By Allison Magee

ZFF recently announced a call for nominations and applications for its 2022 William J. Zellerbach Award for Social Change (WJZ Award). The award was established in 2019 in honor of our late board chair who led the organization for over 40 years. Now in its fourth year, the WJZ Award seeks to recognize innovative efforts that have the potential for sustainable and replicable systems transformation in our region and beyond. The theme for the 2022 award is bridging and belonging, work that is new to ZFF’s portfolio, and more important than ever for our communities.

Based at UC Berkeley, the Othering & Belonging Institute (OBI) refers to “belonging” as a world based on inclusion, fairness, justice, and care for the earth. In more tangible terms, belonging is the feeling of security and support one experiences when there is a sense of acceptance and inclusion; it is when an individual feels safe to live as their true and authentic self.

At ZFF, our values have always reflected the idea of belonging, and as part of our strategic planning process over the last two years, we have deepened our exploration and understanding of the term in concept and in practice.  We heard from experts, ran innumerable analyses, and listened to our grantees and partners to better understand the experiences of being “othered” (exclusion, marginalization, and structural inequality) among the many communities we serve.  We also examined the power of belonging, and what it means when all individuals and groups have shared power, access, and opportunity.

Two important takeaways came out of our planning: The first is the fundamental role belonging plays in ZFF’s work. The roots of belonging are inextricably linked to our core goals and together are what we call the building blocks of change – Building Power, Diversifying Art and Expression, Transforming Systems, and Finding our Shared Humanity, Allyship, and Collective Healing. Each of the building blocks works independently and collectively towards a region where everyone feels safe and welcome and has what they need to thrive.

The second take away is the critical role that “bridging” plays in advancing the building blocks. OBI defines bridging as two or more individuals or groups coming together across acknowledged lines of difference in a way that both affirms their distinct identities and allows for a new, more expansive identity. Bridging helps us find solidarity among movements, communities, and our most uncommon or unexpected allies at all levels of society.

After over 65 years of grantmaking, listening, and learning in partnership with our community, ZFF has woven these concepts throughout our new strategic framework, which promotes belonging, connection, and a shared sense of safety among people and communities across San Francisco, Alameda, and Contra Costa Counties.

I can’t think of a better way to introduce ZFF’s expanded commitment to Bridging and Belonging than this year’s WJZ Award.  Throughout his life, Bill Zellerbach held a deep appreciation for and commitment to the diversity and vitality of the Bay Area. He understood the power of bridging, the value of mutual appreciation, respect, and understanding across cultures and communities, and the simple but profound joy of connecting with people different from him.  We are honored to carry-on his legacy and to lift organizations focusing on this important work.

In community,

Allison Magee
Executive Director
Zellerbach Family Foundation