Following the 2016 presidential election, The New York Women’s Foundation recognized there would be an intense need to mobilize and rapidly assist vulnerable populations at-risk from harmful policies espoused by the incoming administration. In response, we established “Resilience NYC,” a $1 million initiative now funding organizations and programs that work with women and families directly impacted by changes in federal policies. Resilience NYC also funds organizations that are implementing civic engagement activities with a target audience of girls, women and communities that want to actively participate in democratic life.
This year, in a departure from our previous practice of giving annual grants, The Foundation has awarded multi-year Resilience NYC grants focused on civic engagement to facilitate our grantee partners’ ability to plan near- and long-term initiatives. This model allows them to think ahead and sustain their efforts through 2020.
We sat down with Camille Abrahams Emeagwali, Vice President of Programs, to discuss the idea behind Resilience NYC, the transition to multi-year funding, and other issues facing grantees in this current political landscape.
What made you decide to establish the Resilience NYC Initiative?
It was realizing that the areas in which we fund were limited, in terms of what we felt we wanted to invest in deeply. Our core issue areas are still those central to women’s well-being: Economic Security; Anti-Violence and Safety; and Health, Sexual Rights and Reproductive Justice. But over the years, The Foundation has found that there are times when we need to respond to unpredicted stressors for communities already vulnerable and under-resourced.
Resilience is like other initiatives we have had in the past, for example: RISE, our response to Hurricane Sandy and our Initiative Against the Sex Trafficking of Minors. After the 2016 election, we knew that we wanted to step up. We wanted to expand grantmaking to support immigrant rights, civic engagement and women’s empowerment and leadership in the democratic process. We wanted to strongly commit to providing resources to organizations doing this work.
Ultimately, the decision came from determining how we can support our grantees in a time of crisis and change. What’s happening on a national level has severe and devastating local implications here in New York City, a city of immigrants. Approximately 80% percent of our partner organizations serve immigrants or have immigrant leadership. The threats from the current administration are affecting our grantees in terms of their membership, their constituents, their staffs and themselves.
Can you explain the importance of multi-year funding? Including some context on why The Foundation chose to make this change last grant cycle.
We recognized that organizations want the security of knowing that they have the resources to ‘think, plan, and do.’ I think we are now in a position at The Foundation where we have the financial resources to make those commitments in the long term.
After the election, we saw that we needed an initiative to address the needs of current and former grantees who would be adversely impacted by new rules and policies. We also recognized that there has never been a more important time to figure out how to get more women, girls, and gender-fluid individuals actively engaged in civic life and on that path into electoral politics and leadership.
Moving forward, we were ultimately thinking about the next election in 2020 and what can be accomplished between now and then to get people activated and to get them on the pathway to leadership.
Aside from immigration, what are some of the other pressing issues that you have come across in funding applications?
Another aspect of Resilience NYC is addressing how organizations can survive in times of change, which is why we incorporated an organizational adaptivity component and leadership development.