State Voices (SV) was established in 2008 to serve as an umbrella group connecting and supporting a multitude of localized grassroots organizations which were, at that time, active in approximately 11 U.S. states. These organizations had traditionally pursued their activities independently, coming together only for short-term campaigns around certain elections. From its inception, SV’s goal was to help the local groups work more collaboratively on a year-round basis and thereby maximize the impact of their efforts. Today the State Voices network links together more than 600 local organizations in 22 states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
To create “an America that provides fairness and opportunity to all citizens,” and “a democracy where every person is engaged and every person’s voice is heard,” SV has launched a nationwide “civic engagement” initiative to “mobilize and empower people”—“particularly those who are underrepresented”—to become more politically engaged, both as voters and activists, in “the decision and policy-making processes that impact their lives, their communities, their states and their country.” The primary target groups of this initiative are nonwhite minorities, who tend to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.
SV’s political activities fall broadly under four major programs:1) Innovative Tools & Technology: Noting that “cutting-edge organizing technology is changing the way organizations work on the ground,” SV has developed a Tools For All Fund to provide left-wing groups in all 50 states with access (and tech support) to sophisticated data-collection tools designed to help them mobilize voters and activists nationwide, “both online and on the ground,” as effectively and efficiently as possible. This is vital to the success of left-wing organizing endeavors, because many small, localized groups lack the staffing, expertise, and funding required to purchase and utilize such “smart data” tools on their own. From a practical standpoint, these tools enable activist groups to “run their civic engagement programs with unmatched precision”; “find and target members of underrepresented communities to mobilize and engage them” far more quickly than was previously possible; and share data with one another, thereby reducing duplication and overlap in their field work.2) Partner Capacity Building: In an effort to “foster the long-term effectiveness” of its state chapters and their partners, SV “focus[es] on areas and systems fundamental to strong organizations, giving them a solid foundation on which to build their civic engagement programs.” Emphasizing “how critical it is to share best practices,” SV also seeks to exploit every available opportunity for “cross-state and peer-to-peer learning.”3) Driving Resources to the States: SV identifies the financial or technological resources its various state affiliates and their partners need in order to successfully engage citizens year-round, and works to ensure that those needs are met.4) National Partnerships & Alliances: SV works to “build connections and alliances between [state affiliates] and the national community, so ideas and coordination flow up from the states and from the national level down.”
SV’s directors and board officers include officials who are also affiliated with the following entities: Alexander Nielsen Consulting, the Black Civic Engagement Initiative, Blueprint North Carolina, the Brico Fund, the CrossCurrents Foundation, the General Service Foundation, and the Gill Foundation.
SV’s executive director is Tracy Sturdivant, who joined the organization in 2010. Prior to that, she had been vice president for external affairs at the Center for Progressive Leadership, on whose board she continues to serve. Sturdivant is also a board member of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, the ProgressNow Education Fund, and the Proteus Fund.
SV has received financial support from the Bauman Family Foundation, the Boston Foundation, the Bush Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Cedar Tree Foundation, the Educational Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Foundation to Promote Open Society, the Gill Foundation, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, the HKH Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the John Merck Fund, the Joyce Foundation, the Lazar Foundation, the McKay Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the New York Community Trust, George Soros‘s Open Society Institute, the San Francisco Foundation, the Schooner Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.