Funding Rural | Episode #5 | Understanding Access with Zavier ‘Zavi’ Borja

Zavier ‘Zavi’ Borja discusses his upbringing in rural Central Oregon as the son of a Mexican immigrant family — chasing agricultural work juxtaposed with his nonprofit experience in outdoor recreation. He shares his journey working with kids of color and how his past impacts his newest adventure, working for Oregon’s Governor.

“I remember a lot of the kids were like, I’ve never seen the ocean. I’ve never been to the ocean. And to me that was so wild. I was like, How have you never seen the ocean? We’re literally on a peninsula, the ocean is are all around you. But then that’s when I really started to understand lack of access, barriers to these things.” – Zavier Borja


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More about Zavier ‘Zavi’ Borja


A first generation Mexican-American, born in Redmond, Oregon, Zavier Borja grew up in Jefferson County and has lived in Bend for the past 12 years. His passions include serving our youth, communities and getting them outside. Zavier has worked for various youth programs for the past ten years, including the Boys and Girls Club of Bend, Bend Parks and Recreation District (youth, sports & enrichment departments), and Education Outside in San Francisco. Lastly, working for Bend-La Pine School District, as a Mentor Specialist for at-risk youth at Summit High School. Zavi created a local chapter of the nationally recognized non-profit, Latino Outdoors here in Central Oregon. From that he has been able to make connections with local outdoor partners in order to work in a collaborative manner to create – Vámonos Outside. The creation and directing that work for two years – lead to one opportunity to work with the City of Bend as the Community Relations Manager also for two years, To where Zavier now works which is for the State of Oregon in the Governor’s Office as the Regional Solutions Coordinator for Central and South Central Regions. ⁠Zavi’s educational background includes a BS from George Fox University for Organizational Leadership and Management and has had the honor of being a part of the pilot cohort for OSU’s Outdoor Industry Leadership Certificate program.

“Rural communities are not a monolith. You cannot encompass a policy or anything with all rural Oregonians.” – Zavier Borja

Discussion Questions

  • What is your impression of what rural looks like? Where did that impression come from?
  • What does it mean to have an impact on rural youth? Why are numbers/scaleability so important? Can we look at that differently?
  • How do we, in philanthropy, create and advance strong leaders to ensure their success?
  • How are our grant applications set up for grassroots organizations? Are they accessible? Have you asked you grant partners?
  • Zavi talks about introductions to other programs and organizations, that’s an easy lift for program staff and team members – how can you better support connecting grant partners across your funding portfolio?


“We’ve always been stewards of the land…we just need to connect and want to be out there also. And so to create that pathway or normalize that for everybody, I think is important.” –Zavier Borja

Transcript: Funding Rural Episode #5 “Understanding Access” with Zavier ‘Zavi’ Borja

Erin Borla: 0:10
Thanks for listening to Funding Rural. I’m Erin Borla: Borla, Executive Director and trustee of the Sisters, Oregon based Roundhouse Foundation. I also get the opportunity to serve as a Fellow for the National Center for Family Philanthropy. I think many of us both in the philanthropic world and beyond assume rural America is predominantly white, which is a myth. People of Color in many states make up the largest percentage of growth in rural communities. How are we hearing from them, connecting with them, or even serving them as funders. That’s what I wanted to talk with Zavier Borja update. Zavi grew up in rural Jefferson County. Now he’s the Regional Solutions Coordinator for Central Oregon, working directly for the Governor’s office. I always say Regional Solutions Coordinators are like the Governor’s street team. I’m so excited to have Zavi here. He and I got to know each other when he was the Executive Director and founder of Vamanos Outside an organization here in Central Oregon, working to get Latinx kiddos and families outside to experience recreation and the outdoors in a way maybe they haven’t had the opportunity to in the past. Zavi is a bundle of energy. And he has so much to say about his experience growing up in rural Central Oregon, working on the orchards with his family and grandparents, and how that shaped his career working toward more inclusivity for underserved communities at all levels.

Zavi Borja: 1:27
My parents, they and my grandparents immigrated here from Mexico. So I’m a first generation Mexican American. And so my grandparents, they chased ag work around Central Oregon. So Madras at the time, had a lot of mint and had a lot of potatoes, still have some of that stuff, but an abundance where again, they would chase the work and then you know, every winter, they would go to Washington or California or like even Florida during the winter times. And so really, I sorted cherries, picked cherries and fruit from like 4am, 5am till sundown growing up. But I think that really was and is like my first connection to like, space, even still to this day. And like the outdoors and how I experienced it.

Erin Borla: 2:15
So being outside. That’s something that you know, we hear as we philanthropist work, it’s the majority of philanthropists are based in cities and more urban centers, and we talk about climate, and we talk about getting a chance to experience outside. And when they, when we think about rural people look at rural spaces, and they’re like, everybody already has access. What do you mean they need access. And it’s different. It may be there, we may grow up on 300 acres and be able to be outside but it’s not the same as learning to recreate. {Right} So tell me about your experience with that.

Zavi Borja: 2:49
Yeah, I think those are two very different things, right. We talk about recreation and how we identify or conceptualize and think of the outdoors in relation to philanthropy or when were grant giving in any sense, because like I just explained, it’s like, my connection with the outdoors was a more ag base. And same with rural, right and in rural Oregonians or rural areas, and in general, is a lot of their experience is already in the outside or in the outdoors. And that’s still very much so a connection or related in that sector, to me. It’s not like playing so to speak, but like also is very different, but also the same. And so my experience and I also did a program called Heart of Oregon Core. And that was after when I was able to get a real job after working in the orchards with my grandparents and summer programs, COYC, Central Oregon Youth Conservation Corps, and we got to go around the Central Oregon area, build fences work with the hotshot crews, work with Forest Service, you know, folks and pull brush and all these things. And for me, it created, like still to this day, I’ll drive past Prineville going to Kimberly, like I remember, you know, fixing that fence. And like I created in my brain like, again, this connection, to spaces and also on the way oh, the Ochocos, I remember going on that forest service road and doing that trail. And I didn’t realize how much was around me in terms of recreation, especially in the Central Oregon area. It wasn’t until and I’ll come back this will all make sense. And so during like my early 20s, I went to San Francisco and worked for an outdoor organization called Education Outside. And Education Outside was a nonprofit organization that helped urban kids, in a very urban area, in Oakland and San Francisco, with garden based education. And I remember a lot of the kids were like I’ve never seen the ocean. I’ve never been to the ocean. And to me that was so wild. I was like how have you never seen the ocean? It’s, we’re literally on like a peninsula like the oceans are all around you. But then that’s when I really started to understand lack of access, barriers to these things. And a host of ways. Whether it was you know, I think it trickles down, not by not because they wanted to, but I think you know, parents, families, and then it goes on to you. So then in my experience, it, it opened up my eyes to my own experience that I had just either taken for granted and or that was just like my norm. And that was normal to me to where, you know, I didn’t spend my weekends with my family, hiking, or backpacking. And for me, as I continued to unpack that, as I got older, so again, my parents immigrated here to this country. And so for them, it was like, you know, backpacking is almost like trekking across the country or somewhere, living with whatever’s on your back. And so and I asked them sometimes, now that I am older, there was like, why don’t you want to let go, like, outside of Smith rock or something, like. I spend 16 hours a day, like outside doing these manual labor jobs are in the outdoors, already, like, the last thing I want to do is go back outside. Or why would I want to be quote unquote, miserable, in like, you know, packing all my stuff and my bed and sleep on the ground when I came here to sleep on my bed, type of thing. And so that was, you know, an innately or unintentionally my experience with them growing up. To where, again, it wasn’t until my mid 20’s, so again, live in Central Oregon, the mountains are what, I mean, we’re looking at the mountains, right? It’s like I was, I was like, 26, the first time I went to Mount Bachelor. And it was extremely beautiful. It was crazy. And I was a man, like, why have I never been here, like, I like this is crazy. It’s just right there. And, you know, for me, personally, thanks to social media, I got exposed to a lot of waterfalls in the area too. And then I was hiking a ton, I was taking pictures of all these beautiful areas, wanting to show them and share them with other people. So they would be encouraged to go out. But I was like, it’s all right there. But there’s also these, these, these barriers, again, like lack of knowledge and understanding of like, where do I even find this information. And I go to like, the website, and I was like, and I speak English pretty well my first language, right? It was just like, I don’t know how to navigate this website, I don’t know how to navigate this trail. And then like, you have to pay here, this is federal, this is state, this is public, this is open land. I had no concept or understanding of what that even meant. Or where to even pay in or like, do you have to pay and like, all these different things, and just like, not understanding because I was never taught and also it’s like, very cumbersome and difficult to navigate. And again, to even understand. It’s tricky, and like it’s again, my own experience and a lot of like Forest Service, and or like trailhead, like, you know, folks that are there to help. But a lot of their uniforms mirror also like Border Patrol, and other things. So this creates this, like sense of, maybe not belonging. And also like, for me in this area specifically, I was like, I didn’t see a lot of people that looked like me, or spoke my language in these spaces. And then again, I thought, like, why is that, and I reflected on like, a lot of like, my personal, you know, lived experiences. And so started talking to the people and it’s like, and my dad always says this man. I’m like how like, let’s go do, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go hike tomorrow. And like, that’s what white people do, right. Like, that’s not what we, that’s for white people. Let’s go snowboarding every tried snowshoeing, that’s for white people, right and in, he’s just very like old school, love him to death. Right. But in that narrative, I think it got put into my head. But also, I think a lot of other, you know, families and folks who are it’s like, we don’t do that. That’s not what we do. We don’t, we don’t recreate. But I think back to that question of like recreation, like, that’s such a foreign word of like, we don’t associate really, unfortunately, like the outdoors with like, play. Again, it’s back to that, like, its work, but it’s still very connected to like the the Earth and to the space. And I think the more and more I reflected on like things like that is like, he doesn’t I mean, you know, it’s just like this constant of the larger discussion, right of like, like socioeconomic, like disparities within folks of color, and communities and areas to where and again, I recognize like, that’s where like he’s coming from. Or that’s when, when or I think that’s where he’s coming from. Or there’s a multitude of ways, like when he says like, you know, very blanket statements kind of like that, right, its like well no. And that’s why for me, like he’s afforded me the opportunity to you know, have citizenship and like, be here and like I know the language well, so that’s why I also felt like it was kind of like a little bit like my duty, like indebted really is like how do I repay that? Not only for myself, but like for others. And this is my way of continuing to be able to actively work towards that. Is like no, no,no like I like I hear where you’re coming from, like, Dad, but also like, we can definitely do this, we’ve, we’ve always been steward of the land we’ve always been, we just need to connect and want to be out there also. And so to create that pathway, or normalize that for, for everybody, I think is, is important. So all of those things I just kind of shared, especially being in San Francisco. And coming back to Central Oregon, prompted me to be like, I want to see more of like my people outside.

