Steps Coalition advances our mission to build a democratic movement to create a healthy, just, and equitable Mississippi Gulf Coast in the following ways.
WE SUPPORT COALITION MEMBER DRIVEN CAMPAIGNS
Steps staff works with our coalition partners to identify and develop strategic plans and campaigns to address pressing social justice issues facing our communities. In 2014, Steps convened our partners and facilitated community conversations to identify social justice issues important to them. Our members and community partners identified issues in each of the 5 social justice pillars. These issues can be found in our five-year strategic plan and serve as the basis for many of the campaigns Steps will pursue in the next five years. Steps staff supports the coalition driven campaign by providing facilitation, coordination, research, publications, media/press kits, campaign kits, capacity building training, communication and outreach, and other resources.
WE BUILD CAPACITY OF OUR COALITION MEMBERS AND COMMUNITY PARTNERS
Our staff supports our coalition members by providing resources that addresses capacity needs, facilitating coordination and collaboration between our members and other community stakeholders from the public and private sectors, communicating their issues and work to our coalition members and the broader community, and participating in the planning and/or implementation of their programs and/or campaigns.
Our coalition consists of a diverse group of community leaders and organizations working on several different social justice issues in their respective communities. Some of our members are interested in a single issue, such as stopping a development project that would fill in wetlands and reduce flood protection in their neighborhood. Others are multi-issue groups seeking to improve the quality of life and achieve equity for all residents in their community.
WE FOSTER A CULTURE OF PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY
Advancing our mission requires that we proactively engage communities in the process of participatory democracy. Steps and our partners often host civic engagement trainings and voter registration drives in neighborhoods and communities along the coast. Recently, Steps has been working in East Biloxi engaging residents in a series of civic engagement trainings that include attending city council meetings. The training series educates residents about how they can get involved and stay involved in the decisions that affect their community, what they need to know about running for office, and pressing issues facing their community. We have also partnered with other community groups to host political forums during election years.
Steps also hosts community meetings to educate residents about an important issue facing the community and ways they can be meaningfully engaged in the decision making process. For example, after the Governor diverted $600 million of housing funds to the Port of Gulfport expansion project, Steps launched a series of informational meetings in affected areas to call attention to the issue and prepare residents to meaningfully engage in the decision making process.
WE DEVELOP GRASSROOTS LEADERSHIP
Steps builds grassroots leadership by continuing to support existing community and civic organizations and actively identifying new ones. Steps does this by hosting neighborhood and community meetings throughout the year and in some cases is invited by local residents to help them organize around an issue. This was true in 2013 when we were invited by local residents in Pascagoula to help them organize to address public health and environmental concerns caused by industrial pollution.
Steps also host leadership development and skills trainings throughout the year for our members, youth, neighborhoods, and/or the larger Gulf Coast community. In addition, our staff often works one on one with local grass roots leaders supporting them as they work to mobilize their communities around an issue and affect change.
WE COORDINATE WITH LOCAL, REGIONAL AND NATIONAL NETWORKS
It is important, especially as we work to amplify the voices of low-income and marginalized communities, that we connect with other local, regional, and national networks mobilized around similar issues. Throughout the year, our staff also attends local, state, and national trainings, conferences, and summits to learn more about what is happening in other communities, connect our local issues to the broader community, and network with other social justice organizations and activists. These connections often provide important resources and partnerships that help us advance our mission.
WE BUILD ALLIANCES AND FOSTER COLLABORATIONS
Steps foster alliances and collaborations among our membership and with other public and private stakeholders in several ways. Our staff meets with each our members individually to identify opportunities to connect with other members and other stakeholders. Steps also shares information about our members work through our weekly newsletters and on our website. Also, at our quarterly meetings, our members are given the opportunity to share their work with other coalition members. Steps also facilitates alliance building trainings and activities throughout the year.
For example, Steps has hosted several Welcome Table trainings from the William Winter Institute. These trainings provide a space for open dialogue among stakeholders and strengthens their capacity to understand, support, and advocate on behalf of the others' issues and concerns. Finally, Steps hosts community gatherings and networking events for the purpose of building trust, strengthening relationships, and making connections with other stakeholders that individuals/organizations would not have made otherwise.