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 2021 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 2021.

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 firmly believe that there is always room for us to do better. We will work to hold ourselves accountable to 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 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 will collect baseline demographic data related to race, ethnicity, gender, and immigrant identity from applicants and partners. This data will enable us to better understand whom we are funding—and whom we aren’t— identify inequities in how we support different communities, and set goals to increase funding for proximate leaders and organizations. We look forward to sharing this data and the goals that result in the coming months and years.

    For an overview on how we collect demographic information and insights on applicants’ approaches to equity, please see here.

  • 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 to succeed. As we work to address the power imbalances inherent in philanthropy, in 2021, we are piloting participatory grantmaking initiatives to shift decision-making power directly to communities. Building on our experience with the Opportunity Challenge, we are also engaging leaders in the field to review applications for funding.

    In 2021, we are working to increase flexibility in our funding by providing general operating support and unrestricted project grants. The Fund is also expanding beyond funding dollars to provide technical assistance, convenings, and storytelling that centers on the voices of immigrants and refugees.

  • Who We Are

    Our team includes diverse voices and lived experience: 50 percent of our team identify as women of color, and more than 70 percent have lived experience as either a first- or second-generation immigrant in the United States or Canada. As the Fund grows, we will expand the lived and learned experience represented on our team. Internally, we seek to foster an inclusive culture and invest in our people’s learning, development, and advancement. In 2021, we will implement training to minimize and mitigate implicit bias in our practices.

    We also prioritize working with external consultants and vendors whose leadership and staff reflect BIPOC, immigrant, refugee, and other communities that have known underinvestment. In 2021, we will begin to collect demographic data of these partners and set targets around working with diverse vendors.


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 is a living document that we will update semi-annually.