In the second episode of our ForumNation podcast, David Biemesderfer interviews Amanda Misiko Andere. Amanda shares with David how her longtime devotion to helping people in need has been strongly influenced by her immigrant parents’ experience getting help from virtual strangers who greatly improved their lives. She also explains why addressing racial equity is an imperative to ending homelessness in America, how her theater experience has come in handy throughout her career, and why “surrender” is her word of the year for 2020.
Dave Biemesderfer (00:05):
ForumNation is a podcast of United Philanthropy Forum, the largest network serving philanthropy in America. On ForumNation we interview amazing philanthropy leaders that we want more people to know about. We'll hear about their personal stories of transformation, their life inflection points, their surprising leadership moments. You learn insights about what's behind the title. Those less than perfect moments, those overcoming the odds moments, those moments where you reach down and find something within you that you didn't know was there.
Dave Biemesderfer (00:38):
I'm your host, Dave Biemesderfer. Amanda Misiko Andere has spent her entire career so far fighting to prevent and end homelessness and break the cycle of poverty. She has worked in the nonprofit sector, the public sector, and now the philanthropic sector. For the past four years, she has served as Chief Executive Officer of Funders Together to End Homelessness, which is the only national network of grantmakers working to end and prevent homelessness. Amanda currently serves on the Board of Directors of the United Philanthropy Forum, which is the organization I happen to run. Amanda, welcome to ForumNation.
Amanda Andere (01:19):
Thanks so much for having me Dave.
Dave Biemesderfer (01:20):
Yeah, we're thrilled to have you here. Welcome to our studio.
Amanda Andere (01:23):
This is great [inaudible 00:01:24].
Dave Biemesderfer (01:23):
Yes, yes. So as I just said, you've spent your entire adult career so far fighting for people who are less fortunate in our communities and our country. Specifically working to prevent and end homelessness and break the cycle of poverty. So I just really curious, what's behind your passion for this work, and why do you do it day in and day out?
Amanda Andere (01:48):
That's a good question Dave. And I think there's many reasons that brings me to my work. First and foremost, my faith. I am a Christian and I believe that it's our duty to do for others, but not for others in a charity type of way to work on justice, on behalf of people and with people. And so I feel like I've been blessed with so much and that I need to give it forward, pay it forward, and create a more just world around me.
Amanda Andere (02:20):
But when I think about the roots of why I care so much about poverty and housing insecurity and ending homelessness, I think about my parents. They are both immigrants to this country. And they came at a time during the end of the civil rights movement. And for them coming from predominantly black countries, it was a shock to their system. They didn't quite know where to fit in. They experienced racial discrimination in ways that still jar them to this day.
Amanda Andere (02:52):
And there were people, strangers who helped them along the way, and those people made a lasting impression on their lives and on my life. And my parents always said, "If it wasn't for those folks who provided them with opportunity is just were a friendly, warm place for them that we wouldn't be where we were as a family." And as a family growing up in a pretty upper class neighborhood in Northern Virginia, right outside of DC. It was always striking to me, and now I realize more what I saw that while we had a lot, there were kids in my class who didn't. And I'm sure that there were nights that they didn't have food to eat, that they were wondering how they were going to stay in their home. And that impacted their education and impacted their ability to do the fun stuff that I got to do.
Amanda Andere (03:43):
And my parents instilled in me that we can't live in a community where that is happening, that we should have a diverse community where everyone feels stable and welcome and is included. And so that really drove my passion to seek out why that doesn't happen for people.
Dave Biemesderfer (03:58):
Right. And where did your parents immigrate from?
Amanda Andere (04:01):
My mom is from Jamaica. My dad's from Kenya. They met while going to school in California.
Dave Biemesderfer (04:06):
Oh? Oh, how very cool, very cool. What university? Do you know?
Amanda Andere (04:11):
Well, my mom went to a small, which I don't think is still around, Catholic university called Notre Dame. So not the big Notre Dame. And my dad went to community college for a while and then went to University of Northern California.
Dave Biemesderfer (04:24):
And then they ended up in Northern Virginia?
Amanda Andere (04:26):
We ended up a lot of different places.
Dave Biemesderfer (04:28):
Amanda Andere (04:28):
So they actually went to graduate school in Washington State. And that's actually one of the families that had the most impact on our lives in my younger life. A white family who had never met a black person in their life. They're from Walla Walla, Washington. Took in my mom and dad when they were in graduate school, they were their host family and they, I call them grandma and grandpa and we had a lot of interesting discussions around race from when I was a young age.
Amanda Andere (04:59):
But their openness and kindness and sense of justice also impacted my family in a great way. So those are the examples I'm talking about, like just people who took in my family in communities where that was not the thing to do. So then my parents checked over to the East coast. My dad was in banking, my mom is in food service and that was another way that I started to do this work.
Amanda Andere (05:25):
My mom was a director of cafeterias and companies that employed mostly low income workers. And just seeing my mom have a real commitment to taking them on a career path that would make them stable and doing things for her employees to help them in their life, not just professionally, but personally, was really important to me. And I saw my mom do that in a way where she didn't have to. I mean, she worked in corporate America, she was very successful. But she really cared about her employees and wanted them to have a safe place to go home to, and a family that felt stable and nurtured.
