December Grantee Spotlight: SPEB

What does community-led advocacy need to thrive?

Supporting Partnerships in Education & Beyond (SPEB) was founded in 2014 by a group of Somali mothers with a shared goal of becoming advocates for themselves and other immigrant communities within the education system.

Over its eight years, SPEB has grown to support immigrant families and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities who advocate for change. SVP Seattle has been proud to support SPEB as a grantee as it works towards its vision: “to create an education process that benefits all children through a culturally sustaining and equitable lens.”

Community at the center

SPEB’s work has long centered community leadership, knowing that changing the systemic inequities that affect our education system requires equipping people affected by these inequities – families, educators, and community partners – to lead the charge.

Sometimes, that means starting by addressing basic needs; without a healthy and strong foundation, community members can’t work together towards bigger goals. In 2020, as immigrant and BIPOC families faced economic, health, and other challenges exacerbated by the pandemic, SPEB pivoted to facilitating a stronger network of resource distribution within unincorporated South King County where its community lives and works. By partnering with other community-based organizations, SPEB made sure culturally-reflective, Halal groceries were made available to families during Eid.

“We want to support parents showing up and advocating for their kids, but we also know a parent is not going to be the best at standing up to injustice if they’re worried about if their lights are going to be on or if their kids will have meals for the day.”

Capacity building is another important area of SPEB’s programming. An ongoing series of community workshops empowers participants with the tools to become their own advocates within the education system and elsewhere, as they build skills and work together to help set the strategy for outreach.

Throughout its evolution over the past eight years, SPEB has honed its focus and purpose by recognizing the importance of its relationship-building efforts. Nonprofits don’t parent communities – but they do have a critical role to play in connecting community members who have aligned goals and lifting up the priorities those communities set for themselves.

Co-creation in action

SPEB is an actively learning, real-world example of what it means to co-create – pursuing the types of practices that it wants to see peers adopt.

SPEB’s work has shown that centering community sometimes means acting intentionally to flip the script on what it looks like to share power – for example, not only offering language interpretation, but also designing programs and engagements with non-English speakers at the foreground. During Highline Public Schools’ August 2022 Leadership Forum, SPEB community members hosted a professional development event for over 100 school district leaders to learn about equitable family engagement practices. The session began with a young Somali parent explaining the impact community organizations like SPEB can have in facilitating partnerships between families and schools to support their students’ learning. The short video was in Somali with Spanish and English translations of the transcript. Breakout conversations during the session took place in Somali, Spanish, and English – and administrators had a chance to engage in meaningful conversation with youth and family leaders in the language of their choice.

SPEB’s regular community mixer events are another attempt to shift the paradigm on what it means to be inclusive in community engagement. Mixers are an opportunity for SPEB community partners and funders to get to know the SPEB staff and programming on a more intimate level and find out how they can collaborate to support efforts already underway.

Get involved with SPEB

SPEB is always looking for individuals to collaborate: