By David Castillo, Digital Content Manager, NCLR
This month in the Affiliate Spotlight, we’re featuring El Concilio, our Affiliate based in the heart of the San Joaquin Central Valley of California. This Affiliate has worked hard to position themselves as the hub of resources for the Latino community for the past 48 years. With a strong commitment to community service and by establishing lasting relationships with other community organizations, federal, state, and local elected officials, El Concilio constantly works to improve the lives of those in their community.
Their work has not gone unnoticed. Last year, NCLR recognized El Concilio with our 2015 Affiliate of the Year award. The group is also hosting our upcoming NCLR Affiliate Network Peer Exchange, generously supported and made possible by the Ford Motor Company Fund. For El Concilio’s President and CEO, Jose Rodriguez, the Peer Exchange is an opportunity to share with other Affiliates their own best practices and policies that have helped turn this community-based organization into the cherished resource it is.
El Concilio’s mission is simple: to improve the quality of life of Latinos in the Central Valley of California. It was founded in 1968 by a group of community activists and clergy who wanted to start an organization that would serve the growing migrant farmworker community. The original scope of Concilio’s work was limited to things like translation services, employment search assistance, and general advocacy. Over the years, however, it has expanded its array of services to include Head Start programs, mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, civic engagement, and parent engagement programs, among others. Its humble beginnings included 28 employees and a one million dollar operating budget. Today, El Concilio boasts more than 200 employees, a $10 million operating budget, and it serves more than 25,000 people per year.
Rodriguez attributes much of El Concilio’s success to its membership within the NCLR Affiliate Network. “[NCLR’s Affiliate Network] contributed to our growth and success because we’ve been able to connect with other Affiliates. We’re able to learn from other orgs what they’re doing; how they’re solving some of the issues,” said Rodriguez. “NCLR leads the way by providing information to us and the research they do, which helps us then develop trainings. It has been the ace in our back pocket.”
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One of the areas where El Concilio shines is in its civic engagement work. Recognizing the need in the Central Valley, El Concilio has integrated civic engagement into everything it does. “A lot of times people think civic engagement is political and tend to shy away,” said Rodriguez. “We hope to help folks understand that it’s about advocacy and empowering our clients to be able to advocate for themselves and really educate them about what’s going on.”
At El Concilio, every client who walks in is greeted with the question of whether they’re registered to vote and if they have health care. This ensures that no opportunity is lost for those eligible to register to vote and gain health care. The group has also fostered healthy competition among its staff. Employee buy-in is critical to ensuring success, Rodriguez says. Every year El Concilio sets a goal of registering 2,500 people, and individual program teams set goals for themselves, too. The approach has worked and the organization often far exceeds its original goal.
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El Concilio was also a key player in the fight for the California Homeowner’s Bill of Rights. The group was instrumental in organizing town halls with Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, and these town halls helped her develop the landmark legislation. Rodriguez hopes to share some of the wisdom behind their strategies for relationship- and network-building at the Affiliate Peer Exchange later this month.
It’s this spirit of sharing that Rodriguez finds most beneficial about the Affiliate Network and why he hopes as many Affiliates as possible can attend the convening. “We consider ourselves very fortunate to have received the NCLR Affiliate of the Year Award, because when you look at the Affiliate Network, there are some that are doing an extraordinary amount of work,” said Rodriguez. “Some are bigger than others, but at the end of the day, it’s about getting engaged and putting your best foot forward.”
If you’re an NCLR Affiliate, sign up and register for the NCLR Affiliate Peer Exchange. We’ll see you in Stockton, CA!