Dave Biemesderfer (06:06):
So those kinds of values obviously carried over to you clearly.
Amanda Andere (06:10):
Yeah. Yeah. Well I hope so.
Dave Biemesderfer (06:11):
It seems like it, yeah. Clearly, clearly.
Amanda Andere (06:14):
And the sense of justice really came from seeing so many injustices, even when times when my mom would try to help people and knowing that like of that time, things like health care and the way that we have it now, we're still fighting for it and had an impact on the people that she was trying to help. And so just knowing that even when you help people, there's injustices in the world. And so we have to think of, for me, fighting for a policy change and systems change and it felt like not enough for me to just help one person, which is great. I think that's can be a lot of people's life's work. But I just wanted to see things change for many more people in a long-term way.
Dave Biemesderfer (06:56):
So you're in Northern Virginia. What kind of high school was it? A diverse student body?
Amanda Andere (07:01):
It was, it was a diverse high school. We ethnically, racially, economically, I think though people think of Fairfax County or places like that is really wealthy. And that's actually where I started my career in working in preventing and ending homelessness. And people would always say like, "There's poverty and homelessness in Reston, one of the highest income counties in the country?"
Amanda Andere (07:26):
And actually that is, I thought when I graduated from school, I wanted to work in DC, and what I didn't realize is there was the suburbanization of poverty was happening right in my backyard. And people didn't know about it and people didn't know that there are people suffering in this wealthy community and why. And that became my passion too, like waking up people that poverty and housing insecurity was actually, because of the success of areas that many of the people who supported the business growth were still struggling to maintain their housing and just live right in their backyard.
Dave Biemesderfer (08:10):
So, it can be easy for somebody who are living in those communities who is better off to only see the good parts and not the sort of downsides of that. But you have an ability or an interest in seeing that, but not everybody does. Everyone else can say, "Oh, Fairfax." Like you said, what a wonderful community. Everything's just A-OK with everybody. So, but you were able to see the other side and I guess that seem, it sounds like something you've always done in your life is to be sensitive to everything. Even though you grew up in a more well off family as you said, you saw students who weren't and you and you noticed that. So I see a trend here in your work.
Amanda Andere (08:53):
Yeah, it's uncovering what is really happening behind what we sometimes see is okay and also re-imagining what is okay. So to me like the fact, not that people are suffering in my community, but we recently moved back to Reston and it was because we wanted to be around a diverse community, diverse incomes. I believe a community is thriving when people don't all look alike, don't all come from the same background. And people are trying to move up in the world, or figure out their North star, their success. And that to me feels like community.
Amanda Andere (09:33):
And so I think in those circumstances now in the country we live in, that means that some people do suffer. But what would it look like? How do we imagine a community where someone doesn't need to go to a high stress corporate job just to be able to be stable in their home? And that we value people at every income, at every ability to at least have a safe and decent place to live.
Dave Biemesderfer (09:58):
Right, right. Wonderful sentiment. Wonderful. So then you went on to get your BA in Political Science at James Madison University. And what made you decide Poli Sci was the way you wanted to go?
Amanda Andere (10:13):
Well, I think like most things in my life, I'd never have a straight path, so things ... But they always work out the way that they want to. So I actually transferred to James Madison University from the University of Richmond because I wanted to pursue a theater career. I had done theater all my life-
Dave Biemesderfer (10:30):
Amanda Andere (10:31):
... and when I went to University of Richmond, I was very focused on doing political science. And in that program it was a lot of theory and I didn't feel like I was doing something, like really understanding what was happening on the ground. And I thought, "You know, the last time I felt there's a passion was during theater and maybe I should just go to JMU and do their theater program and become a theater teacher." Well, what I figured out was that theater is still a great passion of mine. Performing is a great passion of mine, but sometimes your passions are not always your professional careers or your professional journeys.
Amanda Andere (11:09):
And I still had a sense of wanting to do policy and justice and what I found at JMU and their Poli Sci program, it was really centered around what does it mean to do campaign work? And they had the first political communication program and professors who were on the ground, and amazing Washington DC semester where I got to live in DC in a neighborhood that I don't think any student or any person now could afford. And be surrounded by people who were doing internships in amazing places.
Amanda Andere (11:43):
And so political science to me was just figuring out how does it all work? And you know, most people who get a BA in Political Science go and work on the Hill. I did that for a very short time, but working on the Hill really again to like seeing something that wasn't there. What I saw was not the right people coming to do policy and advocacy and really wondered, where were the groups that I had volunteered with as a kid and as a teenager who were working on the ground, where were they? They had stories to tell.
Amanda Andere (12:17):
And so I really wanted to see what was happening in the nonprofit human services area and why they didn't have the ability to do policy and advocacy. And the reality is, is a lot of those organizations it's changing now. But gosh, 15 years ago didn't have the resources and the capacity to do the policy and advocacy, even though they wanted to. They wanted to work themselves out of a job. And you can only do that sometimes through policy change.
Amanda Andere (12:44):
So I got into doing fundraising to build the capacity for organizations to think about doing policy and communication and working together at the state level and at the federal level. So that's a little bit about my path and my journey. I still sometimes feel like there's a little bit of theater in political science and policy. And so, and I get to do a lot of public speaking. And so bringing in my theater background. And then also just being able to have fun in my work is really important too. And I think that comes from my theater background as well.
