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GCIR Conference & Crisis Response

by | Mar 17, 2020

From March 10-13, the biannual Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) National Convening brought together a dedicated (albeit reduced) group of foundation representatives, nonprofit leaders, and community activists to reflect, inspire and share vision and strategies for protecting and advancing the rights of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the United States.

During a time of heightened challenges for the immigration rights movements, the convening panels were designed to discuss and strategize on key issues such as movement-building and narrative change, detentions and deportations, voter turnout, the 2020 Census, and undocumented immigrants.  But the conference theme – “Courage, Vision, Action”was underscored by the COVID-19 outbreak which unfolded around us, formally declared a pandemic on March 11th by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the words of the GCIR staff:

“COVID-19, is an equalizing force that does not discriminate and affects people from all walks of life, demonstrating our interdependence. It has exposed and magnified longstanding systemic inequities and structural injustices for immigrants, communities of color, and other marginalized communities. Those affected range from people of Asian heritage who have experienced racist and xenophobic attacks to low-wage undocumented workers for whom not work or seeking medical care may not a viable option.

Immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers have already been living under intense fear and terror, and the coronavirus will make life even harder on multiple fronts, particularly because much remains unknown. Philanthropy and the movement have the responsibility and opportunity to work together to address immediate health, social, economic, and other impacts of this pandemic; push a bold policy agenda from health care and paid sick leave to expanded worker and tenant protections; and advance long-term goals to shift the narrative, change culture, and build the bigger “we.”

Across the world, we know that immediate impacts of the virus and local responses like school and business closures will disproportionately impact low-income communities. As Philanthropy weighs our role in the response, community leaders gave the following Recommendations for Funders to respond to COVID-19:

  • Flexibility: To respond effectively, many grantees will need to change strategies, in some cases dramatically. Understand that a mix of strategies is needed.
  • Support the grassroots: All broader efforts can benefit from on-the-ground experience within impacted communities. But be mindful on the stresses and strains they are experiencing.
  • Fund the ecosystem: Funding should support services and advocacy, not either-or. Allow grantees to adapt goals and strategies—and be flexible with deliverables and outcomes.
  • Capacity building: Invest in grassroots leadership, including informal organizations led by volunteers. Always a good grantmaking strategy, it is doubly valuable in a crisis.

In reflecting on these recommendations, I realized that all of these are at the core of ICF’s grantmaking and programmatic leadership.  And particularly in recent times of crisis in the communities where we work, such as Hurricane Odile in Baja California Sur 2014, two devastating earthquakes in mainland Mexico in 2017, and the unprecedented influx of migrant and refugee populations to our San Diego-Tijuana border region since 2018.

In each of these crises, ICF’s leadership has adopted these exact principles. Today, as we respond to COVID-19 across all of the geographies where we and our donors live, work and play, ICF has adopted a mindset of planning for action – reaching out to our grassroots partners on the ground to keep abreast of urgent needs, but always with a long-term perspective, understanding that the impacts on public health, children’s education, economic growth, and long-term development outcomes will have ripple effects for months, if not years, to come.

But this is also an opportunity for us as individuals to embrace change with flexibility and boldness and creativity. Whether you are a concerned citizen and donor or an institutional funder, we invite you to join us and support your preferred nonprofit or cause with courage, vision, action!

How to Support?

ICF has already made several rapid response grants organizations in Tijuana and Baja California Sur where the local governments have been slow to respond, and nonprofits are incurring unexpected operational costs in order to prevent and prepare for the spread of COVID19. Immediate needs include translation and printing of informational materials, cleaning and hygiene supplies, and IT resources to provide remote services.

ICF will continue to make weekly rapid response grants from the Border Fund, Border Health Fund, and all of ICF’s Community Funds (La Paz Community Fund, Los Cabos Community FundTodos Santos Community Fund and the East Cape Strategic Action Fund), to address these urgent and long-term efforts being led by our courageous partners on the ground in these regions. All gifts to these funds between March 15 – June 15, 2020 will be dedicated to local COVID-19 response efforts.

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