This May the Latino Community Foundation (LCF) convened 300 Latino community leaders, advocates, and elected officials at its fourth annual Latino Policy Summit to discuss policy solutions that will positively impact Latino communities in California. The Summit showcased an array of impact-focused convening best practices, including an inspirational keynote from Xavier Beccera, the first Latino Attorney General of California, and a march to the State Capitol. As the largest network of Latino philanthropists in the country, LCF is a connector and convener who knows a thing or two about the power of convening for impact. Conveners.org’s Nayelli Gonzalez spoke with Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO of LCF, about the role that convening plays to LCF’s growing network, and how the organization convenes for impact.

1. What role does your annual Latino Policy Summit—and convening in general—play in advancing the Latino Community Foundation’s mission?

LATINOS are a force. The Latino Community Foundation (LCF) exists to unleash the power of Latinos in California. LCF fulfills its mission by building political power for Latino communities, creating a movement of Latino philanthropists, and investing in Latino-led organizations that are advancing opportunities for youth and families to thrive.

LCF serves as a connector, convener, and advocate of Latino-led organizations to advance policy and system level changes. The California Latino Agenda, one of our initiatives, amplifies the Latino voice and facilitates participation in public policy. LCF works to ensure that Latino leaders have the tools, resources, and information they need to effectively advocate for change. Our annual Latino Policy Summit has become one of the most sought-after events in Sacramento and has brought together more than 1,000 Latino leaders—from emerging youth leaders and nonprofit executives to seasoned advocates and corporate executives—to our state’s capitol.

We strongly believe that our community partners working on the frontlines of social change have the talent, skills, and wisdom to create opportunities for Latino families to thrive—we want to bring their solutions to our decision makers.

2. A focal point of this year’s summit was an organized march to the California State Capital, which was a few blocks away from the meeting location. Once there, summit attendees were organized into groups for a “Day of Action” of special visits with state legislators at the State Capitol. This is a unique example of convening for impact—can you please share more about why LCF includes this “Day of Action” as part of its annual summit, and what you have learned from doing this? 

We organize the legislative visits immediately following the Summit because we want to move from discussion to action. LCF organized 66 legislative visits for community partners to meet with their representatives and staffers to share specific recommendations on policy changes they want to see happen to address the issues discussed at the Summit. Many of the participants of the Summit have not had the opportunity to participate in advocacy or even visit their local representatives at the State Capitol. We are determined to build a culture of political participation and action. Most Latino nonprofit leaders intimately understand the issues as well as the solutions that will transform the lives of youth and families. We want to provide the space and platform for our Latino leaders to build relationships with decision makers and work together to make the necessary policy changes that will increase opportunities for Latinos to excel—especially in education, economic mobility, and civic engagement.

Through the Afternoon of Action, we have learned that community leaders need more opportunities for relationship-building and direct advocacy with their policymakers. The people serving on the frontlines of social change have the talent, skills, and wisdom to achieve community transformation. They just have rarely been offered a seat at the decision-making table. These legislative visits help to instill a culture of advocacy and accountability so that our leaders on the ground get accustomed to speaking directly with their legislators on tough issues, while legislators get accustomed to hearing directly from Latino community leaders.

3. One might assume that the vast majority of attendees at a Latino-focused summit would be Latino; however the speakers and audience at this year’s summit were fairly diverse. What does diversity mean to LCF, and why do you think it’s important to include diverse voices at your convening? 

A strong and vibrant Latino community will result in a stronger California and a thriving democracy. To achieve a robust state, we need to engage people of all ethnicities and races and across all generations. Latinos are 39% of California’s population. We need to build bridges across other racial/ethnic groups and work together to advance the hopes and dreams of all Californians. In the end, residents in our progressive State share similar hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Our work is about getting those who have historically not been part of the decision-making table, to the table, making sure we all have a voice in how we move our community forward.

We also know that the issues that impact millions of Latinos also affects the lives of African Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders, immigrants and refugees, Native Americans, Muslims, and other persecuted and marginalized populations. We need and must work together to create the changes we hope to see in our communities and families.

4. Hosting an annual summit is often par for the course for many foundations and nonprofit organizations. Why does LCF host its annual summit—and how do you keep content fresh each year?

Positioned at the intersection of corporate, political, and grassroots power, LCF creates and champions relationships designed to amplify and accelerate impact in unprecedented ways. We host the annual Latino Policy Summit to educate community leaders on significant policy and budget issues, to inspire thought partnership among California leaders, and to spark regional collaborative efforts to create policy change.

We are committed to building political power and advancing economic mobility for Latinos throughout California. To accomplish this we will remain focused on pressing issues like higher education, voter turnout, environmental justice, civic leadership, and community organizing—until we achieve breakthroughs in these areas. During the Summit, we are able to dive deeper into one or two of these issues each year exploring opportunities to advance policy changes across the issues.

We also keep the Summit’s content fresh through our robust relationships with our community partners on the ground and our strategic partners in the public policy sector. These partnerships allow LCF to stay current on both the needs in the community and the opportunities in the legislature.

5. Aside from your annual summit, how do you engage your community year-round? What are some best practices that you could share with the Conveners.org community about year-round community engagement?

LCF’s Community Conversaciones bring together our community partners, donors, advocates, and community members to discuss vital issues and timely solutions that will move the needle on topics impacting the Latino community. Held several times a year across the state, these convenings elevate Latino leadership and community rooted solutions. We also regularly post articles on our Nuestra Voz blog and share them along with news stories about Latino issues and key policy updates on social media. LCF’s monthly newsletters keep our champions and stakeholders informed and engaged in our work.

LCF has made building trust and authentic relationships a priority. We see ourselves as a justice-focused grantmaker, convener, and advocate. Our work and achievements depend on having genuine relationships with a broad range of partners. You have to know their hopes and dreams. You have to ask, then you have to show up for them as well.