Archive for category BRIDGE

How NGEC’s Organizational Fellowship Program Built Our Organization’s Capacity to Achieve Gender Equity

By Vincent Pan, Executive Director, Chinese for Affirmative Action

When we consider change, our mindset is typically to reflect upon the past and then imagine a different future.  This is a necessary approach, but it is rarely enough.

Instead, sustainable change requires us to look inwards – at our own beliefs, biases, and behaviors – so that we critique and transform our whole way of being.

In many respects, this is the true challenge of capacity building.  How do we, as individuals and as institutions, intentionally shape our own evolution even as we attempt to shape the evolution of our communities?  How do we do this to achieve a more wholehearted and healthy version of ourselves?

The three years that Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) participated in the National Gender & Equity Campaign (NGEC) was part of our attempt to answer these questions.  Through philosophy and through practice (and more practice) we sought to improve how we understand and live our commitment to gender democracy, gender equity, and gender justice.

At times, even plans were profound.  For example, re-organizing our offices to be more physically open encouraged sharing space and subsequently power.  The creation of unexpected teams across work areas, and the rotation of responsibilities within teams, broadened our perspectives and deepened our empathy for one another.

Those steps were part and parcel, and precursor, to the explicit address of gender.  In many ways, gender equity became both a means and an ends.  It was an open challenge as each insight spawned exponentially more pathways to pursue.  Each measure of growth revealed more horizons to explore.  I can better see the pursuit of gender equity as a living, breathing process that must continually surface and resurface in our politics, in our policies, in our programs, in the lives of those who participate in and with our efforts.

Today we live in a time of great danger.  Recorded poverty in America has never been higher even as our capacity for materialism surges unbounded.  Two wars abroad and the domestic war on our civil liberties drain our moral and financial reserves.  Fundamentalists exploit the lack of a coherent system of ethics in our country to further divide and oppress people using class, color, gender, and identity.

Yet it is also a time of great hope.  A new generation of activists has within its grasp the ability to achieve a new universal consciousness.  It is a consciousness that does not circumvent or freeze identity, but instead marches with it towards social justice.  It is consciousness based on love and compassion, and on fairness and freedom.  It is a consciousness that asks what it means to be a human being in the twenty-first century.

Ultimately, this campaign was about us re-engineering our DNA.  This is as it should be, because only by transforming ourselves, as deeply and inwardly as possible, and as individuals and as institutions, can we begin to create the consciousness and fulfill the hopefulness these difficult times demand.

Vincent Pan participates in group discussion at NGEC Organizational Fellows Program Convening

Vincent Pan is the executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, a community-based civil rights organization in San Francisco.

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Ending at the Beginning: A Reflection about the Final Convening of Organizational Fellowship Program

By Iris Shiraishi, Mu Performing Arts

“We end at the beginning” – that was my first thought walking into Nile Hall at Preservation Park in Oakland, California last week.   Three years ago, walking into the same hall, I had so many questions as we embarked on our collective journey in the Organizational Fellowship Program, a project of the National Gender & Equity Campaign (NGEC).  I can’t say that all those original questions have been answered, but I can say that they’ve been supplanted by those that come from a deeper understanding of the issues as we work towards gender and equity.

I loved meeting up and hearing from folks across both the MN and CA cohorts. I loved seeing past staff join the convening.  It is from these deep and lasting relationships that I hope I/Mu/all of us can begin at this ending and continue on our work with renewed focus and passion.

AAPIP’s plenary session on Philanthropy and the Economy on Saturday was awe-inspiring!  Each of the speakers communicated their purpose and dedication from such a deep, honest, authentic place; you could not walk away without feeling energized and inspired.  I will know to conjure up their presence whenever I get discouraged or too bogged down in the mire of the work.

And that was a rockin’ reception and dinner!  Those little scallop things melted in your mouth; the liquid refreshments flowed oh so freely and I was able to laugh a lot with more folks throughout the evening.

Thank you AAPIP for a great convening; thank you for all your support over these three years; thank you for helping me do my work!

Iris Shiraishi is a part of the Mu Performing Arts leadership team and is currently the Artistic Director for Mu Daiko and director of its taiko programs.   

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Reflections from the OFP Convening – Gender in the Social Justice Movement By Barbara Phillips

NGEC OFP Guest Blog

Reflections from the OFP Convening:Gender in the Social Justice Movement

By Barbara Phillips, Social justice activist and former Ford Foundation Program Officer for Women’s Rights and Gender Equity

Barbara Phillips with the NGEC OFP Cohort in Los Angeles, Nov. 2010


I arrived in Los Angeles on November 18, 2010, knowing only that I would be in the presence of diverse innovative institutions and individuals attempting to build a national movement for social justice through transformative analysis and work placing gender equity at the core.