Erin Borla: 10:37
I think it’s important that you bring up that we have an expectation as as philanthropists, as community members that people care about the things that we care about, {Totally} right? And we forget that if you don’t get a chance to experience something in the same way that, they don’t, there’s not the same engagement and involvement. I’ve never seen the ocean. I never know what I don’t know what it looks like. Why do I why do I save the ocean? Why is that important? {Yeah} You know, I’ve never, I’ve never been to that prairie or I’ve only been outside to pick fruit with my family. I don’t understand, there’s a, there’s a disconnect. So understanding that we need to engage more and, and be closer with people on the ground doing those things, I think is a really critical piece. So I’m so excited that you mentioned that because I think that thing is one that we work on in our in the foundation world as well as like, let’s just get people outside to experience it.

Zavi Borja: 11:38
And I also want to like stress like in their own way, right to where and I go back and forth. And again, it’s really, really hard and a part of me like really coat switches so much and I think I’m just as natural growing up again, in a Latino household. And then going to school, like I said in the beginning, right, it’s like Zavied versus Zavier versus like Zavi, and I’m fine with either and all of them. But it’s like that’s like the like my brain in different spaces kind of a lot of the times. But, and I’ll throw some some stereotypes that like maybe not real or are real and like your mind telling my voice like I’m very loud, right, very boisterous. But I grew up in a family that was and is very loud. And I think you get these, again, true or not true, like, you know, myths about like groups. And again, I’ll just be very transparent towards like, you know, Latinos are very loud, right, or like people of color are really loud. In, in, in the outdoors, you have to be kind of quiet. Your, your at the trail you should be kind of quiet and you shouldn’t listen to loud music or you’re at a picnic, it’s like you’re kind of there enjoying the spaces in nature, which again, is wonderful. And there’s different structures and rules. Again, we don’t want to disrupt the habitat that’s in this area, which again, has some validity to it. But the same time again, it’s like now we’re being told we have to show up in these spaces, not in our, what we talk about authentic self. And that’s difficult. Again, in the bringing, like, again, I have a big family. So it’s very hard to bring a huge family to a trailhead, or to a park and then do their reservation piece, and it’s only for four people or whatever that is. Again, like so that’s when we say like to structure the system doesn’t work for us. And that’s the thing, right? It’s like, yeah, we want you to partake, but in the way that we believe is right. And that’s also a thing that I’ve kind of seen and or struggled in working with, you know, other entities, or just explaining and working with them. Because again, I think they’re not doing it intentionally. It’s just really holding on to this way of, of how we do things. I think there has to be give, you know, give and take on both ends in order for it to work. And I think you’ll notice that the man always hears, like, what we’re trying, we’re reaching out to, you know, sending people emails and putting the fliers up and you know, all these different things to people, I don’t know why they’re not coming. And I’m like, well, one is not even, well truly you don’t even have it in Spanish. And or it’s like, you know, they don’t even know who you are. And, and i speak in the lens of like Latino culture, like you have to build like that trust and like, show up for people and be there. And, you know, even, even when and if your showing up is really relational. And you can’t just show up to any events or an event, and then show up with a flyer and be like, yeah, cool. I’d love to and it could be the best program and on your and Ill speak to, like on your end, like the philanthropy is like you have all these funds and grants that are allocated for scholarships that allow it to be free, which is wonderful. And again,it’ still like why aren’t they coming here and doing this. It’s really important to build that trust with the families.

Erin Borla: 14:47
I think it’s interesting too, you know, we, the focus of this is talking a lot about rural spaces. And, and it’s important to recognize there are unique challenges within cultural groups that you know, whether it’s a language barrier, whether it’s a trust issue, whether all these different things, but there are base challenges around distance, and access,{Yeah totally} you know, we really try as we focus on our rural work here at Roundhouse, of being accessible, of like, hey, if you got an issue, all you gotta do is call us. There’s, we’ve got a long runway, we can make changes, send me an email, tell me what’s going on. All you gotta do is communicate. And I think that’s the piece that sometimes other funders are challenged with. Because they want to keep that distance. They just like, fill out the form, fill out the metric. And then…

Zavi Borja: 15:32
Again this is how we want to be communicated with right.

Erin Borla: 15:35
Exactly, and so I think there is a lesson there of like, let’s try and be more accessible, {Yeah} and let’s adjust. You know, always, what we always hear is like, well, we yeah, we need more money. {Ha ha yeah right} More money, less strings. {Oh yeah right} And that comes down to like, yeah, that’s, that would be helpful for everything. But we also, you know, we have to reflect on like, okay, well, what, what does our board look for? {Oh, totally} And how are we impacting community, with our dollars, but I think it’s just being accessible, and just and building trust, on the same way, right, just like you’re building trust with families and communities, like we as funders also need to build trust, which means we need to show up. {Right} And I think that’s the difference.

Zavi Borja: 16:13
Totally, and you get in show up in different ways in the thing that in the past, or was, you know, different foundations or within organizations, its, it’s a capacity issue, because then it’s like, that takes a lot of time to then build that relationship and make that effort to like, you know, it is, you know, a little bit, it’s easier to be like, fill this form in this way how we want it. Rather than, you know, actually, let me call Zavi. Or actually, let me let me know, Zavi has this event, maybe I’ll call him and I’ll say, I’ll show up, and we’ll, we’ll chat. It’s a little bit of a inconvenience. And I get that but at the same time like, I think your ROI long term, then you build that partnership, and you’re able to have those conversations and build that trust to where now, you don’t have to do that. Because you do trust them, you know, them. And, you know, I’ve really respected you and what you’ve done here at Roundhouse, and, you know, being able to build our relationship, you know, through the design, and through the grants committee, and how y’all are doing, you know, the philanthropy like, work. And I think that’s trickled into this area. To where like, again, when I was in Vamanos Outside, I remember calling like Sherrol Puddy at, you know, OCF, and just having a conver, just chating with her, like hey and be like, yep, actually, okay, great. I’ll do stuff the administration stuff on my end. Perfect. Right. And so things like that kind of thing overtime, because I had built that relationship with her also. And with that foundation to where it, we actively acknowledged those difficulties, those kind of frustrations and actively worked together. To make it easier for everybody.

Erin Borla: 17:45
Well, I think what happens is philanthropist is when we show up, we can see the other things that may be impacting an organization. {Right} So it’s like, hey, cash is great. But my kids don’t have coats. And I can either spend the money to get them outside and pay our team to get out there. Or I can spend our money to get them coats, or if so how do we, we work together? And it’s like, oh, well, I can I have access, I can get you coats. So seeing those other things, and that’s what we’re hearing from other organizations, too is, how else can we elevate and amplify the work that you’re doing? And maybe showing up beyond a paper check, which is like, Hey, let me help you tell your story. Let me put you in front of this national audience of funders talking about climate access, or talking about Latinos outside, {Yeah} you know, how does that work? How do we use the relationships and the leverage that we have, to elevate programs like that?

Zavi Borja: 18:39
And that’s exactly it and I’ve learned from you, frankly, and I have been extremely gracious and good at this is connecting organizations or people with other people, and just seeing where that goes. Like, who knows, right? But now you have that connection with this other person or his organization. And I think that’s also huge, because then it’s like, we’ll see what they can do like, or because we all kind of talked about earlier, if it was me, like in the Vamanos Outside spaces, like I’m so inundated with this reporting, and I was doing the programmatic things. I don’t have time to like, meet all these people. I’m siloed. Right. I’m siloed in like this work, I don’t know anything else that’s, you know, going on, but then having those connections to be like, Oh, have you talked to Charlie at Camp Tamarack? It’s like, No, I haven’t like I know of them. Right? But it’s like, I don’t know who that is, that connection. And then it’s like, boom, oh, now they’re giving us sleeping bags. Now they’re open up their space there, their create it you never know where that goes. But, you know, we all conceptually like yeah, we want to do X, Y and Z. And until you have that connection, you can actually like, bring them into fruition to where, you know, in that exact example. It’s like now they’re doing yearly things at Camp Tamarack you know, with Vamonos Outside which is wonderful, right? But because of a connection of like, hey, let’s see where this goes. And you never know but again, like I never would have had that opportunity. If they’re like, you know, philanthropic sector, you know yourself didn’t connect me with this other agency, because that’s the nature of like philanthropy. Most of the you’re connected always like other areas. And something I really struggled with when I was doing the Vamanos Outside piece, especially with like, the funding aspect was like, there was the timeframes, in which it took to operate, to execute, or to receive a grant, for a specific initiative. The timing just never aligned at times, to where, you know, it’d be like you have, here’s a grant for a, for a year to do X, Y, and Z, and its like. Well I haven’t even made contact really with like the families or the, or that region, or that area, or that organization that’s getting the funds that wants to partner with Vamanos Outside. You know, it’s like, there’s a lot of steps before you get to mountain biking with families, even if we have that connection. And I think that’s what a lot of agencies and funders, I think, sometimes don’t understand is like, we’re gonna have initiatives for an easier transition. Like, so no, like, we’ve tried that. And again, it took us like, whatever that from 19 to now, like five years to get the first mountain biking program. Right as I go, I’m gonna make the connection with the families that go to the apartment complexes, work with, you know, a local nonprofit, like commute options to learn about bike safety, get them on a bike, get them to have that comfortability just in their neighborhood, and maybe in the areas, some safe areas, of like biking to the park and have that and build that program first. And then kind of like graduate into a mountain biking or into like that space. And also bringing the families along so that they feel safe, not only with you is like taking the child, but again, culturally, like just very differently, it like you know, you’re taking my kid and doing all these, like things that only white people are supposed to do. Right? So then it’s like, no, no, like, we can do this right. And that takes a lot of time within a grant, because their organization, again, all well intended, wants you a part of their organization. To get a grant, frankly, right is to do that program. But that’s like the year, theres no like capacity building within like that timeframe. And then, for me, what was difficult, also was like, then the entity is like three months in or the fund or like the site visits, whereas like three months, were you at on this. And I’m trying to do it like, you’re taking me away from like doing this, and I’m doing this with like six other people for $1000, then at that point, truly, I was thinking in my head, and at the time was mine, you know, director that was kind of helping me with most of the programs, it was not even worth it for $1000. To do all this time, administration, presentation, to these folks. So again, the fact that like I’m now educating all these people of like, why we’re not where we’re at where we’re supposed to be here, why is thinking a little bit longer? Because they don’t understand, but again, at the same time, it was and would pull me away from actively trying to do what they were granting me to do.

