Thoughtful investment in human rights and social and economic justice is a hallmark of both Levi Strauss & Co. and the Levi Strauss Foundation.  Pioneers in Justice is a brand-new Foundation initiative building on our legacy and values, our track record of innovation and our history of taking risks.

We believe that the social justice sector is on the brink of a sea change. The 2008 presidential election raised awareness – and scrutiny – of what community organizers do and how they do it.  We are seeing a significant transfer of leadership from one generation to another, and nonprofit boards are expecting incoming leaders to reinvigorate their organizations.  Perhaps most importantly, there is an urgent recognition that new tactics and tools are needed to ensure relevance and to strengthen a sector weakened by decades of fighting attacks on equity and justice.

Pioneers in Justice is designed to build upon the lessons of past decades of civil/human rights organizing, advocacy and policy change while capitalizing on the promise of new technology and social media tools.  It represents our commitment to support and invest in the next generation of nonprofit leaders in San Francisco who are poised to pave the way for stronger and more effective social justice movements.

Pioneers in Justice will go beyond awarding grants. We will use all the leadership tools at our disposal – acting as a convener, relationship broker, constituency builder, listener, knowledge disseminator and grantmaker – to help the next wave of social justice leaders to explore and test new ideas that will benefit them, their organizations, the communities they serve and the issues they represent. 

For the next three to five years, we are committed to working with a carefully selected group of under-40 social justice leaders, all of whom are pioneers:

  • Working at the frontlines of change on the important social issues of our day
  • Taking a values-based stand, challenging convention and pushing the limits
  • Exploring new ways of leading, collaborating and communicating
  • Committed to advancing the social justice sector, both locally and nationally

Specifically, we seek to strengthen working relationships by promoting and investing in collaboration and alliance building among “unlikely allies.”  We also aim to accelerate learning and action in the field about how to transition to “Social Justice Version 2.0,” including using social media to engage constituents and build a broader base for creating lasting change. In terms of concrete knowledge transfer and output, we expect the initiative will lead to creation of a toolkit of promising practices, white papers on issues of the day, press briefings and presentations at philanthropy conferences and gatherings.

We are proud to introduce our first cohort of Pioneers in Justice below. We invite you to learn more about these talented individuals and the organizations they lead.