Nonprofit targets needs of working people, families
Two Methow Valley women have launched a new organization with the goal of shaping an economy in North Central Washington that supports working people and families.
Adrianne Moore and Elana Mainer founded Rural People’s Voice to support grassroots organizing, policies, legislation and political candidates that align with their vision for “a new economic agenda.”
Rural People’s Voice is a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization, which means it can lobby for policy change and legislation and do electoral work, as long as political work is not the primary focus of the organization.
Mainer and Moore played significant roles in shaping the delivery of social services in the Methow Valley as leaders of Room One, the valley’s primary provider of social services. Moore joined the organization when it was established in 2007 and worked in different positions, including executive director, until 2018. Mainer was executive director of Room One from 2012-2020.
While working at Room One, they saw how difficult it was for many people to make ends meet in this rural part of Washington.
“What we saw during our time there was that the folks we were serving were increasingly in crisis, and that included middle-income folks. They were struggling with child care, housing, wages,” Moore said.
Room One partnered with other organizations to develop prevention programs to help people avoid falling into crises. But Mainer and Moore said they came to realize that the problems faced by families in North Central Washington are deeply rooted in the regional economy.
“We saw that the foundation we were working on that supported families in rural areas wasn’t what it needed to be to provide families what they needed,” Moore said. “We wanted to work at a broader level – policy and legislation – changing how we think about ourselves and talk about ourselves, and building an economy in rural areas that works for all of us.”
Catalyst for change
In 2020, Moore ran for the 12th District state representative seat, held by Keith Goehner, R-Dryden, and Mainer was her campaign manager. “When we decided to run for office, we were running to win … but we also understood that the statistical likelihood of us winning was small,” Moore said.
Although Goehner won, the campaign was a catalyst for the work that Mainer and Moore are doing now, they said. “We set a different benchmark for a win – getting people excited for a shared economy, getting young people involved in a tangible way, getting more than 600 donors from North Central Washington, and more votes than a progressive candidate (in that district) has gotten before,” Moore said.
During the campaign they and their volunteers contacted thousands of voters through phone calls and knocking on doors. “That gave us an idea who people were and what they were excited about and what they were afraid of,” Mainer said.
Both women are from eastern Washington, Mainer said. She was born in Chewelah and grew up in Spokane, and Moore was born near Davenport, where her family has been ranching for five generations. “We’ve got skin in the game,” Mainer said. “A better economy is something we all need – a fair shot to save for our retirement, have the money for our kids’ education, a living wage job.”
Moore and Mainer established a separate 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization, called Rural People’s Platform, to create a “narrative shift” through media and grassroots campaigns “that celebrate rural people and perspectives and experience, and give new voice to people who are marginalized in areas like ours,” Mainer said.
They plan to use social media, radio, podcasts, billboards and newspapers to “build a shared vision that the majority can get behind in North Central Washington … the things that unite the majority of us – that’s an economy that works for all of us, schools, housing, health care, a greener future,” Mainer said.
They hope that creating a united vision of a shared economy can bring people together. “People are so tired of elective politics because it’s so dark and divisive,” Moore said. “This is a different way of governing. Too many of us are not part of building something that’s going to work for all of us.”
Rural People’s Voice, through its lobbying capacity, will actively engage in organizing communities and people around political campaigns, candidates, legislation and policies that support the shared vision they hope will take hold.
“We’re building the vision and getting leaders behind that,” Mainer said. “Hopefully we’ll inspire people to run and help them along the way, give more people a way to see themselves as leadership in their community. And when they do run, we make sure they have the support they need.”
They plan to begin rolling out the narrative campaign this year. They will also work “to build the electoral infrastructure” by continuing conversations with people who have run for office, finding what support is needed, and developing “concrete resources” to help in future elections. They hope to hire community organizers to work in swing electoral districts this year, and are looking at creating a political action committee as well.
They outline four long-term goals, anticipating a decade of work to organize a majority base of support in the region; to see emergence of economic policies and programs that support working families; to move a majority of people to agree on what a strong rural economy should be and how to achieve it; and to elect people who share that economic vision to all levels of regional government.
“For each of those goals we have a 10-year work plan, which sounds ambitious,” said Mainer. “We have concrete strategies under each of those goals.”
Moore and Mainer are working with a steering committee of people from North Central Washington including labor leaders, tribal members, Latinx civic leaders, youth, small business owners, social workers and artists. The Rural People’s Voice website is ruralpeoplesvoice.org.