Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) have long struggled for belonging, safety, and equity in the United States, but this struggle has reached a new level. The Asian American Foundation, looking to inform its efforts and priorities, engaged the Urban Institute to conduct a landscape study of the AAPI advocacy ecosystem, surfacing the voices and perspectives of organizations leading social change to achieve greater inclusion and belonging of AAPI communities. The landscape study engaged AAPI organizations to gain their perspectives on the challenges they face, their assets and opportunities, and how to invest in the field’s future.
Through advice from expert informants, database searches, and web searches, our research team identified more than 400 organizations in the ecosystem. Given the study’s focus on organizations that foster inclusion and belonging, a significant portion of the stakeholder group comprises civic engagement and civil rights organizations. During the study period (February to April 2021), the research team gleaned insights from interviews, focus groups, and an online survey. A cohort of reviewers, including researchers, civic engagement experts, social justice advocates, community activists, and other leaders, examined a draft of the report and shared additional content and editorial input. Leaders across the philanthropic community can use the report’s findings and recommendations to better invest in what on-the-ground stakeholders say are the most important path to combat racism and promote a greater sense of belonging for the AAPI community.
Key Recommendations for Strategic Investments
The report highlights six recommendations and accompanying action strategies for transforming the national climate and strengthening the AAPI advocacy ecosystem by filling critical gaps:
- Support efforts aimed at advancing policies that matter to AAPI communities
- Drive a national, multisector effort to improve research on AAPIs, including high-quality disaggregated data
- Create or support a national platform and convenings to strengthen existing connections and enhance collaboration among AAPI organizations
- Use public education and media communications to shift the public narrative on AAPI communities
- Invest in the power of multiracial coalitions by strengthening collaboration and coordination between AAPI organizations and other historically marginalized groups
- Address the need for increased funding support for AAPI organizations and more equitable flows to those working at the grassroots and local levels
The executive branch in the Biden-Harris administration has made a forceful case for racial equity and has set the stage for significant action to infuse racial equity throughout the national policy agenda through executive orders. Philanthropic, corporate, and public leaders are positioned to further elevate racial equity as institutional and programmatic priorities, and the recommendations from the AAPI community, reflected in this report, provide a useful starting point for action. At a crucial inflection point in our nation’s social justice journey, this landscape study illuminates new opportunities to capitalize on AAPI diversity to build equity; to advance movements and build political power; to forge cross-racial solidarity with groups sharing the traumatic experience of racism and white supremacy; and to reshape philanthropic investment for greater impact and scaling for AAPI organizations. Ultimately, pursuing these opportunities will support funders, organizations, and stakeholders as they advance policies and practices to support AAPI life and the right to belong, to be safe, and to be heard and valued in the national conversations on race and racism.