Erin Borla: 23:04
We talk a lot about scalability in philanthropy, where it’s like, that’s why a lot of those dollars for programs like that are focused in more urban spaces is because there’s more people as a concentration of people. So we can try it and then guess what it can blow up and we can do it, it was 1000 people. And it doesn’t look the same in rural, it doesn’t look the same in culturally relevant organizations, because it’s a longer runway. And we have to really reframe what the word scalability means. And like if we’re impacting 30 Kids, that’s a big deal.

Zavi Borja: 23:38
Thats huge. Relative to like our friend, Nick Johnson, who I went to elementary school, high school with and was an executive director for a nonprofit out in Lakeview Oregon. Extremely rural, right. But he explained to me, right, because one of my first trips down to Lake View, and he was kind of taking me a tour around the town, and, you know, how, in, in relation to like my current job, right, but it was like, when we tried it when we set up the prison, you know, it created jobs for the area, but it was like, quote, unquote, only 15 jobs. Right. But I think he had explained me too. And he had presented that to the governor at the time, that like, what that meant for an area like a “Lakeview.” Exactly what you are saying right. To where and the numbers speak to vote. So it was like, you know, like he’s like, for them it was 15 jobs, but per capita and for how many people that were in Lake County proper in like in the city of Lakeview itself. 15 jobs equivalent to the same in by ratio to Portland was like, I think it was like 1500 jobs or like, you know, 15 something like that, right? Don’t quote me on the like number, but it was it’s a huge it’s a very different scale. When we’re talking about, quote unquote, impact, right again, to your points like that’s a huge impact to that area. Especially scalability wise, yea sure, like we can we can we can we can grow it, we can scale it, {Yeah} but it’s like you have to start somewhere if it’s 10 people, and that’s something that I learned from my, when I used to work at the Boys and Girls Club, at the time, my director, shout out, Derek Beauvais. You know, he was like, we’re gonna see hundreds of kids all the time. Like, if you can impact one kid, like 5%, one kid, you’re doing your job. {Yeah} That’s it. Right, again, that impact against ??? and I, and I’ve taken it to this day, right. And that’s something that I got into my head about, frankly, because of the funding thing is like, you know, we want to get to this metric, this metric, and I’m like shoot, don’t chase chasing the numbers, right? I’m like, I’m not good enough, or I’m not doing this enough, unless I, you know, get, you know, 40 people out here to this program, and you know, when to get a little discouraged. And a lot of it, I think was was that. And then a lot of it was a little truly like a little bit ego, right? I was like, I need to, I want to get like more people, I need to get 40 people out here, like oh I only got 10. Is that a reflection of me? Is that a reflection of the program? Like, what’s, what’s wrong, but then again, sitting into all stuff that we explained, I know, it’s gonna take time. But what made me question that. And what made that really frankly, exhausting was again, trying to hit all these deadlines and that timeline for when I was supposed to execute and make these dollars. I think, almost worth it how I felt to the entity that was giving me the funds. And so that was that was that was and, I think, still is a challenge.

Erin Borla: 26:29
We’ve talked a lot in our organization, and even on a few of these episodes about equity, being distant from power, {Yeah} and people just wanting to be heard and feel like they have a voice. And so a position like within in regional solutions. We joked earlier about it being like the street team, like the governor street team. {Totally} So being able to be out there and hear what’s happening. So people feel as though they have a voice. Because you mentioned Lakeview, which is frankly 60 miles from the nearest stoplight, {Yeah} and six hours from where decisions are made that impact those livelihoods. People want to be heard.{Yeah} And rural is not a monolith, not every community is exactly the same. So to make decisions that are like, we’re going to do this and it’s going to be the best thing for every rural or frontier community across the state is not reality. And not every decision is going to be the best for everyone.

