A healthy, more equitable society
From patient-centered quality care to immigration reform, many policies explicitly affect LGBTQ people of color. The California Endowment believes that what's most most needed for LGBTQ communities is what's most needed for everyone in our society. Program Director Ignatius Bau explains this framework.
Tell me about yourself. How did you become a policy advocate and an activist?
I first worked for 10 years as a civil rights attorney, focusing on immigrant and refugee issues. I was fortunate to be able to work on behalf of very diverse clients and constituencies, including Southeast Asian and Central American refugees, undocumented Mexican immigrants, gay and lesbian asylum seekers from all over the world, immigrant women experiencing domestic violence, and Haitians with HIV detained by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay on immigration status, health, social services and employment issues.
I learned how to do all types of legal advocacy, including representing individual clients in administrative and judicial hearings; litigating class action lawsuits on behalf of thousands of clients; drafting local, state and federal legislation; testifying before boards, commissions and legislatures; drafting and commenting on administrative regulations; developing and conducting trainings for other attorneys, legal workers and community advocates; and writing legal education materials.
After 10 years, I realized that while all these forms of advocacy are really important, what I personally loved most was building coalitions across issues and identities and helping community-based organizations and emerging community leaders develop their own skills and capacities. I served on lots of boards of nonprofit organizations!
So I made a career change and took a new job managing a federally-funded technical assistance and capacity-building program for Asian American and Pacific Islander community-based organizations working on HIV prevention. In that job, I learned how to work with government funders, become a community advocate on government task forces and advisory bodies, and help communities organize themselves. I worked to build national coalitions with African American, Latino and Native American organizations. I continued to work on HIV prevention and other HIV/AIDS policy issues while learning about other health issues and health care policy.
As my job evolved, I was able to use all my work experiences to draft an Executive Order, eventually signed by President Clinton in 1999, establishing a White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. I was then honored to be the lead author of the first report of the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders created by that Executive Order.
How did you end up becoming a grantmaker?
While I always had working relationships with foundations and government funders, I never thought I would take on a job as a grantmaker. However, when it was time for another job change, I applied for a position at The California Endowment to work specifically on issues of improving language access and cultural competency in health care systems. These were issues I had worked on as a grantee, and I was ready for the challenge of trying to leverage the funding even more as a grantmaker.
You currently serve as a Program Director at The California Endowment, one of the largest foundations in the country (by asset size). What does The California Endowment support and what is its vision for the community?
We have a very broad and ambitious mission of improving the health of all Californians, and particularly the underserved; central to our approach is our belief that if we do not address the issues and needs of the most marginalized, overlooked and disinvested communities and populations in the state, we will not achieve any improvements in health overall.
After our first 12 years as a foundation, we also have learned that while funding direct services is vital, the greatest contribution we can make as philanthropists is to support the changes in policies and systems that will ensure the sustainability of the improvements made by our grantees.
Can you provide some examples of how you have been able to raise and include issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and LGBTQ communities in your grantmaking?
I am fortunate that The California Endowment always has included LGBTQ issues and organizations in our grantmaking from the very beginning, including: funding local LGBTQ community centers; partnering with the Horizons Foundation [based in San Francisco] and other LGBTQ funders; supporting the staffing of the California LGBT Health and Human Services Network; supporting the ground-breaking research of Dr. Caitlin Ryan and her colleagues at the Family Acceptance Project; funding the health access work of the Transgender Law Center; supporting provider and family guides produced by the Intersex Society of North America and its organizational transition into the ACCORD Alliance; and supporting public education on marriage equality in communities of color and religious communities.
Yet some of my most satisfying moments in the past six years as a grantmaker have been when LGBTQ issues get raised by someone other than me, the "out" grantmaker. So when I am sitting in meetings with granteesa group of nurse educators, or the staff of the leading accreditation organization for hospitals, or a team of health services researchers, or a committee of the Institute of Medicineand they beginning discussing LGBTQ issues and seek more information, resources and inclusion of LGBTQ community representatives in their work, I smilea big smile!and am more than happy to share LGBTQ contacts, bibliographies, publications and other resources.
This toolkit is exploring how funders can better promote racial equity in this country among LGBTQ communities. Through your work at the foundation, or through your other experiences, how have you seen racial, economic and gender inequities affect LGBTQ communities of color?
I have been extremely fortunate that my jobs have allowed me to explicitly struggle with issues of racial, economic and gender inequitiesanalyses of the historical, structural and political roots of these inequities helps inform my strategies and work.
Whether one identifies the work as civil rights, human rights, social justice or social change, I also have been to be able to learn and try to incorporate more theoretical concepts in my workand to be able to present, speak and write about some of these issues from both theory and practice. For example, I am beginning to reframe my work on language access, cultural competence and health disparities in health policy as "patient-centered quality care"moving to a more universal and inclusive conceptualization accessible to more audiences.