Dave Biemesderfer (13:18):
So you were doing theater in high school?
Amanda Andere (13:22):
In high school and a little bit in college.
Dave Biemesderfer (13:22):
Acting, doing the front plays and-
Amanda Andere (13:24):
I did acting, I was in our show choir and I did backstage stuff as well, which is actually what I did and I was an assistant director, did backstage work. It's where I learned a lot of my leadership skills. You had to rally your peers together and we thought we were pretty professional in our high school theater productions. And we did everything from the marketing to the directing and it was a really eyeopening experience and it still sticks with me, those learning skills still. The skills that I learned stick with me today.
Dave Biemesderfer (13:57):
And there's definitely a lot of theater in policy. Not a little, I think there's a lot-
Amanda Andere (14:01):
Dave Biemesderfer (14:06):
... in politics. So they do still dabble in it like community or have you thought about that?
Amanda Andere (14:10):
I thought about it, quite frankly, I don't have the time to do it.
Dave Biemesderfer (14:12):
I was going to say it, yeah.
Amanda Andere (14:13):
But every time I go see a production, recently I saw a chorus line at Signature Theater and I just wanted to leap and jump on stage and instead I went home and watched the movie and singing, and my husband was like, "Oh my gosh, who did I marry?"
Dave Biemesderfer (14:29):
So you get it out at home, you get it out.
Amanda Andere (14:30):
Yes, exactly. And a great supporter of theater as well.
Dave Biemesderfer (14:33):
Yes, sure, sure. And then you at some point got your MPA in nonprofit management so at George Mason, so by that time you knew nonprofit management and that was going to be your career path, not theater.
Amanda Andere (14:47):
Yeah. So I'm actually really glad. A lot of people take the path of getting their master's right after their BA, which is great. I'm glad that I did. And I probably would have gotten my master's in Political Science, which would have been fine. But there was something about that really intrigued me about what are all ... What does it take to actually make a nonprofit run and what is the mechanics behind it? How does it interface with the world?
Amanda Andere (15:16):
And so the nonprofit MPA program at George Mason was also a great, because we had a lot of professors who were working in the nonprofit or policy or public works field. And so they would be rushing into class from their day job and tell great stories about how it actually worked and happened and also got a lot of practical skills. Shortly after I went back and started teaching nonprofit studies, not in the master's program but in the BA program.
Amanda Andere (15:48):
And so total full circle in terms of my career path. Yeah, it's a lot of fun. I taught for, oh I think like eight years there and it's something that I really do miss. It was one of the greatest joys of my career is teaching students who way before I knew I wanted to get into the nonprofit field. I think that's what's so exciting about our field now. There's young people who are like, "No, this is what I want to do." And I think sometimes in my generation or older people were like, "Oh, I kind of fell into it."
Dave Biemesderfer (16:17):
That's what I say a lot.
Amanda Andere (16:18):
Dave Biemesderfer (16:19):
Yeah, yeah. And there's theater in being a professor, right? Performing in front of the students.
Amanda Andere (16:25):
Yes, yes, absolutely. Theme, you see a theme here.
Dave Biemesderfer (16:30):
I do see a theme here. And then you as I mentioned, at the outset, you've been working in nonprofit sector. You've done work in the public sector and now for the last four years in the philanthropic sector. What brought you to decide to do work in the philanthropic sector? How did that path happen for you? And four years in, you and I think we both met within, I think we're both on our jobs a couple months.
Amanda Andere (17:02):
Yeah, that's true.
Dave Biemesderfer (17:04):
And so I remember that clearly. So since then, now to what are your impressions, your initial impressions of working in this sector?
Amanda Andere (17:15):
Yeah, it's interesting. I always debate when people say, "Oh, we work in philanthropy." I know we had some of these discussions when we all gathered as CEOs of philanthropic serving organizations. Like what's our exact role? So I always start by saying, "I work in ending homelessness." And for me that's the most important thing. And there's a lot of pieces to ending homelessness and philanthropy and funders are one of those sectors and pieces.
Amanda Andere (17:40):
And so that was another path that I kind of fell into, if I want to just be candid and vulnerable. I was running a national organization that was in the process of merging with another organization and closing. And it was probably one of the most difficult times in my life. I had run organizations before and always was the person or the CEO who could fix any problem and make it a success. And now I know in reflection that sometimes failure is not failure.
Amanda Andere (18:12):
Sometimes organizations need to close and go in a different direction, but didn't have that perspective at the time. And you know, I thought that I wanted to do policy and advocacy and kind of move away from doing homelessness. But there was something about first job that spoke to me, Funders Together to End Homelessness had always had a presence at the national lines and homelessness conferences when I attended, leading my Virginia team to do federal policy and advocacy.
Amanda Andere (18:40):
And I thought again, I thought back to when I first started working on the Hill, "What is philanthropy doing? What are funders actually doing in this space that would be interesting to try to influence?" And so it was kind of a, well, why not kind of thing. I mean obviously I have a passion around ending homelessness. But as I started to meet the now my board and saw their thoughtfulness for a different vision for ending homelessness, a real vision around not just a charity mindset. But really thinking about investing in systems change and policy and engaging in advocacy and being able to influence that and bring people together.
Amanda Andere (19:23):
It felt like the right place. And at the time I also was really focused on wanting to do racial equity and racial justice work. And I did not know that we got to do that at this organization. And I've been able to do it in a deeper way than I could have ever imagined with people who really care deeply about it. So I think what I've learned is that in the last four years is that funders can have an incredible amount of influence and power. But they can also learn and be critical of themselves and change in ways that, slowly, but change in ways that allow for us to imagine new ways of doing things that start to examine how we have all these inequities. And why we have a country that is deeply rooted in structural racism and just the humbleness and the honestness of that philanthropy has been a cause of a lot of those structural inequities.
Amanda Andere (20:28):
But wanting to fix it, I found an incredible amount of joy working with leaders who know so much, are so willing to learn and are so deeply caring about changing the community around them. And it is an incredible job. What I find that I like the most about job, which I didn't know was that a lot of my job, a lot of my work, my passion is just helping people. I feel like I'm a coach, a lot of times coaching organizations, their board, our members, our individuals to see the possibilities, to see that they can send a racial equity in the work to understand that they do have a voice in policy and advocacy.
Amanda Andere (21:12):
And just the working one on one and being a confidant for folks and building the capacity for other people to do their work. It feels weird but it really does bring me joy and it's a gift that I think that I have and it's been great to see the field of philanthropy really changed to be more honest and vulnerable. And understanding where they've enabled some inequities and starting to unpack a lot of that.
Dave Biemesderfer (21:44):
In part two of my interview with Amanda Misiko Andere she recounts how her organization raised the issue of putting a racial equity agenda at the core of their work to end homelessness.
Amanda Andere (21:56):
First day on my job my all white staff gave me a list of things that they thought that we should focus on, and on the top of that list was addressing racial equity. My board took me out to dinner at my second week on the job at our first big conference and said, "If we're not addressing structural racism, we won't end homelessness." And so I always tell that story, because I think people want to believe that me as a black woman came into this job and said like, "Oh, we should be talking about race," and not realizing like a lot of black leaders that's not the first thing they want to address because they're black and all the things that come with that.
Dave Biemesderfer (22:37):
Continue listening to part two of my interview with Amanda Misiko Andere on ForumNation, presented by United Philanthropy Forum.
Dave Biemesderfer (00:05):
This is part two of my interview with Amanda Misiko Andere on ForumNation presented by United Philanthropy Forum. I'm your host Dave Biemesderfer. Your organization just two months ago, just talking about your racial equity work just released a really impressive commitment to racial equity that really is pretty comprehensive in sort of how you weave that into all of your work in your organization.
Dave Biemesderfer (00:34):
Can you talk a bit about how, I'm sure there was a lot of work behind that, getting to this point. I'm interested in learning more about what that process was like, what you learned from it and tell a bit about that commitment and how you hope it will impact your work moving forward.
Amanda Andere (00:52):
Yeah, so at the end of 2019 we released our eight commitments and four aspirations for our work around addressing structural racism and inequities that contribute to housing instability and homelessness and that felt like a really big piece of work that is actually just the beginning of what I think is a lifetime liberation journey, but it started in October 2016, I always want to say that to just give context.
Amanda Andere (01:22):
So a month later, I think our world, our country at least changed dramatically. And then October 2016, at our board retreat, we set a priority around addressing racial inequity. But what it really started was, so February around this time, four years ago, first day on my job, my all white staff gave me a list of things that they thought that we should focus on.
Amanda Andere (01:49):
And on the top of that list was addressing racial equity. My board took me out to dinner at my second week on the job at our first big conference and said, if we're not addressing structural racism, we won't end homelessness. And so I always tell that story because I think people want to believe that me as a black woman came into this job and said like, oh, we should be talking about race and not realizing a lot of black leaders, that's not the first thing they wanted to dress because they're black and all the things that come with that.
Amanda Andere (02:23):
And to me it tells a story about when people do their own work about examining the racial inequities and how they've enabled it. When the moment is right, you can have an organization that's ready to talk about it. So the staff and the board had been starting to do their own work. We really called it a learning to action journey. We did ... we saw the data.
Amanda Andere (02:48):
I mean for us, we've always been an organization that goes by data and evidence and best practices and the racial disparities in homelessness and the disproportionality that can't just be explained by poverty are huge and they're pervasive and in almost every community. And yet we had funders who said they wanted to invest in systems change. Well, the biggest system we needed to change is the system that's rooted in structural racism.
Amanda Andere (03:14):
So when we named it as a priority, we named it and said, we know we need to address it, but we don't know how we were going to do it, right? How do you end 400 years of oppression just by putting in your strategic plan. But what happened for us is also a process of vulnerability where we just started to learn. So, we did sessions with AFPBI and we did learning internally and we did learning with our members.
Amanda Andere (03:43):
We said, we're going to bring this programming to you and we actually are probably going to have more questions than answers, but we're going to start to learn about the history of housing in our country together. We're going to start to understand the structural inequities that lead to the disproportionality of black and brown and native folks in homelessness and the context of race in all of our systems.
Amanda Andere (04:08):
And as we did that learning, what we realized was we needed a commitment bolder than just in our strategic plan. We needed to start to put some things not just in writing. We actually were codifying things that we were already doing and have a vision for how the field could be. So how we were going to work differently internally. Some things that we thought could happen in the movement to end homelessness that would start to develop anti racist policies and start to dismantle structural racism.
Amanda Andere (04:43):
And so what our commitment is just, it is really aspiration and goals for us internally as an organization and for the field. And we know that we need to prioritize funding in a different way, change the way funders do their work, center people with lived expertise in that, really trust people with resources. Bring organizations who are not typically funded, who are seeing people who are suffering probably first to the ... too as priorities for grantors and really start from there.
Amanda Andere (05:19):
So we're just at the beginning of our journey, right? People always ask me like, so what's next and what do we do now? And I always remind people again, I don't know. I don't know that how we undo 400 years of oppression plus, right? 400 years plus, we're talking about when I'm chattel slavery started. We're not even talking about the stolen land that we're on. We have to work bit by bit to start to undo that.
Amanda Andere (05:45):
We have to examine all the tools that we have with the best intentions, what is their ... really their impact. And so that's what we're doing now.
Dave Biemesderfer (05:55):
Great. Thank you for that. Then when you were doing that learning with your team, with your members, were there aha's for some of your members particularly white folks like wow, I had no idea? Or was there any of that kind of ... or were they all already this, I kind of knew these things?
Amanda Andere (06:17):
I ... What's so interesting is for the field of housing and homelessness, as much as people work in this field, I don't think that we really sat with the history of things like red lining and segregation in a way of like, oh, might know that it happened, but how it still permeates our communities today. So that wasn't ... on a hob it was ... there was a heaviness of how we haven't actually sat with that and really learned from it.
Amanda Andere (06:48):
What was ... what's been so interesting as we actually start to talk about white dominant, white supremacy culture, I will say there's been aha's for white folks and for folks of color and especially for folks of color realizing if you look at the list of things that are part of white supremacy and white dominant culture that as people of color, we enable some of these things too because we're just trying to survive in a culture that says that for us to get ahead, for us to be able to be stable, we have to do those things.
Amanda Andere (07:21):
And so the like ... what's been surprising actually is that how we're all complicit in it, we all enable it and how it takes daily work to undo it. So we have a ... I have a list of white supremacy culture attributes when I am home in my home office and I try to look at it daily to remind myself that you will do these things. It takes work. It's like going to the gym. You have to work that muscle to have a racial equity analysis.
Amanda Andere (07:54):
So, that was the biggest thing. I think people didn't know how much work and muscle it would take to really look at everything with a racial equity analysis.
Dave Biemesderfer (08:03):
I wanted to ask you too about you've been a senior leader and a chief executive of a number of organizations at a fairly young age and I know why it happened because you're awesome.
Amanda Andere (08:18):
Dave Biemesderfer (08:18):
But, I welcome any thoughts about being a young leader in our sector, nonprofit sector, philanthropy sector. And also even more so advice you have for younger folks who are in our field today, whether working in a nonprofit foundation, in a PSO, philanthropic serving organization, advice you have for people who aspire to be senior leaders, to be CEOs some day.
Amanda Andere (08:53):
Dave Biemesderfer (08:54):
That's a long question.
Amanda Andere (08:55):
Yeah. So I've been reflecting on this a lot actually. It's 11 years being a nonprofit CEO and I will be turning 40 this year. So-
Dave Biemesderfer (09:05):
Amanda Andere (09:05):
Yeah, so I will say, so my first executive director job, I was not even 30, I had gone through a fellowship called the Future Executive Director Fellowship, which helped me tremendously, not in the hard skills, those are great but just hearing from other CEOs about what the job took and what it meant in terms of being a leader and how lonely it could be. And so, one of the things that I was so afraid of, because those folks really scared me to say like, yo, you could have a lot of stress and trauma and I mean, they really said in one meeting, like I almost died doing this job, especially for the women of color, right? That they had to show up in a different way.
Amanda Andere (09:53):
And so as a young leader I was so scared to ever say my age or be my authentic self. But I did try to surround myself with people so I wouldn't become lonely and isolated and sought out mentors in different ways. What I've learned though and now the last 11 years is that age is a number and that instincts and confidence and just being clear about what you know and what you don't know is the most important thing in leadership and that being your authentic self is critically important, especially in this work of human services and justice.
Amanda Andere (10:34):
And that the people that you care about, the people that you're fighting with will see that more than they'll see experience. And it took me, actually the last four years is the first time I've ever felt like I could be an authentic black woman leader in my role. And it was, I largely credit a board that let me do that because as they were learning about racial inequity, they understood how to just authentically welcome people in. And it also was my own learning.
Amanda Andere (11:01):
So, but I was scared for a long time like, okay, I've been given this responsibility. What does this actually entail? So the advice that I would give to young leaders is definitely find yourself, be yourself and don't give that up and really go deep and surround yourself with people. And that doesn't have to be people that are necessarily older, just people who you feel like are wise and that you think get it, get certain things that you might not get and have authentic, genuine relationships with them, not transactional relationships so you can mutually help each other. That's been really helpful in my career.
Amanda Andere (11:46):
And I don't know that the path is the same for everyone, but I also think, don't let tell you that you can't do it because you're young. I think there's a generation of folks who are going to be leading us in ways that we've not been led before. And I always remind as we're thinking, coming up on the Martin Luther King holiday, he was 33 when he gave the, I Have A Dream speech.
