples’ homes, union halls, and classrooms—we heard issues around mental health, homelessness, barriers to kids’ ability to learn and reach their full potential in classrooms, and access to health care.

When we are isolated in our own communities, and especially when isolated outside of community, it can be difficult to imagine changing these immense problems. As an Alliance, our leaders come together to research and take action in concrete and winnable ways. Together we have immense power, and together we can encourage one another to have hope.

Our listening and research led to our current work around Best Starts for Kids. University students, faith leaders, school teachers, and union members are teaming up to have conversations in churches, schools, and unions about the powerful impact we believe this levy can have. It has been inspiring to hear so many peoples’ stories about how they have been touched by the challenges that this levy will put money toward preventing and alleviating, such as household mental illness and substance abuse, chronic disease, incarceration and homelessness.

Our members come together in their own communities—churches, unions, community organizations—and then build community across these institutions. By building this power, member institutions can work to change the issues they care deeply about.  

If you are interested in learning more about the Sound Alliance, or in hosting a briefing about Best Starts for Kids, contact me!

Photo/Art Credit (Blog Header): Mia Smith

Action Advocacy Faith and Family Homelessness Faith-based Advocacy