What Is the Alliance?

A Sketch of the Alliance, Austin Interfaith, and the Industrial Areas Foundation

Founded in Chicago more than 60 years ago by radical community organizer Saul Alinsky, the Industrial Areas Foundation is founded upon the organizing principle that government is for ordinary people. Though its aims are secular, IAF is often organized through Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish congregations, and comprises some 50 chapters nationwide, from Brooklyn to East L.A. The IAF organization in Austin, a coalition of 30 local congregations, is known as Austin Interfaith.

In Texas, IAF chapters support political initiatives such as living wages, healthcare, and affordable housing. In the Rio Grande Valley, the IAF organization, Valley Interfaith, successfully lobbied the Legislature to pass more than $450 million in bonds to put water and sewer service into the area's colonias. Austin Interfaith offers the long-term adult job training and placement program Capital I.D.E.A. (Investing in the Development and Education of Adults) and the Summer Youth Employment program, and lobbies local office-holders to address living wages and affordable housing in Austin.

Since 1991, Austin Interfaith has also organized 16 Alliance schools, of which 13 currently remain in partnership with the organization. Six more schools are considering becoming Alliance schools. Since the IAF's Interfaith Education Fund formally began the Alliance Schools Initiative in 1991, Alliance school organizing has spread to Louisiana, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Alliance schools are those at which the faculty has voted to enter a formal relationship with Austin Interfaith. Interfaith provides certain services in common to all schools: parent training and basic advice on organizing, lobbying, etc. But since this is a highly localized approach, what individual schools choose to do after the initial organizing -- building repair, curriculum changes, etc. -- is up to that school's parents and faculty. There is no one model for an Alliance School.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Industrial Areas Foundation, Saul Alinsky, Austin Interfaith, Valley Interfaith, Capital I.D.E.A., Summer Youth Employment Program, Alliance Schools

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