AAPIP Voices

Civic Engagement Fund (CEF) Critical Collaboration Series


By Laila Mehta, Director, Civic Engagement Fund

We would like to provide multiple angles on what collaboration has meant for CEF, from the point of view of AAPIP, from our funding partners and from grantee partners. This is part one of a three part series, featuring the Civic Engagement Fund’s perspective.

At AAPIP we are recognized by many as convenors. As such, convenings are the hallmark of our work, and on July 18 and 19 the CEF cohort met to continue to share lessons learned and to delve into the political realities of AMEMSA immigrant and refugee rights issues. This work has been the cornerstone of CEF’s efforts to build capacity and collaborations in AMEMSA communities, and we’re beginning to see multiple outcomes, but these kinds of results come only with time and deep investment.

What happens when we come together strategically
The Civic Engagement Fund (CEF) fosters collaborative spaces and strategic alliance-building to 1) maximize the diversity of organizational assets, 2) create linkages amongst organizations that are lasting, and 3) build more power for Arab Middle Eastern Muslim South Asian (AMEMSA) communities by standing united and working together.

The 17 organizations (listed here) in the CEF cohort have been meeting since November 2010 through cohort-wide convenings, and in smaller learning circles around three key issues areas – Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Political Engagement, and Civil Rights.

CEF is also a funder’s collaborative, which brings different yet like-minded funders together to learn and leverage their resources. Together, the CEF funders have invested in what they could not do alone, and have gained more knowledge about funding unique, diverse and impacted communities.

Our core tool is the convening. Nothing quite builds relationships, trust and ideas to leverage as uniquely as convenings that keep building off of each other.  Cohort-wide convenings allow the groups to:

  • learn new topics and skills,
  • share lessons learned on a range of organizational methods,
  • discuss emerging topics and
  • find out how to plug into each other’s work.

This year alone, CEF hosted 2 convenings that allowed organizations a chance to deliberate the opportunities and challenges in their joint work, and present their goals, projects, and shared process to each other and to a group of twelve foundation representatives (hyperlink to CEF page) who are funding, and/or interested in learning about AMEMSA communities.

Although collaborations entail deep relationship building that goes beyond what is physically produced, we still believe it’s important to let people know some of the concrete outcomes that are in the works:

  • A Civil Rights Survey that incorporates the experiences and concerns of AMEMSA individuals in the Bay area
  • Public Education materials about how Immigration Enforcement impacts AMEMSA communities throughout the U.S.
  • A Candidate Questionnaire that reflects key issues that AMEMSA communities are concerned about and targets Bay Area congressional candidates

In the next installment of the CEF Critical Collaboration series, we’ll feature the observations of a key philanthropic partner and ally on the importance of strategically supporting collaboration as a long term investment.