Initiative for Community Power

An Overview

Initiative for Community Power

The Initiative for Community Power at NYU ("The Initiative") combines the weight and assets of a global academic institution with deep community partnerships and decades of high-impact community organizing and power-building work. The Initiative catalyzes analysis, innovation, and project work to create a more equitable, democratic, and racially just society.

The Initiative combines scholarship, field-building, experiential education, convenings, field placements to study and challenge inequality and anti-democracy. The Initiative works closely with non-profit, academic and government partners to reimagine the parameters of the possible, and to transform our vision of dynamic democracy, rooted in racial and economic justice, into reality. The Initiative is housed in the Center on Race, Inequality and the Law at NYU School of Law.


  • To create myriad academic and professional opportunities to examine and understand the ideological, legal, and policy groundings of inequality across sectors and the assault on democracy in the United States and beyond;
  • To spark new ways of thinking and promote dialogue among diverse groups to reframe understandings of law, policy and governance within a social justice framework; and develop innovative approaches to strengthening democracy and confronting inequality on a variety of fronts, with a particular emphasis on racial and economic inequality;
  • To catalyze interest and commitment, and train an emerging generation of students and civic leaders;
  • To create a wide array of field-based learning and leadership development opportunities for students and recent graduates of NYU’s School of Law, as well as from other NYU graduate and undergraduate programs;
  • To leverage NYU’s faculty and student resources to provide high-value, targeted support for legal, policy and movement-based social justice, pro-democracy, and racial justice organizations and endeavors;      
  • To nurture rigorous scholarship, debate, dialogue and critical thinking, both within the University and beyond, about inequality, power, and how to promote democratic engagement and racial and economic justice;
  • To bring together students and faculty at NYU and at other law schools and schools of public affairs to combine movement building and social change efforts across schools and fields;
  • To examine how inequality functions, is exacerbated, and can be disrupted – in our economy, in our democracy, and, on particular issues, such as taxation, climate justice, etc. The initiative will also consider different levels of government (city, state and federal) and the powers and practices at each level that could help to create and maintain equity and democratic engagement; and
  • To contribute to bridging the practitioner, activist and academic worlds to spark real world change and co-produce knowledge that helps to advance the Initiative’s social change purpose and goals.


The Initiative is housed in the Law School. It is co-led by a veteran Executive Director (Andrew Friedman) and Faculty Director (Deborah Archer). We are creating an advisory board made up of faculty throughout NYU, social justice leaders from around the United States, and leaders from academia, government and movement work.


  • Partnership with the public sector and power-building organizations to confront endemic inequality of political voice, engagement and power and foment innovative and effective strategies that create community power and democratic engagement.
  • Fellowships: Fund, place and help supervise and support student fellows (from Law, and across the university) to work in organizations and on academic projects supporting democracy and challenging inequality: full-time in the summer and post-graduate, and part-time during the fall and spring semesters.  
  • Teaching: Develop course offerings such as seminars or clinics focused on inequality and on recent anti-democratic trends, in the US and abroad. Work with other legal, policy and other academics to new ways of teaching about power, democracy and democratic engagement.
  • Reading Groups, Speakers, Visiting Scholars and Convenings: Host domestic and international scholars, elected officials, organizers, activists, organizational leaders and others with expertise on issues and disciplines related to inequality, racial justice, political economy, policy, power and social change as a resource for faculty and students throughout the university and the broader advocacy, governance, social justice and policy fields. Host scholarly convenings on equity, democracy and the links between the two. Showcase alternative legal, policy and governance paradigms, including from other countries. 
  • Field-building: Convene meetings and partnerships with key organizational leaders and leaders at other schools of law and public affairs to catalyze partnerships, shared learning and innovation among these critical constituencies.
  • Training and Leadership Development: Provide student fellows, as well as other interested students and faculty, with training on key equality and democracy issues, the ideological underpinnings of those issues, and on crucial organizing, policy and governance approaches to advancing equity and strengthening democratic engagement.
  • Research and Action Research: Promote faculty and student partnerships with pro-democracy and social and racial justice organizations to help conduct and publish research necessary to advance their work.
  • Host Organizers-in-Residence Fellowships at NYU for social change leaders/organizers to engage in reflection, writing, study and exchanges with the community that emerges from the Initiative.
  • Student-generated Projects: Create a fund which would give small grants to promising student-led projects related to equity, justice and democratic engagement.