The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation (MRBF) is a philanthropic partner working with organizations to alleviate poverty and increase social and economic justice in 11 Southern states. It supports organizations and networks engaged in collaborative, multi-strategy work, particularly those working at the intersection of three mutually reinforcing pathways of change: economic opportunity, democracy and civic engagement, and supportive policy and institutions. In 2019, MRBF wanted to capture and share useful lessons about civic engagement in the South through a series of interviews with their grantee partners. MRBF’s goals included (1) to highlight lessons from civic engagement partners, (2) to underline the importance of the work, and (3) to lift up what we have learned about supporting civic engagement efforts over the last few years.
Based on research informed by external and internal data, Converge provided a Civic Engagement Research Framework with the following components, including a list of key definitions, and MRBF’s equity lens. By focusing on outcomes, an equity lens draws MRBF’s attention to disproportionate and disparate outcomes, and thus questions the root structures and power relations that drive those outcomes. MRBF’s work in the South makes them acutely aware of the role that historic and persistent inequality plays in holding poverty in place, for people of all racial identities.