Instituto, the progressive BIPOC-led, Arizona accelerator and incubator, announced Shelley Jackson as its new executive director. Jackson will lead the organization in fulfilling its mission of equipping low-income and communities of color with the finances, tools, and support they need to build political infrastructure and power.
“We must empower and uplift low-income communities and leaders of color, so we can create new systems and power that put our communities at the forefront of decision making at every level of government,” said Shelley Jackson. “It is a little surreal to now lead an organization that has made such a powerful impact in my life. I know that with our stellar team we will make a positive impact for and with our communities for years to come.”
One of Jackson’s first initiatives will be cultivating more in-state donors and spearheading a campaign to raise $1 million to acquire real estate to build a hub to serve as a home for candidates and movement leaders to ideate, create, and train in a safe space. Additionally, Instituto is announcing the launch and advancement of programs designed to nurture and sustain local leadership:
- Building for the Future: There is a major gap within Arizona’s civic sector in professional development between the fundraising professionals and financial investments to our partners from local and state-wide philanthropists. Through new programs and innovation, we will identify ways to make a pathway for organizations to increase their financial capacity to build a more sustainable, self-determined future.
- Project Yuma: Instituto will provide technical assistance, training, and capacity-building support to RAZE/RAZA (Rural Arizona Engagement and Rural Arizona Advocacy) to build long-term power and civic engagement infrastructure for sustainable organizing in Yuma County.
- Aquí se Vota: In an effort to increase voter turnout, we are aiming to increase voter participation by 5% in local elections by identifying what content resonates and attracts our target demographic to voter information. We aim to fill the voting resource gaps for Latinx Spanish speakers and more in Arizona.
- Capacity Building: Through the acceleration program, Instituto will increase the capacity of at least 12 electoral and advocacy organizations that serve Black, Indigenous, and AAPI communities in Arizona, with a focus on identifying additional groups outside of Maricopa County.
Jackson knows firsthand how powerful programs like these can be, as she won an at-large seat during the Arizona 2020 general election as a write-in candidate for her local school board. It’s this drive and determination that led Instituto to appoint Jackson as their first executive director in the organization’s history.
“Shelley is an audacious and creative leader. She is focused on the intersection of advancing policy issues and electoral organizing for the communities we aim to serve, making her the perfect choice for this important role,” said Luis Avila, founder of Instituto. “Her passion for working with others to create meaningful change in their communities is one reason why I’m excited about this new phase Instituto is entering. I know she will help Instituto continue to build systems that give political power to underrepresented communities.”
Jackson, an Instituto 2019 Monzón Fellow and recipient of the prestigious Highland Project grant, is a product of South Phoenix and no stranger to Arizona politics. A public servant at heart, she has supported and worked with the Arizona Coalition for Change and Our Voice Our Vote, assisting on many different issues including, voting rights, economic justice, and access to equitable and quality public education across the state.
For example, Shelley played an instrumental role in creating and implementing the Coalition’s signature program, “The Young Black Organizer Project,” designed to identify and train young Black organizers in the state to organize around the issues that matter most to them.
Jackson will also be spearheading the Monzón PAC, an effort to provide critical resources that will support people of color to run for local and state offices. Through more resources the PAC will provide, Instituto aims to sustain candidates and their families during a campaign so that they can focus on being full-time candidates. Instituto is focused on building the political infrastructure to mobilize and inspire the next generation of leaders and a multiracial, multiclass coalition.
Since its founding, Instituto’s mission has been to serve and support the underrepresented. One successful program addressing the disparity in Latinx representation in the Arizona educational system is the “All in Education” initiative. Before its start, less than 10% of statewide education board members were Latino, while over 40% of the student population identify as such. The organization now has a $2 million budget and has focused on expanding boards of education with more Latinx representation and a platform to advance equity in communities most impacted by education injustices.
“Investing and supporting Instituto is critical to recognizing and building Arizona’s Latino leaders – Instituto is drawing from deep roots to project a future in Arizona that’s representative and reflective of the opportunities sweeping the state,” said Tory Gavito, president and co-founder of Way to Win. “Way to Win is proud to fund organizations in states, like Instituto, that are making real changes to improve people’s lives through transformative incubation at the state, local, and federal levels.”
Instituto will bring the community together and host an in-person event this evening to celebrate Shelley’s leadership, call for greater investment in the communities that are directly impacted by social equities, and let Arizona know that they are fired up and ready to organize.
Instituto is a resource center for leaders and organizations building the political infrastructure and power with low-income and communities of color in Arizona. Instituto is an accelerator and an incubator with perspective and innovation that identifies the gaps that need to be fulfilled and creates programs to fill those gaps for low-income and communities of color to prosper.