Advancement Project is a next generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, we exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy. We use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high-impact policy change.
We envision a future where people of color are free – where they can thrive, be safe and exercise power. Driven by the genius of ordinary people and their movements, racism will no longer exist and justice will be radically transformed.
Theory of Change
Advancement Project serves as critical infrastructure for the racial justice movement. Our theory of change is centered on a movement lawyering approach, community-centered racial justice lawyering, to support power building in grassroots organizations working to eliminate oppressive structures in our laws and institutions and shift narratives towards transformative change. Locally, we provide direct, hands-on support for organized communities in their struggles for racial and social justice, providing legal, communications and campaign organizing resources for on-the-ground efforts. On the national level, we help weave movements and create context for breakthroughs on race. We serve as a convener to build momentum beyond place, creating a space to learn from one another and work together across space. We use narrative strategy to influence public opinion on issues of race, democracy and justice, creating an opening for local change to occur.
We help inspire and amplify the voice of community-based efforts toward universal opportunity and a just democracy and society. We choose project activities, whether national or local, with the potential to build power at the grassroots level and to reframe and accelerate the quest for racial justice. We do not shy away from difficult issues and typically are first responders to civil rights crises, as well as on the cutting edge of racial justice issues.
Our History and Next Chapter
In the throes of a conservative takeover of the courts and a retrenchment on civil rights, former NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund attorneys, Constance L. Rice, Penda Hair, and Molly Munger, along with attorney Stephen R. English, established Advancement Project in 1999. Knowing the limits of litigation, they sought to employ cutting-edge strategies to achieve social change.
For more than 20 years, Advancement Project National Office and Advancement Project California have operated as co-equal offices linked by a shared vision of a multiracial, just democracy.
The substantial impact of the two offices since their inception is undeniable. The Advancement Project National Office has built a track record of success:
- Pioneered the school-to-prison pipeline movement, winning significant victories in several school districts across the country to reform disciplinary policies and practices and remove police from schools entirely, including building and nurturing a grassroots movement of parents and youth. This work led to federal guidance on racial discrimination in school discipline.
- Launched National Police Free Schools Campaign with the Alliance for Education Justice, supporting local youth-led campaigns to end policing in their schools and calling for national demands for change for safety in public schools.
- Served as legal counsel in the 2000 presidential election case in Florida, successfully challenged North Carolina’s voter suppression law, and was the founding member of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition that won the ballot initiative to strike down the state’s ban on voting for those with felony convictions. Supported legislative efforts to pass the Virginia Voting Rights Act, the first voting rights anti-discrimination law in the South.
- Supported Close the Workhouse Campaign in St. Louis, led by Action St, Louis, that secured the city’s agreement to close a jail and reinvest money into the community.
- Worked with survivors of Hurricane Katrina from New Orleans to ensure their voices were being heard in the reconstruction process.
- Launched a new flavor of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Justice Remix’d, the first time the company put an organization’s name on its containers.
With racial justice issues front and center in society, the significant roles the National and California offices have played, our organizational strength, and extraordinary leadership in both offices, now is the opportune time for both offices to become separate and complementary institutions to continue the fight for racial and economic justice: Advancement Project and Catalyst California.
The next chapter will mean more innovation, and we’ve got a plan – join us!:
Advancement Project will continue to build power in local communities by supporting campaigns to dismantle structural racism using law and policy, while shifting harmful narratives.
With the collective impact of community, data, and policy, Catalyst California will work with our partners to redesign public systems for equity.