In 2006, the Civic Engagement Fund (CEF) for Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities began as a model of responsive and collective grantmaking when an emerging set of communities was in a time of crisis. AAPIP, along with leading Bay Area-based funding partners, stepped in to invest in a fragile community infrastructure that was experiencing unprecedented challenges and scrutiny by the government and the media. Nearly a decade later, the CEF is winding down with over $1M in investments made to Bay Area organizations.
The CEF enabled a funding community to collectively invest, learn together, and have greater impact as a collaborative. The collaborative brought together AMEMSA community leaders from across the San Francisco Bay Area to build community, share best practices, struggle together and align strategies where appropriate. While this unique space brought these leaders together, there was also a recognition that AMEMSA communities have been and continue to be a part of broader justice movements that address immigrant and refugee rights, political engagement, and civil rights and liberties. To learn more watch a short video.
Through the CEF, we saw that change requires trust, time and leadership. We witnessed funders engaged and investing in an arena that others might deem as too risky or fraught with political sensitivities. We saw organizations led by AMEMSA communities become more visible, grow stronger, and better connected to issues that many of us value and support. We have been part of a process that started as a responsive initiative in times of crisis to one that has long term impact by investing in AMEMSA leadership on critical issues – immigration enforcement, protecting civil rights and liberties, ensuring accountability of local and national government officials, to name a few. We are deeply appreciative and indebted to the persistent and consistent community leadership that was there before the CEF started, and will prevail in bringing the voices of resistance to forces of injustice and intolerance.
We hope that funders committed to meeting the growing and diverse needs of emerging communities will take lessons from the CEF and apply them to their own work. The approaches we know to be effective take time and long-term investments but also reap deep impact – community organizing, grassroots advocacy and alliance-building. Our forthcoming final report captures the experiences of our funder and grantee partners and the lessons learned over the tenure of the fund.
Ultimately, the true value of the Civic Engagement Fund isn’t measured by just the dollars distributed, but in the capacity built and relationships developed. We hope that the legacy of CEF continues to inspire conversations about how foundations can overcome their blind spots and invest in underserved communities that are a vital part of our regions and nation. We also hope it inspires grantmakers to intentionally invest in AMEMSA communities to strengthen their capacity to lead and build alliances based on a shared vision for a more inclusive and democratic society.
Laila Mehta, Director, CEF
Peggy Saika, Executive Director & President