Amanda Andere (12:14):
John Lewis who I know we're all holding close in our hearts, who's given more to this country than I could ever imagine was 23 fighting for his rights and justice and liberation. What is age? It's leadership. And so that was actually a constant reminder in this war. They were super young and did amazing things. And I'm here because of them so I can do that myself.
Dave Biemesderfer (12:38):
Wonderful. And for people of color who also aspire to be CEOs and lead and senior leaders, anything else for specifically for young folks of color that you would add to that?
Amanda Andere (12:49):
Yeah, it's .... I'm ... It's hard being a person of color in this field. You still get looked at differently. You're still heard differently. Things are changing. I think there's more of us in this field and we're trying to support each other in this ... in the way, and when I say field, I mean nonprofits or philanthropy. So it's super important to have a network, right? Not just mentors, a real network, whether that's a text network or a, we get together for drinks or coffee network just to be with each other.
Amanda Andere (13:24):
And that's really important. And having that confidence is really important and really thinking about how you can dismantle white dominant culture and white supremacy culture in your work and not having to conform to, even in the nonprofit world, conform to those ways, just being really confident in yourself, I think is the most important thing.
Dave Biemesderfer (13:47):
Right. And I know, there's a lot of discussion about how ... when you are a leader in a nonprofit organization creating a culture that lets people be their authentic selves but I think that might mean different things to different people and you hear that term, but I'm really interested in how you would define that. So that for any leader who's thinking about that and how to actually operationalize that.
Amanda Andere (14:19):
It's ... I think it's a lot of work and it's really understanding what's the culture you want to have and develop as an organization and your culture might not, that you develop as an organization can be inclusive and still not be the right place for everyone. And so I think being inclusive is being aware of the unique gifts that people bring and how their background or their life experiences might impact how they do their work.
Amanda Andere (14:45):
And creating space for that. I have and I consider it a blessing in my career, have had colleagues and staff members who have experienced mental health challenges. And I did not realize the work of being inclusive until that happened and mistakes I made in managing that. But then understanding how creating an environment where folks who had passion and dedication and skills but needed extra time to deal with their mental health was one of the most important things I can do.
Amanda Andere (15:20):
And I only, I bring that as an example for like, because we think of inclusive around race and ethnicity and, but it's many different things and I think it's being flexible. It's a lot of times doing the things that you are asking the community to do for the people that you work with or serve. And it's talking about a culture. We talk a lot about culture in our organization, talking about what we want it to look like and examine ourselves and correct ourselves and creating an environment where people can be vulnerable to share their background and how that impacts how they show up at work.
Amanda Andere (16:02):
So I always, I wish there was always one answer to it, but I think it's opening up the dialogue and thinking about what's the culture you want to have that can be the most inclusive for the type of work that you do.
Dave Biemesderfer (16:14):
You mentioned earlier in passing that I caught, you said philanthropy moves forward, but often slowly.
Amanda Andere (16:23):
Dave Biemesderfer (16:26):
So were you, when you came into the field, was ... were you aware of that already or did that grow, and or did that grow on you more as a realization as you get into the field and what are your thoughts about why that is and what can be done perhaps if you think it could move more quickly to address issues, whether it's in homelessness or in other areas? How are we as a sector can think about that and address it?
Amanda Andere (16:59):
Yeah, so I don't ... I mean I think the roots of why it moves so slowly because a lot of times when you're funding, you're not doing the work so you don't have the same sense of urgency and slowness allows for people to be careful and thoughtful and deliberate, but not really responsive to needs. And so I think it's also rooted in our white supremacy cultural and structural racism and how we set up systems controlling things.
Amanda Andere (17:32):
So I think that's a part of it. We still a bit different in the housing homelessness fields. I feel like philanthropy can be a bit more nimble because of the sense of urgency, but the measure of what's impact or success has driven funding in a different way. And now we're seeing people who are in it for the long haul who get that this is a big 50 year liberation journey. So like affecting policy and change is the way to go.
Amanda Andere (18:01):
And so that requires responsiveness and to be more nimble but also requires patience and realizing investing in something that's bigger and deeper than a grant cycle. So I do see that changing. And I think that, that's because a lot of our members are on the ground and in the work and in community. So I think if ... I think there's structures within philanthropy and foundations that need to change, but the more and more we hire people who either come directly from the field or who are working on the ground and partnership with our grantees, that will change.
Amanda Andere (18:36):
One of the things that's been so interesting to me is when people are like, we want to hire someone that has grant making experience. What is that and why is that important? And how do you get grant making experience? Isn't it more important that the folks that you're hiring understand the issues and have been in community or know community well? As one of my board members says, philanthropy is kind of a made up thing. There's no ... there's best practices but we give too ... ourselves too much credit if we think that knowing how to get a grant off the door is the right thing rather than knowing what community needs, how we build our systems to be responsive to that.
Amanda Andere (19:16):
So I think that's changing because people are hiring folks that are different, that are in community, come from different backgrounds and different sectors and putting the pressure on foundations and grant making institutions to change.
Dave Biemesderfer (19:31):
So you said there are structures that need to change. What do you think? What's the ... If there's one structure in philanthropy that needs to change the most, what are one or two?
