Last month GCIR rolled out our new theory of change, which reflects our evolution as a national philanthropic mobilizing organization that creates strategic opportunities to move money and power to immigrant and refugee communities. As part of this evolution, we will be growing our work at the state and local levels considerably in the coming years, honing in on eight strategically selected geographies for this first phase of the work. As a national organization, we galvanize philanthropy to advance immigrant justice and belonging across the country through our briefings, working groups, policy agenda, convenings, assistance funds, publications, and more. We will continue to have a strong focus on California, while we will be deepening our engagement in Michigan, Texas, Arkansas, Nevada, Wisconsin, Louisiana, and South Carolina. To guide these efforts, we have developed a GCIR state and local framework, which we’re thrilled to announce today.
To develop our state and local strategy, we met with nearly 60 immigrant justice movement leaders and philanthropic stakeholders over the past year to seek their input and learn about the realities facing immigrant communities in diverse parts of the country. As we began to identify our strategic regions, we considered various factors with the aim of filling gaps and leveraging opportunities to drive philanthropic investments in support of immigrant and refugee communities. Among other criteria, we prioritized localities that could benefit from additional funding to support immigrant communities, have significant or emerging immigrant and refugee populations, or are in the process of growing an immigrant rights power-building infrastructure. We also considered the possibility of leveraging ripe political conditions unique to a given place, and of building on GCIR’s past engagement in a particular state or region.
In Arkansas, for example, GCIR has a previous history of working with local funders and community-based organizations through our Delivering on the Dream network, and we see an opportunity to continue to support rural worker organizing there. Reflecting on that state’s role in the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s, we aim to work with funders there to strengthen cross-racial, cross-issue solidarity efforts and movement building today.
The national and statewide political context informed our decision to include Nevada, where 19% of the population is foreign born. Nevada continues to play an ever larger role in national elections as a battleground state, and immigrant-led organizing efforts have had a significant impact on recent electoral outcomes that are likely to advantage working families and communities of color. However, the coalitions and organizations behind these efforts are not getting the level of investment they need to build long-term power.
As evidenced by these examples, we have chosen a diverse group of states considering factors that reflect the unique realities of each place. Growing GCIR’s work in this way will require us to be adaptable, responsive, and strategic. As opposed to employing a one-size-fits-all approach, we have developed a multi-pronged strategy to have the greatest possible impact in these regions in both the short and long term. In 2023 and into 2024, we will pilot our state and local programmatic work using the following approaches:
1) Support the capacity building of immigrant and refugee-led and -serving organizations and networks
2) Amplify frontline efforts to build power and expand protections and opportunities for immigrants and refugees
3) Seed and cultivate funder networks to move resources and shift philanthropic practice
Our state and local framework will serve as a roadmap for GCIR’s efforts to broaden and deepen our commitment to mobilizing philanthropy across the country to advance the priorities of the immigrant justice movement. During this first phase of our state and local work, we will hold regional network calls, in-person learning tours, issue-specific working groups, programming that will uplift the diverse themes that emerged from the listening tour, and more. Over this coming year, we will test and adjust our approaches, and we look forward to sharing what we learn with you.
While attempting to advance pro-immigrant policies at the federal level is important, it is essential to go beyond policy work and support power-building at the local and state levels so immigrants can self-determine and use their agency to undo harm, shift narratives, and expand protections and opportunities. As we implement our state and local strategy, we look forward to building relationships in the selected regions while working with our broader community of national and place-based funders, social justice movement organizations, and other philanthropic stakeholders to realize a future in which everyone has the power to stay, to move freely, to work, to transform, and to thrive.