What is in a name?
As we enter our 10th year of grantmaking, the Security & Rights Collaborative (SRC), a Proteus Fund initiative, decided to take a step back and reflect on where we have been, where we are going and what story we would like to tell about our Collaborative’s work and the communities we support.
The early donors to the SRC, which included the Open Society Foundations and Atlantic Philanthropies, came together around an idea that was somewhat radical at the time – funding directly impacted voices to lead policy and related social change efforts. These funders recognized that in the years since 9/11, many progressives had advocated for Muslim, Arab and South Asian (MASA) communities, but had not advocated with them as partners. Long-standing investments by philanthropists from the MASA community were an important base that these foundations and others then built on through the SRC, and the MASA field grew more robust and well-connected as a result.
In the early years of the SRC, there was a keen focus on elements of “national security policy” that had been put into place after 9/11 – namely the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and issues such as torture and unwarranted surveillance. The name we adopted at that time attempted to advocate that we can both be secure as a nation and protect the rights of marginalized communities.
In the years since, three things have become increasingly clear to us. First, that policy and practices that specifically targeted members of the MASA community may have been justified under the guise of “national security,” but the reality is that this was merely a justification to continue a legacy of discrimination against communities of color. Second, that by using the “security” frame of the state, we were inadvertently reinforcing the notion that somehow MASA communities pose a unique or ubiquitous threat. Finally, and most importantly, when we looked at how are grantees were doing their work – we saw community organizing, public education efforts, civic engagement and multi-faceted, intersectional advocacy and movement building. It was clear that this rich MASA field, and the innovative ways in which the Collaborative was supporting it, was just not being captured by our name.
A decade into our work, we want to reclaim the narrative about MASA communities and our efforts to support them. We used this opportunity to survey and interview our funders, grantees and key stakeholders. We reflected on the data gathered by external evaluations of our work and concluded that our new name should better reflect the aspirations and the vision of communities whose rights and very existence have become defining markers in our democracy.
It is also critical that our name reflects how we do our work. Our role goes beyond traditional grantmaking. We intentionally direct our grants toward building long-term, sustainable movements, and then also work alongside our grantees and others in the MASA field to help them grow, connect, and develop a collective voice. We work closely with our funder partners to learn from the field and align philanthropy to more effectively meet the field’s needs. Finally, we see our efforts as tied to the fates of other communities who are affected by and fighting back against racism, xenophobia, patriarchy, and structural inequality.
As we begin this critical year, we are proud to continue our work as the RISE Together Fund.
We believe this name reflects the unrelenting and inspirational work of our grantees on the frontlines and the collective efforts of our funder partners. We will achieve Rights, Inclusion, Solidarity, and Equity (RISE) Together. The RISE Together Fund (RTF) works with partners to bolster the critical work of MASA groups to defend and uphold the Rights of their communities, leading to Inclusion in a just, multi-racial democracy. Our new name reflects our understanding that we must build relationships and Solidarity within the MASA field and with allies across social and racial justice movements in order to realize Equity and justice in America.
With this name, the RTF, its donors and Proteus Fund have re-committed ourselves to push toward a vision of what is possible when we rise together. Our new name, the RISE Together Fund, reflects the values of the field, a collaborative spirit and an invitation to be part of the movement.