At the invitation of Peggy Saika, a dangerous woman because she is a visionary with fierce organizing, executive, and leadership qualities, I was to have the privilege of hanging out with community-based organizations representing Asian American communities convened under the Organizational Fellowship Program (OFP) of the National Gender & Equity Campaign to reflect upon past work and establish goals and plans for 2011. Undergirding the whole thing is AAPIP’s BRIDGE (Building Responsive Infrastructure to Develop Global Equity), a framework for building and strengthening social justice movements through organizational transformation.

As I joined the group for dinner – a stranger to all but a few – to get my first glimpse of these social justice activists, I was engulfed by spirited camaraderie as participants greeted each other with affection and filled the evening with caring about the work and each other.

To capture the moment, I jotted words that came to mind as I sat there eating great food, being welcomed by those around me, and listening to the chat around me and brief organizational check-ins:

• Affection • Community • Engagement • Commitment • Passion • Connection • Understanding/knowledge • Insight • Compassion • Hope • Belief • Culture

The next morning, the work began in earnest at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. Each group reported upon their work during 2010. The breadth and diversity of the organizations ranged from long-time dedicated advocacy troops to a remarkable Minnesota organization that recently transitioned from years of social services to now social services and advocacy putting gender equity/gender democracy first in all its work. And the age range seemed to span from 20s to 60s and then some. I was as engrossed as everyone else who listened respectfully to the presentations of each group.

I was struck by the honesty of the reflections, the openness in sharing challenges and self-critique, and the empathy and insight of questions. Presenters shared the experiences of discerning what “gender justice” actually means at all levels – internally with respect to organizational culture, policies, board and staff composition and practices, as well as externally in engaging members and constituents in the conversation and shaping the work in which the organizations engaged. In the words of one presenter, “This is a process of on-going work around gender, race, and oppression.”

There was no rote recitation of ideology; rather the entire conversation was a living definition of what we dream of when we aspire to practice informing theory and theory informing practice. Here were activists sharing, for example, what it means to bring LGBTQ issues into their work – learning to say “gender matters” as effectively as they have said race matters for positive social change. Eventually, I noticed a bunch of missing elements (elements that are ALWAYS in evidence when social justice activists get together):

• no dysfunctional personalities

• no weary souls sunk in despair

• no unrealistic young organizers

• no older organizers who knew everything

• no bumps, landmines and potholes in communicating across all the diversity in the room

Really, not a single quibble over process. Not a single eruption of warfare over the meaning and appropriateness of a word. Are these people for real??? True. The thoughtfulness and thoroughness of preparation for the convening was obvious. The facilitation by Bo Thao-Urabe, Beckie Masaki, and Alice Hom was exquisite.

In my over 40 years of activism, I’d never experienced a meeting in which each organization was itself engaged in deep internal transformation across such diverse, challenging, and innovative work And each organization was also contributing to a collectively determined vision, framework and work. Complicated and challenging. The pace was unrelenting, but no one seemed exhausted; to the contrary, the room buzzed with energy.

As I watched the incredible productiveness of these social justice activists, I realized BRIDGE and the transformative power of placing gender equity at the core of the work were responsible for what was amazing about this convening. It is through the tools of BRIDGE that these activists and organizations are undergoing internal transformation while developing the capacity for a different realm of vision and work – building a powerful, sustainable, broad-based social justice movement .

I observed that November weekend in Los Angeles, and find reason to hope. My son tells me there were thousands of young people at the U.S. Social Forum in 2010, ready to join in common cause. In Los Angeles – convening in one room for a brief moment – was the wisdom, passion, organizing skills and fortitude that the BRIDGE will channel and strengthen into a stronger, more effective social justice movement.

These organizations are making the abstract into reality. Their experiences show that through placing gender equity/gender democracy at the core of social change and utilizing the tools of BRIDGE, social justice organizations in the U.S. can transform themselves internally and can develop the capacity to create a powerful movement.

My hope is that other social justice organizations take a serious look at this work and make it part of their own; that funders realize activists have created an effective framework called BRIDGE for movement building; and that organizations and funders form meaningful partnerships in building the social justice movement that will bring about the change for which we have struggled so long.

I left the convening thinking of my favorite proverb, “Those who say it cannot be done, should not interfere with those who are doing it.”

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How would organizational effectiveness be different from a social justice movement frame?

Reflections from the 2010 GEO conference from Bo Thao-Urabe, BRIDGE Director about organizational effectiveness using NGEC’s framework.

Social Justice Movement Building diagram

How would organizational effectiveness be different from a social justice movement frame? – By Bo Thao-Urabe, Director, BRIDGE (Building Responsive Infrastructure to Develop Global Equity)

Recently I participated in the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations’ (GEO) national conference.  The participants were mostly people from foundations, but there were some representatives from consulting firms, affinity groups and community nonprofits.  Being a newbie, I chatted with a few participants about why they came.  For most, “organizational effectiveness” of nonprofit groups being funded seemed top of mind.

