I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes Real Change special. The opportunities for reflection here have been remarkably ample. An upcoming silver anniversary, a new strategic plan, and a Winter Fund Drive that depends on your reader support to succeed. Welcome to my world.
That Real Change is about to turn 25, quite frankly, kind of blows my mind. The young organizer who arrived to Seattle in 1994 — with nothing but a dream of a different kind of street paper and a Mac LCII to sustain him — never imagined what this newspaper would one day become.
From the very beginning, Real Change has been a shared vision. From John Reese and the Community Action Network, who gave us nearly free rent in the front corner of a Belltown storefront, to the 52 organizations and people who bought welcome ads in the first issue, to the very first donors and subscribers who invested in our success and the homeless people who took a chance on a new idea, this newspaper has always been embraced by the community that supports us.
For this, we are endlessly grateful. And we feel a great responsibility to keep getting better. Over the past few months, we’ve worked on a plan to guide us over the next three years. We’re building from strength, and focused on where our power is.
We’re leading with quality journalism. Our talented news team is one of Real Change’s greatest assets, and grassroots independent journalism has never mattered more than now. We’re actively seeking new resources and marketing opportunities to gain readership and clout. We’ll be telling stories from the street through new mediums and featuring new and diverse voices.
We’re focusing on vendor success. This looks like new opportunities for training and employment, and more of a focus on getting vendors the help they need. It looks like more opportunities to get involved and become the community leaders we need. When we invest in their success, everybody wins
We’re building caring and engaged community. This means finding new ways to invite people in, and broadening the caring community that is Real Change. Making new and unlikely alliances. Challenging our comfort zones, leading with opportunities for action and increasing our base of support.
And, finally, we’re tending to the foundation. That means investing in our staff and increasing opportunities to learn and grow. It means building race and class equity from the inside out, and building the just society we need to see. And it means supporting vendor voices, and amplifying their concerns so that policymakers continue to hear from those most affected.
As we’ve considered our future these last few months, our board of directors articulated what’s most important to Real Change at this particular moment. They called it our strategic north star. Here it is: Our work is to center and amplify the voices of those most affected by economic, social, and racial injustice. Real Change’s power to transform lives is grounded in building human connection between vendors and readers, where each of our vendors is a hub of caring community.
Real Change’s power to transform lives is grounded in building human connection between vendors and readers, where each of our vendors is a hub of caring community.
That’s where our power is. The mission is unchanged. We’re still about opportunity, a voice and taking action. But right now, when it feels like the world is coming unglued and communities everywhere are under attack, we know where our efforts must focus.
Finally, we’re working to support the street paper movement out of which we have grown. Real Change is supporting a new initiative of the International Network of Street Papers in their effort to grow papers on this continent with a North American bureau of the INSP.
This will bring new resources and support to papers like Real Change across the United States, Canada and Mexico. As the leading North American street newspaper, we feel an obligation to help others achieve similar success.
We’re excited about our future and invite you to help support our continued success. You may have noticed that our front page has a blueprint where our color logo normally resides. “A future under construction. Color us community supported with your gift today.”
As we approach our year-end $170,000 fund drive goal, you’ll see that logo turn into full living color. Please support opportunity and take action with your generous gift today.
Tim Harris is the Founding Director Real Change and has been active as a poor people’s organizer for more than two decades. Prior to moving to Seattle in 1994, Harris founded street newspaper Spare Change in Boston while working as Executive Director of Boston Jobs with Peace.
Check out the full Nov. 21 - 27 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.