Commitment to Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

Equity, diversity,  inclusion, and racial justice are inextricably linked to WES and the Mariam Assefa Fund’s vision of a future when immigrants and refugees can thrive. The Fund is deeply committed to dismantling racism, discrimination, and biases to improve economic mobility and inclusion for all.

As a Philanthropic Funder, We Commit to:

Invest in leaders from immigrant and refugee communities and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities

Prioritize funding strategies that address the structural barriers people experience because of their race, ethnicity, gender, culture, religion, citizenship, and other identities

Shift power to our partners and communities and provide flexible funding and support

Build a team whose diverse lived and learned experiences foster an inclusive culture

Work with external consultants and vendors whose staff and leadership reflect BIPOC, immigrant, and refugee communities

Our 2024 Priorities

It is critical to center equity in whom we fund, how we fund, and who we are, and in the specific actions we are taking in 2024.

These actions are our start, not our end. As a young philanthropic funder launched in 2019, we are still creating our processes and practices and seeking to continually improve. We first developed and shared these priorities externally in 2021.

We firmly believe that there is always room for us to do better. We will work to hold ourselves accountable to transparently sharing our progress in equity, diversity, and inclusion with our partners, and we encourage you to reach out with feedback. 

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  • Why

    The most vibrant economy is one in which everyone can contribute. Supporting the success of immigrants, refugees, and underrepresented talent creates more diverse, innovative, and productive workplaces and communities. 

    To build more inclusive economies and communities, we must center equity, diversity, inclusion, and racial justice in our work, both internally and externally. This means that we must first acknowledge the historical roots of racism and discrimination that our systems and societies were built on. Today, in the very workforce, education, and immigration systems that our funding focuses on, structural racism and inequity persist, preventing many immigrants, refugees, and Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities from accessing opportunities. 

    Immigrants and refugees often face bigotry and xenophobia, which can exacerbate the structural barriers they may experience because of their race, ethnicity, gender, culture, religion, citizenship, and other identities. Our work must have an intersectional lens, as multiple identities interconnect and can compound the effects of inequity and bias. 

  • Who & What We Fund

    A core goal of the Fund is to support proximate leaders leaders who come from the communities they serve and have direct experience or knowledge of the issues they seek to address – and organizations led and staffed by people with lived experience from the immigrant, refugee and BIPOC communities they serve.  

    In 2021, we started collecting baseline demographic data related to race, ethnicity, gender and immigrant identity from applicants and partners.  This year, in 2024, we are continuing to leverage this data to inform our practice, while also committing to being intentional, clear, and transparent about our data collection. We continue to focus on improving economic mobility for immigrants and refugees with an intentional integration of justice and equity considerations in the solutions we fund, as well as focus on backing proximate leaders. In 2024, we aim to ensure that 65 percent of the Fund’s total dollars awarded to immigrant-led, women-led and/or BIPOC-led organizations.  

  • How We Fund

    We seek to shift power to proximate leaders, organizations and communities and ensure that they have the flexible resources and support they need.   In 2024, we will continue to deepen our participatory practices, launching new participatory grantmaking initiatives in both Canada and the United States To shift power and decision making, our 2024 goal is to award 40 percent of total dollars to organizations by using participatory practices.  

    We will also build on our efforts to provide flexibility through offering long-term, general operating support funding. We also seek to provide “support beyond the check” to our partners, offering capacity strengthening supports and bringing partners together to learn and share.  In 2023, we awarded 40 capacity strengthening grants to partners, totaling USD $700,000, and brought partners together for in-person convenings in San Francisco, Toronto, and Washington, DC.  In 2024, we will expand our support through technical assistance, partner convenings, capacity strengthening opportunities, and uplifting of partner voices. 

    In 2024, we are committing to developing a JEDI framework in RFPs and funding agreements The Fund recognizes the enduring presence and resilience of Indigenous People on Turtle Island. In 2024, we commit to bringing an indigenous lens to our work focused on supporting immigrants and refugees.  

  • Who We Are

    We are committed to ensuring our team includes diverse voices and lived experience.  As the Fund has grown, we have expanded the lived and learned experience represented on our team and will continue to do so, working closely with WES’ director of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, who was hired in 2022, and is leading efforts to capture this data across WES. Further, we seek to foster an inclusive culture and invest in our people’s learning, development, and advancement. In 2022, the Fund brought on an external partner, Just Strategies, to both support our own equity, diversity, and inclusion journey, and to refine our approach and further develop actions towards equity in our grantmaking.  


The WES Mariam Assefa Fund’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Statement was developed with input from our grantee and investee partners, who represent organizations across the immigrant integration, education technology, and workforce development sectors, as well as internal WES staff and leadership. We are deeply grateful for their input, guidance, and support on this journey. This Statement was created in 2021 and is a living commitment that we will update annually to ensure it evolves to respond to emerging needs and priorities.