The Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network is composed of ten community-based organizations funded by the Marguerite Casey Foundation, and committed to creating a movement of social change through the civic engagement of the more than 25,000 individuals who are the constituents of the different organizations in the Network.
The ten organizations operate in Cameron and Hidalgo counties, in the poorest region of the United States, and in an area in which the norm is a high number of registered voters, while suffering an extraordinarily low index of actual voter participation. The region has one of the highest growth rates in the nation, as well as one of the youngest populations, offering a potentially powerful base for social change, not only in the region, but in the state as well.
The Equal Voice Network took specific form after a series of five town hall meetings held across the Valley during the 2008 presidential campaign. In the spring and summer of 2008, close to 2,000 members spent several hours on Saturday mornings developing a platform designed to bring working families’ voices to the political table.
These town hall meetings, which were happening simultaneously in twelve states across the country, culminated in the Equal Voice Convention sponsored by the Marguerite Casey Foundation. More than 15,000 families gathered at three simultaneous conventions on September 8, 2008 in Birmingham AL, Chicago IL, and Los Angeles CA. Delegates to the conventions considered and then adopted an Equal Voice National Family Platform. The platform included calls for better jobs with livable wages, affordable housing, access to healthcare, and immigration reform, among others. Delegates then declared their intention to present that platform to public officials at every level of government and urge them to adopt policies to address specific points in the platform.
After attending this national convention, the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network delegation returned, and in the fall of 2009, established six working groups to tackle the issues that our families had identified as crucial to the community’s well-being: Civic Engagement; Jobs and Economic Security; Education; Housing; Immigration; and Health Care. The network, while composed of groups that offer direct service to thousands of families, is united by a vision of organizing our constituents into a local force for lasting social and political change to this, one of the poorest and most disenfranchised regions of the United States.
In October of 2009, the member organizations hired a network coordinator, who works out of an office located in Mercedes, Texas (Michael Seifert, Casa Saldana, 1225 N. Baseline Rd; Mercedes, Tx 78570; firstname.lastname@example.org).