On a very basic level, organizational effectiveness is a seemingly apolitical term used in the nonprofit sector to demonstrate how successful an organization is in achieving its stated goals.  This has translated into tools and methods that help groups develop measurement units of their work — like demographically naming the population being served, counting the number of people served, and showing the level of satisfaction of those served. But these are very contained, focused, logical, short-term, and absent a worldview.

For me, just using the “organizational effective” paradigm alone misses a more dynamic beginning and evolution of organizations that helps us understand and answer the question of, “So What?”  or “Organizational effectiveness for what?”

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NGEC OFP’s Online Community ~ how we’re using

NGEC's Online Learning Community on Ning

NGEC's Online Learning Community on Ning

Since last summer, NGEC’s Organizational Fellowship Program (OFP) members have been participating in an online learning community we started on

With 6 organizations based in California and 6 based in Minnesota in the OFP , NGEC wanted to experiment with ways to bridge the distances through an online accessible space for folks to stay in touch, share information, and conduct peer learning.  Although there were many options out there for social networking platforms (including things like Facebook or customizable platforms like, Elgg) Ning has turned out to be a good choice for us for several reasons: Read the rest of this entry »

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NGEC Guide: An Organization’s Theory of Social Change (TOSC)

NGEC Theory of Social Change

NGEC Theory of Social Change Guide

“Chronicles of Change: A Guide to an Organization’s Theory of Social Change”

NGEC believes that all social justice organizations are drivers of change and delivery agents of solutions in the social justice movement. As such, each should have a Theory of Social Change (TOSC) to be most effective and sustainable.

As part of the journey in the NGEC’s Organizational Fellowship Program (OFP), we developed this 80-page guide to help the cohort groups in our 3-year program through the larger process of defining or refining their organization’s role in the social justice movement.   We believe that the combination of process and product makes a TOSC critical to organizational transformation.   The activities detailed in this guide can help groups  identify existing organizational assets and suggests ways to effectively engage organizational stakeholders in the TOSC development process.

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8/21/09 – Minneapolis: Lora Jo Foo reading from her book, “Earth Passages”

Asian American activist and author, Lora Jo Foo, will be doing a reading from her most recent book, Earth Passages: Journey through Childhood, on Friday, August 21 at 6:30 pm at the Loft Literary Center.

The Loft Literary Center
1011 Washington Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55415

RSVP: Please RSVP by Friday, August 14, 2009 to Margie Andreason at
For more information, contact: Bo Thao, Email: / Phone: (612) 729-1994

Lora Jo Foo has a special connection to AAPIP. She led the Ford Foundation research that resulted in her first book, Asian American Women: Issues, Concerns, and Responsive Civil and Human Rights Advocacy. After the book was published, AAPIP worked with Lora to take this book across the country on a listening tour that resulted in the development of the National Gender and Equity Campaign.

AAPIP supports Lora’s work now because her newest book, Earth Passages: Journey through Childhood, is about her memories as a daughter, woman, and activist seeking change that aligns with what AAPIP is trying to highlight and change through its work now.

The event is optional. It’s free and will have some light refreshments. We encourage you to let others you know about this event who may be interested.

About Lora Jo Foo
A garment worker at age 11 and a union organizer for eight years in the garment and hotel industries, Lora Jo Foo became an attorney representing low wage workers in sweatshop industries. She litigated numerous groundbreaking cases on their behalf. She co-founded Sweatshop Watch and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. In 2002, she published her first book, Asian American Women: Issues, Concerns and Responsive Human and Civil Rights Advocacy. A gifted photographer, Foo has photographed throughout the United States and world. She has exhibited her nature photographs in galleries and at fine art fairs in the San Francisco Bay Area where she lives. She stopped litigating in 2000 and returned to her roots as an organizer. She also returned to school and received her Masters in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School of Government in 2002. Most recently she was the organizing director of a major California union. In 2004 and 2008, she was the National Voting Rights Protection Coordinator for the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C.

About the Book Earth Passages: Journeys through Childhood consists of 28 vignettes and 53 color nature photographs, and tells the story of the author growing up in the inner city ghetto of San Francisco’s Chinatown – in poverty, in a housing project, at the age of 11 sewing in a garment sweatshop. In the girl’s rare escapes into the woods she discovers a magical world so unlike the ghetto in which she lives. The stories from childhood are paired with color nature photographs taken by the author as an adult. The stories are terse, pithy and powerful. They transform and imbue the very beautiful nature photographs with a much more complicated, almost bittersweet meaning.

Event Sponsors: Asian American/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (National Gender and Equity Campaign), AAPIP-MN Chapter, Full Thought Inc., Loft Literary Center

Co-Hosts: Margie Andreason, Brian Grandison, Kaohly Her, Angelique Kedem, Kathy Jefferson, Laura Lablanc, Megan Powers, David Nicholson, Bo Thao, Bill Thurston, and Lorri Todd

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