Community Foundations/Intergroup Relations

"We simply cannot enter the next century at each other's throats. . . We are at a crucial crossroad in the history of this nation — and we either hang together by combating the forces that divide and degrade us or we hang separately. Do we have the intelligence, humor, imagination, courage, tolerance, love, respect, and will to meet the challenge?" — Cornel West

In 1998, the Ford Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation joined forces with six local foundations to launch a major initiative called the Community Foundations/Intergroup Relations Program (CF/IR). The initiative provides support to neighborhood and community projects in six metropolitan areas to improve race and ethnic relations between recent immigrants and longtime residents of the United States.

The purpose of the Program is to:
  • Support innovative neighborhood and community projects that work to improve race and ethnic relations between recent immigrants and longtime residents;
  • Strengthen community foundations to effectively address intergroup relations; and
  • Enable community foundations to build capacity, expertise, and support so that this work can be extended beyond the three years of national funding.
The three-year project will cost $5.1 million. Ford and Mott will each contribute $1.5 million, and the remainder will be raised by the six participating community foundations. Grantees will receive awards ranging from $60,000 to $510,000. During the first year of the project, the planning phase, the foundations will form advisory committees comprised of diverse community, neighborhood, and philanthropic leaders to help determine the kinds of projects each will support during the two-year implementing phase. Upon submission of a detailed implementation plan, each local foundation will receive $225,000 per year for two years for administrative costs and for grants to support local community projects. In years two and three of the initiative each local foundation will also be required to raise an additional $175,000 per year for re-granting purposes.

One goal of the CF/IR Program is to strengthen participating foundations so they can address conflicts between diverse groups and raise awareness of this work and local funds for it. To help attain this goal, the local foundations will receive technical assistance in program planning, design, implementation and evaluation; donor development; and strategic communications with the media, local communities, and other funders. Technical assistance for planning, design, and evaluation will be provided by Community Science in Gaithersburg, MD; donor development help will be given by Dorothy Reynolds, a consultant for the Mott Foundation; and communications assistance will be provided by the National Immigration Forum in Washington, D.C. Go to Top of Page

This program is built on the belief that bringing diverse groups of people together to pursue common objectives can result in better community conditions and improved racial and ethnic relations.

Elements of Similar, Successful Projects Include:
  1. A shared, concrete goal;
  2. Acknowledgment that goals are more likely to be achieved when diverse groups of people work together instead of alone; and
  3. Deliberate strategies to overcome conflicts that arise from racial and ethnic differences.
The CF/IR program will seek to replicate these elements in a variety of neighborhood and community projects.

Below are examples of current projects that utilize this approach:

  • In the Washington, DC area, Latino and Asian immigrants have joined forces with white and black neighbors to advocate for improved housing conditions;
  • In Chicago's Uptown neighborhood, Southeast Asian, Eastern European, Latin American, and African immigrants are working with white, Native American Indian, and African-American neighbors in a coalition called the Organization of the Northeast (ONE) to advocate for better services, and improved housing and to stimulate economic development in the community;
  • In central Brooklyn, African and Caribbean immigrants are working with African-Americans to build economic power by managing a community-controlled credit union;
In this program, each local foundation will decide how to apply the initiative's general approach to action-based intergroup relations work. Some groups might decide to focus on a diverse neighborhood and fund a number of projects that bring recent immigrants and longtime residents together to pursue common goals. Others might opt for a community-wide approach to pressing issues such as education, health, housing, or crime. It is hoped that the variety and creativity in six different sites will yield important insights and lessons for future intergroup work along these lines. Go to Top of Page

Projects CF/IR Builds On...
Recent pilot projects and research sponsored by the Ford and Mott Foundations have underscored the effectiveness of this approach to building bridges in diverse communities.

Changing Relations, a report to the Ford Foundation regarding relations between immigrants and longtime residents in six cities, found that the key to improving intergroup relations is to create opportunities for newcomers and established residents to come together to strengthen their community through efforts such as improving housing conditions, reducing crime, and securing better services.

Together in our Differences, a report published by the National Immigration Forum identified promising local initiatives in four metropolitan areas where immigrants and native-born Americans organized to pursue shared objectives around issues such as housing, crime, credit, education, and health. The report was supported by the Ford, Mott and the Meyer Foundations. Following in-depth research, a diverse advisory panel concluded that successful projects incorporated both a concrete goal and a commitment to improved intergroup relations.

Initiative to Strengthen Neighborhood Inter-group Assets, a funding collaborative inspired by Changing Relations and Together in Our Differences, established by the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation in Washington, DC. During the past three years, the Meyer initiative has made grants to nonprofit organizations to improve race and ethnic relations between recent immigrants and longtime residents. A recent evaluation indicates that the most successful projects (1) encourage collaboration among organizations that serve different populations; (2) strengthen organizational structures to do intergroup work, including hiring ethnic group members to reach out to specific populations; and (3) make tangible community improvements. The Initiative is currently housed at the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region.

The Community Foundations/Neighborhood Small Grants Program, an initiative with 17 community foundations funded by the Mott Foundation from 1984 through 1994, made grants to grassroots neighborhood groups. The grantees used funds to create their own agendas and expand their talent base to build healthier neighborhoods.

Intergroup Relations in the United States: Research Perspectives, a Ford Foundation-funded report published by the National Conference for Community and Justice (formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews), summarizes a cross-section of social science literature regarding intergroup relations. The report concludes that increased acceptance of the goals of integration and racial equality has put America "on the road to intergroup tolerance and equality." It cautions that discrimination and prejudice still exist, and that dismantling stereotypes and misconceptions requires tremendous patience and persistence.

Changing Communities; Changing Foundations, also known as the Ford Diversity Initiative, enabled 20 community foundations to explore promising and creative approaches for increasing inclusiveness in governance, asset development, grantmaking/program, community linkages and business practices. The Ford Foundation supported this effort from 1993 through 1997.
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Participating Community Foundations

Community Foundations Go to Top of Page

Reports and Publications Related to Intergroup Relations

Initiative to Strengthen Neighborhood Inter-group Assets (February 2001)
The Initiative to Strengthen Neighborhood Inter-group Assets was established in 1997 "to promote and strengthen cross-racial and cross-cultural relationships, including those between recent immigrants and long-time residents, by addressing racism and fostering the equitable distribution of political and economic power and resources to improve neighborhoods." This document summarizes the accomplishments of the initiative and the lessons learned by its participants.

Community Foundations Building Bridges and Capacity to Strengthen Immigrant Race Relations (September 2000)
The purposes of this document are (1) to share the knowledge that the national funders, participating community foundations, and consultants developed during the first year of the CF/IR program; and (2) to provide a tool that funders can use when reviewing grant proposals for strengthening intergroup relations between recent immigrants and long-time residents.

Principles for Intergroup Projects: A First Look (June 1999)
This publication describes ten principles for effective efforts to strengthen intergroup relations. The principles are based on research and on a systematic examination of practitioners' experiences. A brief discussion of the successes and challenges inherent in applying the principles is also included. These principles are presented as a work in progress.
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