GCIR's Collective Work: Sowing, Growing, and Harvesting

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Dear Colleagues:

I am not much of a gardener; I can’t keep a plant alive for much longer than a few months, and my attempts at vegetable gardening have mostly failed. Despite not having a green thumb, I appreciate the effort it takes to sow a seed and nurture it as it grows, and I understand the gardener’s satisfaction when the seed they planted takes root and begins to flourish.

The first six months of 2022 have been a time when many of the seeds GCIR planted last year germinated and bloomed, and, as someone who is still relatively new to this role, it has been both gratifying and humbling to harvest some of those early plantings in the last few months.

2022 Convening
One significant way in which our collective “planting” paid off this year was our biennial convening in Houston last month. When we began our planning in early 2021 we knew that, for many attendees, this would be their first in-person gathering since the start of the pandemic. So our team set out to design an event that prioritized health and safety as well as learning and reconnection. We also knew that, in choosing Houston as the convening site, we aimed to shine a spotlight on the challenges facing immigrants in Texas, which has some of the toughest state-level anti-immigrant laws in the country. At the same time, we wanted to highlight the extensive and powerful work advocates are undertaking to advance immigrant justice in the state.

By all accounts, we were successful in doing just that: centering the work of leaders and organizations who have been historically excluded from philanthropic investment, including trans migrants, refugee leaders, and disability justice advocates, among others. We amplified the powerful local work of Texas groups that have designed and implemented purposeful, intersectional, and transformative strategies to advance immigrant justice despite a hostile political climate. We also supported leaders from the Undocumented in Philanthropy Network, a powerful cohort of philanthropic practitioners who are seeking to transform philanthropy by centering the lived experience of formerly and currently undocumented leaders, and we hosted a session on the Black Migrant Power Fund, a new fund driving resources to groups serving Black migrant communities. You can learn more about the Fund from the June 2nd webinar GCIR co-hosted with the Four Freedoms Fund.

California Dignity for Families Fund
This past month we completed the final round of grantmaking for the California Dignity for Families Fund. When we launched this fund in May 2021, we sought to address the urgent humanitarian needs of migrants at the southern California border, ensure due process for asylum seekers, and support their integration into receiving communities. Since the launch, we:

  • Convened an advisory committee with deep movement, community, government, and philanthropic experience who set the Fund’s grantmaking strategy and selected the partner organizations to receive grants.
  • Expanded the Fund’s purpose to include support for Afghan and Haitian migrants seeking humanitarian relief.
  • Moved $10.6 million to 44 organizations across the state.
  • Launched a learning series centering invisibilized communities and often-neglected topics within the migrant justice movement. The next session, scheduled for June 23rd, will focus on U.S. imperialism and forced migration. You can register here for this program and preview the content for the remaining learning sessions.

The Fund’s priorities across four cycles of grantmaking included:

  • Resourcing and strengthening organizations serving migrant communities often excluded from grantmaking priorities, such as Black, Indigenous, Muslim, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, womxn, youth, undocumented migrants, and migrants with disabilities.
  • Deepening support along the continuum of care.
  • Investing in organizations that support migrant children, unaccompanied minors, and refugee youth.
  • Strengthening hubs and networks in the immigrant justice ecosystem.
  • Strengthening the capacity of immigrant justice organizations and leaders (including healing justice capacity).

As we wrap up the grantmaking phase, we are prioritizing disseminating learnings from this fund to the broader philanthropic sector as well as to government partners at the local, state, and federal levels.

GCIR’s New Theory of Change
When I stepped into this role in late 2020, I focused on leading an inclusive process to develop GCIR’s long-term strategy. In 2021, we laid the foundation for this strategy by articulating a near-term purpose horizon centering the newly articulated four pillars of our work: pushing philanthropic practice; creating a political home for philanthropy; providing a platform for movement leaders; and facilitating public-private partnerships. Earlier this year, we convened a design team comprised of movement leaders, GCIR members, and our board and staff teams to develop a strategic framework that reflects a deepened understanding of the factors affecting intended change; offers a clear blueprint for organizational learning; and facilitates ongoing planning and decision-making in support of clearly articulated objectives to achieve the greatest impact.

We concluded this collective work in late March and are currently refining our new theory of change. Among other things, we are guided by these underlying assumptions:

  • Philanthropy can change, and the sector must be pushed to cede (and seed) power and move money to immigrant and refugee communities.
  • Achieving immigrant and refugee justice requires dismantling white supremacy at the global and national levels.
  • Our work is now, it is generational, and it is multi-generational. We are preparing for those who will inherit it.
  • Intersectional, cross-movement work leads to collective liberation.

We are excited to share our theory of change in the coming months as we seek feedback on the trajectory of our work.

In addition to harvesting the learnings from these early “plantings,” we are excited about new projects we are sowing, including our partnership with Upwardly Global to advance the economic power of immigrant and refugee women of color. The partnership is made possible by a grant from Pivotal Ventures (a Melinda French Gates company), and directly aligns with their goal of advancing social progress for women and families in the United States. Working collaboratively over the next three years, GCIR and Upwardly Global will help build economic inclusion and social power across class, industry, and geography for immigrant and refugee women of color through movement- and skill-building and investing in mutual aid networks and worker cooperatives.
If you are interested in learning more about this project – or other work that we are sowing and growing – please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly.
In solidarity,