As another example, it is important to raise LGBTQ issues among immigration advocates, whether overturning immigration exclusions based on HIV status, establishing the right to asylum for LGBTQ individuals facing persecution in their home countries or highlighting the denials of immigration rights for same-sex partners and spouses institutionalized by the Defense of Marriage Act. Today this intersectionality is still topical as some leading advocates supporting increased family immigration are now opposing Congressperson Mike Honda's family immigration legislation because of his inclusion of the Permanent Partners Immigration Act, which would end immigration exclusions of same-sex partners.
Conversely, LBGTQ organizations have to ask themselves what their position is on increased family immigration if they want to support not just the "LGBTQ" section of the bill but the entire family immigration bill.
You were serving on the board of directors of Funders for LGBTQ Issues when it changed its mission in 2006 to support racial, economic and gender justiceand launched a Racial Equity Campaign to increase the amount of funding reaching LGBTQ communities of color. What was the board's rationale for these major decisions?
As funders, we always wrestle with the evaluation question, How do we know we are achieving our goals or making an impact? As we asked ourselves this question as a board and an organization, we were dissatisfied with an answer that was just "increased numbers or dollars of grants to LGBTQ organizations, communities or issues." We concluded that counting and pushing increases in these numbers is only a means, not a sufficient end.
So we then asked the question of what was most needed in our LGBTQ communities and found ourselves answering what was most needed in our society as a whole: greater equity on a whole set of issues and identities, including our sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.
Our "a-ha" was that it was the right thing to do to call on our own LGBTQ communities to more consciously take on these other social inequities of race, class and gender in an intersectional and cross-identity way as well as smart for contributing to a broader movement for social justice by explicitly linking our LGBTQ identities, issues, organizations and communities to existing movements for racial, economic and gender justice.
Our challenge has been to operationalize this intersectional vision in both how we function as a philanthropic affinity group as well as how we communicate, educate and engage the field of philanthropy in joining us in figuring out how to achieve our new mission.
How would you assess the organization's progress to date? What do you see as the challenges for Funders for LGBTQ Issues in the future?
Led by our amazing staff, we have launched what I feel are some of the most innovative ideas and programs in philanthropy today. Our materials and reports are provocative, packed with detailed content and visually attractive. Funders have been challenged to think hard about their own grantmaking in our Common Vision work, our sessions at the Council on Foundations and most recently, our retreat on racial equity. In our Racial Equity Campaign, we are raising accountability with LGBTQ-identified funders on racial equity issues and with racial justice-identified funders on LGBTQ issues.
The biggest challenge for us funders is continuing to develop, document, evaluate and disseminate actual examples of grantmaking using an intersectional and structural analysis, which advances racial, economic and gender justice in our LGBTQ communities.
The challenge for granteesfor both LGBTQ-identified and non-LGBTQ-identified organizationsis to operationalize this intersectionality and intentionality about always calling out and meeting the needs of people of color, the poor, women and transgender individuals.
Finally, what advice would you give to a grantmaker who's interested in exploring funding to LGBTQ communities of color?
The best approach is to begin with where your strengths and experiences are and then stretch yourself to find the appropriate entry point for you, your executives and your board of trustees. You don't necessarily need to create or justify adding a "new" program or grantmaking portfolio explicitly on LGBTQ issues. You should be able to find an entry point regardless of what your organization's funding or programmatic priorities are.
For example, if your foundation works on health issues, you will be able to find both the LGBTQ issues and more specifically, the LGBTQ communities of color issues, in what you already are fundingwhether it is expanding health insurance coverage (especially for LGBTQ immigrants, racial minorities, women, transgender people and the working poor); reducing disparities (based on race, gender, income, sexual orientation and gender identity/expression), adolescent health services (especially for LGBTQ youth of color); or aging issues (especially for low-income and/or racial minority seniors).
If your foundation works on education issues, you could address issues of safe schools for LGBTQ students and teachers (especially for LGBTQ youth of color); inclusion of LGBTQ parents and families (who may not speak English or are working two jobs and can't attend parent-teacher meetings); or scholarships and other academic and social support for LGBTQ youth seeking higher education.
Finally, if you are still at a loss how to begin, you can always commission an environmental scan of available LGBTQ data, resources and organizations, or conduct convenings, listening sessions or community forums with community stakeholders and leaders to inform you of their needs and aspirations.
Ignatius Bau, Program Director, The California Endowment (San Francisco, CA)
Ignatius Bau is a Program Director at The California Endowment, managing the foundation's work on language access, cultural competency, health care disparities reduction, health workforce diversity and health information and communications technologies. He also is a member of the board of Funders for LGBTQ Issues.
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