Zavi Borja: 27:23
And its just not gonna work. And I think that can also be and I want to make this point kind on one of our conversations earlier, within like I was working with solely, and with Vamanos outside, Latino families and even with you know, in, in Latin countries, that is not a monolith. Right, Ecuadorians and Salvadorians and Cu, like very different. It was still underneath this umbrella of Latin. Right? And similarly, when I was doing work with the city, right, it was like, you know, underrepresented groups. So you break that out, I broke that out, like seven different identities, one of those identities being like bipoc, right, you know, black indigenous person of color, like even within that continue, like there, there is not a monolith, very individual. So that’s what also made that work very challenging, because it’s like, cannot encompass anything and everything we do just within that. And same thing for LGBTQ, right, it was like that those as a very different community within, within all of it. And so, similarly to like, you know, what works like rural communities are not a monolith. You cannot encompass a policy or anything with all rural Oregonians, and back to your point of like, we’re the street team, right, we’re understanding to where it’s like, this is like a policy meant to help local rural communities thrive. And it’s like, well, like, that’s not going to work for Jefferson County. That might work for Burns, but like, this is, this is why, right. So being able to have those touch points, I think, is critical. And very opportunistic time as we have a new administration. And, you know, for new resource solutions coordinators. I think it’s an exciting time to really rethink how we want to or how this administration really wants to deploy the street team into communities to help elevate and also a conversation we’re having, and that’s really tied to philanthropy into like, nonprofit sector is who are we not hearing from? Right, and again, that goes back like, we don’t hear in any sector, a lot of there’s a lot from rural right, again, where the impact is, we’re gonna go to the valley, we’re gonna go to these larger areas, which is, again, fine, but thats perpetually, you know. I think i read it was like, what, like 8% of grants in Oregon, they get to rural counties or.

Erin Borla: 29:41
So I don’t know what the Oregon statistic is. 7% funding nationally ,{ oh, nationally,} is earmarked for, for rural, rural. {Yeah, Yeah} It’s fascinating to me, and I think a lot of that has to do with we fund things that we know,{right, right} but I think it’s important that people one, have access, two know who to call, and I mean, it goes back to the very beginning of life, I can’t navigate your website. Why is it difficult? {Yeah, literally what am I doing}

Zavi Borja: 30:10
I mean, like, I, I’m educated I speak the language I know how to read. And I’m just like, I don’t know what else, even with the city, I don’t know what this says, right. But it also on the flipside a little bit empathy. I’m like, okay, like, we’re asking the art engineers to also be community engagement, like specialists? And it’s like, no. Right? {Yeah}

Erin Borla: 30:33
It becomes really difficult. And I think on the flip side, internally, in organizations like ours, or governmental entities that are are providing dollars to community that are intended to access, we have developed these internal systems that are not necessarily functional. You talk about, you know, your seven groups that you’re trying to meet with, with the city. And so it’s like, well, I met with the LGBTQIA, plus check, I met with bipoc, check. And then we think we’re done. And we’re not done. There’s so much more to that.

Zavi Borja: 31:10
So, the follow through, the follow up. {oh my gosh Im so tired} You’re welcome.Thank you we did it. And no, no.

Erin Borla: 31:17
And I think we’re seeing that, right, we’re seeing that as a trend of, well, I funded that black led organization, I have done my impact, check, and that’s just not reality. {right} And we need to figure out what it looks like beyond the box check. What does it look like to impact black communities in rural spaces? Latinx communities in rural spaces? And how do we continue to keep showing up. So getting away from the box checking and into, it come back to showing up right.

Zavi Borja: 31:49
100%. And I’ll even I’ll not challenge that. But I think the thing too, is like that, in itself is not a monolith either to where some organization might just be like, if you want as a box checker, you’re gonna give me money, and without strings? Sure. Just give me the money and you out of my way. Thank you. And then allow me to continue this work. Right. So I think it’s, it’s also within that, like, what does that partnership look like, for that? To where, you know, at the time, like, North Face wants to give Vamanos Outside $10,000, and just to give it like, great, like, well, we’ll take it, right, but then the more local like partnership level, like we again, I just think those relationships look and are very different in, in our, we’re, we’re humans, right? So it’s like, we take one experience and expect that or like, you know, we kind of helped shape our protectiveness in our brains of like, this is how all these other relationships should probably go or should be, especially when and if you’re working with communities that were unfamiliar with, or it’s like, well, I worked with that, you know, Latino led organization, and they didn’t want that, or they expected or they did this and you’re asking for this actually, contrary to what they’re saying. And it’s very counter intuitive. But again, those relationships were very different. And again, and to me, it’s a centErin Borla:g on how those communities that relationship has, they want to show up.

