The Commonwealth Seminar is opening the doors of the Massachusetts State House to diverse leaders: community leaders of color and those from immigrant and other underrepresented communities. The TSNE fiscally sponsorship client is preparing the next generation of policy-makers in the Commonwealth.
Opening the Doors to the Massachusetts State House
Joel Barrera, a Texas transplant, arrived in Massachusetts 10 years ago to work for a state senator and was stunned by the lack of diversity among the staffs of legislators He was one of only two nonwhites at a State House orientation for more than 40 new employees. “Texas is not exactly known for its progressive politics,” he quips. “But it is taken for granted that the government will be representative of the state's population.”
Fast forward a few years to 2003 and Barrera, teaming up with Massachusetts State Senator Jarrett Barrios, began to address this imbalance with the creation of the Commonwealth Seminar. Barrera and Barrios, himself one of a handful of legislators of color, envisioned a program that would increase the participation of communities of color and immigrant communities in the state legislative process.
The seminar provides in-depth legislative training, networking opportunities with top policy-makers, and access to public service jobs. The nonpartisan program is funded by the Boston Foundation, Herman and Frieda L. Miller Foundation, Access Strategies Fund, Foley Hoag Foundation and the Cabot Family Charitable Trust.
After a year working with a solid but small fiscal sponsor, the program began to seek a fiscal sponsor that was specifically set up to take care of the budget, reporting and other administrative work that supported the growing organization’s program initiatives. Grants Management Associates suggested Third Sector New England.
“TSNE was set up to do the work we needed done and fully embraced our mission,” says Barrera. “Using fiscal sponsorship allows us to focus on our core mission and not spend an overwhelming amount of time on administrative or compliance issues. It is a more efficient use of our resources.”
With TSNE dealing with “back office” issues, the Commonwealth Seminar can focus staffs’ energies on continuing to train hundreds of community leaders of color and from immigrant communities to emerge as sophisticated, effective advocates on behalf of their constituents.
“TSNE’s role in making sure laws are followed, reports are submitted, and policies are administered, is critical to the overall credibility of the Commonwealth Seminar program and our long-term success,” states Barrera.
“We hope this will be an entry point for minority residents to run for office, work in legislative offices, and spearhead important legislative initiatives. The bottom line is that we want to throw open the doors of government to people who have often been excluded or who haven’t felt welcome in the corridors of power,“ Barrera said. “We want them to take the feeling that the State House belongs to them.”
Commonwealth Seminar Online Resources
The Commonwealth Seminar (MassCS) promotes public service through a free online resource, Commonwealth Jobs, which features job opportunities with government and non-profit organizations. Every month, Commonwealth Jobs reaches thousands of diverse leaders and job seekers.
Employers are encouraged to use the website to reach out to communities of color and immigrant groups. There is no cost to post a job. Learn more at Commonwealth Jobs, MassCS.org.