Amanda Andere (19:40):
Oh wow. One or two.
Dave Biemesderfer (19:45):
Or more but I didn't want you to have to ...
Amanda Andere (19:48):
Well, I think this idea of foundations or as an institution, as the gatekeepers to resources to me is ... needs to change and that there's like this grant-maker grantee relationship rather than, as we start to talk more about participatory grant making and centering people with lived expertise, how do people from community decide where resources should go and have agency and ownership of that and the process to get grants is less onerous and more about trusting community. I think once that starts to unravel, I think we'll see resources radically change and being given to community in different ways.
Dave Biemesderfer (20:46):
In part three of my interview with Amanda Misiko Andere, she explains how every year she chooses a board of the year and what that word means to her.
Amanda Andere (20:55):
Having a lot of time for reflection, I pick a word every year, last year where my word was clarity. This year my word is surrender. So, I want to surrender to the things that will happen and not in a way that's just like, oh, this is just going to happen to me. But really understanding why things are happening and what my unique role can be and being led in that direction to not just help people, but really be able ... a support system to folks.
Dave Biemesderfer (21:22):
Continue listening to part three of my interview with Amanda Misiko Andere on ForumNation presented by United Philanthropy Forum.
Dave Biemesderfer (00:03):
Continue listening to part three of my interview with Amanda Masiko Andere on ForumNation, presented by United Philanthropy Forum.
Dave Biemesderfer (00:13):
So what's next for you with Funders Together, the next three years, four years?
Amanda Andere (00:18):
Well that's interesting. I think that homelessness is getting a lot of attention in our national landscape and so we are working on how we continue to bring funders together to think about using their voice, creating capacity and resources to do policy work and change the narrative around what this country thinks in terms of our possibilities of ending homelessness and what does it mean to have housing stability. So I think that for us, we are going to continue to work on our racial equity work and now everything we do is going to have a racial equity lens. But I think the next three years is going to be a lot of getting funders to kind of get out of their natural way of just being a grant making institution and really step up and convene and use their voice in different ways to affect policy change, to combat narratives and stereotypes around homelessness that will only move us backwards.
Amanda Andere (01:29):
We are kind of in a posture of, I don't want to say fighting, but a posture of being really bold and going deep and thinking about how our members and institutions can change internally, but also how we have influence on the field overall and be a real strong voice.
Dave Biemesderfer (01:47):
And for you personally, do you have any personal goals, work related or otherwise in the next few years that you want to focus on?
Amanda Andere (01:56):
Yeah, so I have been really squarely rooted in showing up for black people, especially black women. And so that's not a goal, but I realize my gift and my work is being a coach and a confidant for our members. And I feel like I can be the same way for especially black women in the nonprofit field and showing up for them and being a support to them. And so that's been really important to me personally, is to make space and time to not say that I'm too busy and not get caught up in things that don't matter and not just sit and listen and be a ministry of presence to folks because that's so important. So that's a real goal to think about how I mentor and fellowship more with black leaders and create space for that.
Amanda Andere (02:47):
And I think just showing up in spaces in different ways and continuing to be my authentic self and being really rooted in my community, and those are goals for myself besides things like going to the [inaudible 00:03:07]. having a lot of time for reflection, I pick a word every year. Last year my word was clarity. This year my word is surrender. So I want to surrender to the things that will happen and not in a way that's just like, oh, this is just going to happen to me. But really understanding why things are happening and what my unique role can be and being led in that direction to not just help people but really be a support system to folks.
Dave Biemesderfer (03:35):
Yeah, tell me more about that. First of all, I follow you on Twitter. You tweet a lot. You do social media. I don't know if you do Facebook because I'm not on Facebook but I want to ask you about that too. But first I saw your tweet, it was yesterday or today about surrender. I thought that was really fascinating. Just tell me more about that word and the meaning of it to you this year.
Amanda Andere (04:01):
It's a journey, right? So the word is to center yourself in it. It can be in big ways. We have a really big meeting next week. I'm a part of a group that's formed a racial equity working group for the field of ending homelessness and housing stability. And there's a lot to be put into that meeting and I just kind of last week said, I have to surrender to folks who are going to show up. They're going to bring their best selves and I can't influence and impact everything, and that is not my job to make people do the work that they need to do to be more anti-racist. And so that is a surrender. Sometimes as a leader, just my personality type get caught up in all the details and that puts a burden and stress on me. And I think particularly for black women, there is a work ethic and a way of doing things that actually doesn't allow us to surrender and just let other people or other things be.
Amanda Andere (05:05):
So that's just one example of surrendering. And it's also to me being present and being in the moment, so not having to have control over things, allows me to be more present with people in a moment and surrounding to like, this is what the time I have is supposed to be and maybe I won't always get to do that other thing. I said to a colleague last week, "I'm surrendering that I'm not going to get to my to do list ever or to all my emails."-
Dave Biemesderfer (05:34):
Or to your inbox.
Amanda Andere (05:35):
And that's okay. And that if it's really important, some will follow up with me, I hope.
Dave Biemesderfer (05:42):
So that's why you didn't answer my email from two weeks ago?