Erin Borla: 33:05
And that’s so going fed your role {Ha, ha, ha, ha} I am so excited for you. And frankly, I’m so excited for community to be able to have one, be able to meet the Zavi Borja. Two also be able to say, I feel like you get it, right. {Yeah} One, you grew up here {Yeah} you I always say you got dirt on your boots, {Yeah totally} you’re not gonna show up. {Honestly its what I have} I wondered what that was. It’s like you get it in a way that I think people feel othered constantly. And to have someone that shows up and is like, hey, I get that the government is really hard to work with. And there are challenges. Let me help you navigate it, just like you did with the families with Vamanos Outside. Let me help you navigate it. That’s a huge win.

Zavi Borja: 33:59
Yeah, I think for everybody, something again, even as I’m even reflecting, you know, talking to you. It’s like, and I think this can be said like as as an as a negative thing. Sometimes, what I really turned it I think into, like one of my superpowers, right, of you know, coat switching, right? That’s, again, like people feel othered, right. It’s like, oh, I’m with the governor, I’m with the State like this, how we do like blah blah. It’s like it can be both, I understand its very cumbersome, like the stuff was very muddied. It’s nuanced. It’s its its not easy. And so for me to be able to work on that end, then also be like, community, like I hear you like, yes, I understand. And my experiences that I think will lead to that, right. When in those conversations like trust me, I get you. I understand, and for me, like that coach of those different spaces and being in those different spaces, whether it is a, you know, Jefferson County, you know, roundtable at Macy farms, you know, out in Culver or you know, water conversation out in Klamath County or in Lakeview or a showing up this City Hall to speak to local representatives and officials or county commissioners? Right? Those are very different spaces and talking about the same things, which is being able to have, to be heard, like you were just talking about right, can actively work towards solutions. To those things that we’re hearing is what I’m really excited about.

Erin Borla: 35:20
You know, we have work to do, but I think we’re getting there. So I just really want to say thank you {Yeah} for being here {Of Course, thank you} for sharing your story, for sharing your passion, your enthusiasm, I just am so honored to be in your circle, so I appreciate you being in mine.

Zavi Borja: 35:35
Thank you

Erin Borla: 35:46
Im so glad that Zavi Borja: is in the position that he is in in the Governer’s Office. So he can really advocate for communities that are often overlooked. Alright, some key takeaways and action opportunities that I saw, and I wanted to make sure to share with all of you. Let’s talk about barriers, real or perceived. Right. Oftentimes, we talk about the real barriers to accessing programming accessing services. But rarely do we talk about those perceived barriers, especially on our end as funders, our website, is it accessible? Can people find what they’re looking for? How about forms, are they in the right language? Are they in multiple languages? What about timelines? I think that’s a lot, a problem for a lot of us. Especially as we’re doing our outreach in diverse communities. So when we look at how we’re asking for information, or how we’re even getting folks to access that information, let’s make it as easy as possible. You know, I know Zavi mentioned that there’s that timing of grants that doesn’t always align with the work that we’re trying to do on the ground. So how do funders fix that? I think there’s a lot of opportunities. We’ve specifically done some things around making sure that we’re available when people have questions, they can always call and ask, we want to make their application process as easy as possible, because not only will it make the grant applicants life easier, if they have to just apply with one thing with great guided advice. It will also make our review time a lot easier, because we know we’re gonna get applications that are coming through. There are things we’ve already discussed. So we’ve had an opportunity to help, help coach and advocate for programming that we think will align with our funding priorities as our application cycle comes around. We also operate over video if people want to submit grant reports or other things via video if they want to do a verbal report. There’s a lot of different opportunities. One thing Zavi also mentioned was how he felt like he had to chase those numbers. And his numbers felt like they were never enough. So do we all need to be a little bit less obsessed with that data and metric, but I think that might help is how do we look at that qualitative data instead of just the quantitative data? Thanks again for listening to Funding Rural. Don’t forget to check out for show notes, a transcript of this particular episode, and a lot more reading.

Published On: March 25th, 2024 / Categories: Funding Rural Podcast /