For over 38 years, DataCenter has provided information invaluable to the development of movements for progressive social change, including those related to U.S. foreign policy, economic justice, globalization, environmentalism and environmental justice, criminal justice, and youth organizing.
1970s: Working for Justice Around the World
- The DataCenter, an activist library and publication center, was founded by Jon Frappier, Fred Goff, Loretta and Harry Strharsky and forty activist, organizer and student volunteers in affiliation with the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) in 1977. Its mission was to address the political economy and the injustice of class inequities worldwide, and to provide actionable information to those in front line organizations engaged in struggles for justice.
- Most of the work–goodwill, sweat of brow and political discussion–was done by volunteers. They organized and indexed information, and consolidated various collections of data in DataCenter’s Oakland office.
- Through Corporate Profile Project, a fee-for-service research service for the United Nations Center on Transnational Corporations, DataCenter helped popularize the analysis of the global reach of transnational corporations in extracting wealth around the world. Today, this pattern of wealth extraction is called “globalization.”
1980s: Working for Justice in the United States
The work of DataCenter and its affiliates Information Services on Latin America (ISLA) and Third World Resources included:
- Launching the Pro Bono Fund to subsidize services to low-budget social justice organizations.
- Supporting the church-led sanctuary movement for political asylum-seekers as they fled from U.S.-sponsored repressive regimes, first in Central America and later all over the world.
- Tracking the rise of the New Right, including increased government censorship and attacks on civil liberties carried out by the Reagan Administrations.
- Initiating the Right to Know Project, challenging increased U.S. government censorship and restrictions on access to information.
- Pioneering research on the impact of toxins in the environment on people.
- Establishing the only national database on plant shutdowns and layoffs in response to corporations moving their U.S. operations offshore.
- Creating corporate accountability profiles for community, union and socially responsible investor campaigns
- Continuing research on the Third World political economy, U.S. invasions and foreign policy, including Central America, Grenada and Jamaica.
- Developing Third World Resources, a quarterly newsletter, and a series of specialized resource directories.
1990s: Bringing Research Closer to the Action
- Training organizers to do their own research. DataCenter led workshops focused on the oil industry and its political influence, and research methods for profiling and analyzing opposition to organizers’ campaigns, including corporations, other organizations and individuals.
- Developing a campaign contributions database: “Track Money and Politics.”
- Continuing research on the political economy of developing nations.
- Developing the Cuba Project, an information exchange with institutions in Cuba, in the context of an emerging generation of Cuban leadership.
- Responding to U.S. invasions in and policy towards Haiti and the Persian Gulf.
- Implementing organizational development projects: an affirmative action hiring program to recruit more people of color with organizing experience; planning for long-term financial stability; and developing online research capacity.
2000 and beyond: Research By and For the People
Community-driven research as a critical component of social justice campaigns is emphasized. The Research Justice Project is launched, promoting the control of knowledge production by oppressed communities, and empowering those communities to develop and implement their own research projects. At the same time, an endowment program helps sustain the organization.
- Priority program areas include Criminal Justice, Youth Organizing, Indigenous Peoples, Environmental Justice, and Economic Justice with an emphasis on California, the South and Southwest.
- Conduct internal organizational development to help reflect DataCenter’s external practice. Anti-oppression work within and outside the organization is a strategic priority
- Leadership from people of color is prioritized
- The Shared Leadership model, a non-hierarchical and non-corporate structure based in anti-oppression and social justice values is developed.