Amanda Andere (05:44):
Exactly. But I'm surrendering to being reminded and I am open about we're all human beings and really busy. So just having a bit more presence in the moment and realizing that this work is a long liberation journey, and so there's lots of things to do and we're not going to all get it done, but there'll be pathways to do the thing that needs to be most on our most pressing and we have to follow that.
Dave Biemesderfer (06:16):
Yeah, that's awesome. That's great.
Dave Biemesderfer (06:20):
I need to have a word for the year. I've never done that. Back to social media, I love following your Twitter feed and you tweet a lot, both professional and personal and it's all intermix and it's really great and interesting. Why do you use it so much? What are the thinkings behind it? And what does it give you in terms of any kind of support or satisfaction for your own life?
Amanda Andere (06:49):
I remember again 10 years ago when social media felt like a very new thing and there were all these conversations about nonprofit leaders being on it. I really saw it as a tool and I think actually a lot of people of color or a lot of groups who are marginalized see it as a tool to have their own voice and to create their own sense of community. So there are people that I follow and interact with on Twitter that maybe I've only met a couple of years ago, but we've had deep relationship, and I wouldn't have found those folks if not for being online or being present in social media. One of my closest pastor friends, even though she was a minister of a church right down the street from me, she always says the story like we met on Twitter, which is kind of true, and now I call her my soul sisters. But I think it's also a space to build community. It's a lot of noise, I will say that I think it's a lot of noise right now, but it's also a way for people to have points of views or press people in ways that you won't get in mainstream communication and media. And so I think it can be a really important tool.
Amanda Andere (08:00):
I think for me, I'm an introvert, which people are surprised about, so I tend to find people who are more introverted, it's a way to express yourselves in a different way than just having conversation. There's a feeling about having conversation in that way that feels maybe more safe for introverts. It can be fun. I wouldn't have caught especially because I use Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, I wouldn't have caught up or been in community with some people that live far away if it wasn't for social media. We connected with my God-sister because of social media and now we're super close. It's just a way to keep up with people.
Amanda Andere (08:43):
But I think for us professionally, it's a way to create a community and a dialogue that sometimes doesn't happen in in-person convenings and keep up to date on things. I learn about what's happening in philanthropy because I follow you or I follow a bunch of other PSOs and it gives me knowledge that I wouldn't already have. I think if you're on Twitter, create lists so you can curate your information. When I'm watching the debate, I have a woke list for all the people who say all the things that I wish I could tweet, I just follow it and like it. So I think it's just another way, it's not the only way to interact obviously, but it's another way to interact and get information.
Dave Biemesderfer (09:24):
I often wish I could have an anonymous Twitter account. Wouldn't that be nice?
Amanda Andere (09:28):
I know people who do. They just like to put stuff out there. And so I'm trying to get more bold just to say the thing.
Dave Biemesderfer (09:36):
Well, when I'm retired someday maybe I'll do that. Say whatever I want. I feel like I'll be caught if I have an anonymous one that someone will somehow figure it out like they did with a US Senator recently.
Amanda Andere (09:54):
Well, I think what we're talking about is saying maybe provocative things about justice or race or maybe catty things too.
Dave Biemesderfer (10:02):
That might be, or I might want to say a profane word here or there if nobody knew it came from me.
Amanda Andere (10:09):
And so speaking about being your authentic self, I look at my social media presence from five years ago and I'm a different person now. I'm saying things in a way that are more provocative and maybe I'm not using profanity, sometimes maybe I do. But I think that's also something that we need to be mindful of is, we can say things and be bold and use profanity or not. And we have to live into that truth and we shouldn't need a secret Twitter handle to do that.
Dave Biemesderfer (10:45):
That's a good point. You talk to me about always wanting to use Masiko tell me more about that and why you make a point in that.
Amanda Andere (10:59):
Yeah. And thank you for mentioning that. As I said, my dad's Kenyan and your middle name is your tribal name that's passed down from your [Foreign Language 00:11:11] so your grandmother. And so for a long time I didn't use it and then I was kind of like, this is such a beautiful name and it's part of my identity and it tells my story and so I'm just going to start putting it in my signature. And my last name is hard enough for people to pronounce, but I get to tell a story, people always ask, "What does your middle name mean?" In my dad's tribal language, it means one who carries beauty, and my dad is probably the only one who calls me Masiko actively, but it's just special to me.
Dave Biemesderfer (11:47):
Well, one who carries beauty, that describes you beautifully Amanda, so I love that. Thanks for sharing that.
Amanda Andere (11:52):
Dave Biemesderfer (11:54):
Well, Amanda Masiko Andere, thank you so much for being on Form Nation today. It was a pleasure chatting with you.
Amanda Andere (12:00):
Thanks for having me.
Dave Biemesderfer (12:02):
And we'll see you soon.
Amanda Andere (12:04):
Yes, in justice and solidarity.
Dave Biemesderfer (12:06):
All right, thank you.
Dave Biemesderfer (12:07):
ForumNation is a podcast of United Philanthropy Forum, the largest network serving philanthropy in America. ForumNation is produced by Bouyant Partners and producer Eric Rigaud. Many thanks to the entire United Philanthropy Forum team, especially Courtney Moore, Brandon Iracks Edelin, and Ivana Bikombe. Subscribe to ForumNation on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts. To learn more, go to www.unitedphilforum.org, that's www.unitedphilforum.org.