Leveling Up the Next Generation of Social Impact Consultants: Rapid Response Advising, Advocacy and Apprenticeship during the Pandemic

Leveling Up the Next Generation of Social Impact Consultants:  Rapid Response Advising, Advocacy and Apprenticeship during the Pandemic

By Samantha Nuñez

Amid the chaos sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, rampant unemployment continues as businesses respond to the compromised economy by tightening their belts and in many cases, layoffs. Even though countless businesses face financial difficulties, small businesses and in particular, nonprofits, are ill-prepared to endure the long-term financial challenges posed by the pandemic. At the same time, communities of color face mounting challenges as COVID-19 exacerbates long-standing, endemic inequalities fueled by the legacy of racism and police violence. 

Despite these challenges, organizations like United Latinx Fund (ULF) have responded by proactively reimagining their business model to more effectively address COVID-19, particularly within communities of color. To amplify its impact, ULF partnered with the Latino Coalition of Los Angeles (LCLA) to help identify, engage and invest in Generation Z and Millennial freelancers with diverse skills, content expertise and networks. Our community’s young people are desperate to rise above their circumstances and in partnership with these organizations, we can  begin to cultivate the next generation of social impact consultants. Oftentimes, young people in marginalized communities are not given the space to develop their skills especially now with the pandemic cutting opportunities by the day. Much like small businesses have invested in the next entrepreneurs, ULF and LCLA began using an applied learning approach to assemble a diverse team of young consultants. 

Backed by these L.A. organizations, a cohort of young professionals have created a new work environment. The team now advises on multi-generational, multicultural, and multi-organizational COVID-19 rapid responses. They also lead advocacy campaigns to address the varied and emerging crises facing vulnerable communities of color throughout greater Los Angeles. 

Samantha Nunez, a recent USC graduate and current Master’s in Communication Management candidate joined the ULF/LCLA team and hit the ground running by leading press conferences and key communications efforts. “I’ve had key guidance from mentors like ULF’s Interim Executive Director, Richard Xavier Corral, who gave me the space to develop professionally after I got my degree and that’s become a rarity within the current job market,” Samantha said. 

Samantha’s colleague and LCLA board member Jacob Montoya shares in this experience and helped produce ULF and LCLA’s signature Fireside CharLA virtual event series. The CharLA series served as a platform to bring even more work to these young people and directly connect them to the local officials that could make an active change in these young professionals’ communities. Los Angeles City Council President Emeritus Herb J. Wesson, Jr., who presided over monumental policy initiatives such as raising the minimum wage, pension reform and consolidating city elections to increase voter turnout is one of the many individuals who this partnership has given exclusive access to. 

“This moment is demanding leadership change and the leadership we need includes the next generation of professionals, not just elected officials. If we can provide opportunities to the next generation to not only practice their skill and exercise their talent, if they can do that in a way that promotes social justice and equity and they get compensated, I feel that that will ensure their success going forward. It is particularly meaningful to do this when we take into account these individuals and their need to practice, get paid, and reinforce skills all within COVID. That is a recipe for success, it is an insurance policy,” noted Richard Corral, Interim Executive Director for the United Latinx Fund. 

The collective challenges of the past and present moments have inspired solidarity and collaboration across LA’s Latinx communities in an effort to uplift one another, critically rethink “business and politics as usual” and advance social justice. Although the County and City of Los Angeles have suffered immeasurable loss, local nonprofits must continue to illuminate the systemic issues faced by the marginalized communities they serve in addition to meeting their basic needs. It’s because of this that ULF and LCLA under the direction of its Gen Z and Millennial consultant cohort, convened a Multicultural Multigenerational Collaborative (MMC) of nonprofit organizations that represent and serve diverse communities throughout the region. 

Clearly, the next generation of Latinx social impact professionals has already proven that they are more than prepared to succeed, even during a pandemic. Victor Manuel Cruz Jr., joined ULF as the Workplace Giving Campaign Manager in January 2020 and since then, has become an essential member of the Communications team as the Spanish Language Communications Coordinator. He uses his background and leverages his ties with the Spanish speaking community to strengthen relations with ULF’s Spanish speaking partners and supporters. 

“I am proud and privileged to be working towards creating a more equitable and socially justice oriented Los Angeles. Through my work with United Latinx Fund and the Latino Coalition of Los Angeles, I have leveraged my understanding of policy, public administration, communications, and philanthropy to help shape community oriented solutions that address both immediate and long-term needs. This work has better prepared me to create solutions that leverage the private, public, and nonprofit sectors for holistic solutions that are enduring and facilitate community to the forefront. ULF and LCLA have granted me the opportunity to work alongside politicians and public administrators where my insight and input is valued and integral to the work our City and County efforts to advance the wellbeing of all its constituents.” shared Victor Manuel Cruz.

Cindy Villegas is a perfect example of the heights these young professionals can reach through the support and guidance from organizations that invest in her future and those within her cohort. She joined LCLA as the Board President in January 2020 and notes that through the ULF/LCLA collaboration, she boosted her skill set and further developed as a professional. During the COVID-19 pandemic, LCLA and ULF successfully built a platform for professional learning and practice, where the voices of young professionals are empowered and uplifted, something that Cindy fully embraced. Both organizations established a well-rounded space for virtual learning, community organizing and political maneuvering. 

“As founder of the Latino Coalition of Los Angeles, I’m proud to say that my peers and I who created this space and organization 11 years ago in order to get to a moment in time like this, couldn’t be prouder to see our vision in action through work of these young leaders and consultants, who are truly agents of change in 2020,” said Latino Coalition of Los Angeles Founder Raul Claros.

Thanks to the LCLA/ULF partnership, targeted and strategic investments in youth development are an essential and central tool to dismantle the structural barriers associated with being Latinx, young and inexperienced. Although the current moment presents uncertainty for all organizations, particularly nonprofits, ULF and LCLA have propelled their missions to go beyond words into transformative action and above all make the ultimate investments in our Latinx youth. The collaboration provides these young professionals with access to rare opportunities by creating a seat at the table where real work is conducted and where the older generation can also take a step back and learn. ULF and LCLA have established a new precedent and apprenticeship model that despite the pandemic, has produced an elite team of Latinx social impact professionals whose pioneering skills and problem solving approaches set a new standard of excellence for the political advising and advocacy sector. 

The future of greater Los Angeles and the organizations that champion its most vulnerable communities is in great hands with the relentless and resilient leaders and professionals emerging from ULF and LCLA. 

Recently, United Latinx Fund's Interim Executive Director, Richard Corral and Elia Sanchez, Director of Strategic Partnerships sat down with the Skill Sharp: The Podcast team to share how ULF is amplifying Latinx voices through social-cause marketing. By way, seizing the moment during the pandemic to strategically catapult the Next Gen forward. The podcast will be shared right here and you won't want to miss it!

In the interim, check out the recording below of the October 2020 Fireside CharLA featuring Memo Torres, Director of Partnerships at L.A. Taco. Memo shared how L.A. Taco also seized the moment to open doors for emerging writers, including our very own Samantha Nunez. ULF is proud to have partnered with L.A. Taco to uplift the next generation.