In recognition of their achievements in the field of immigrant rights Taryn Higashi and Geri Mannion have been named the 2009 co-recipients of the Council on Foundations’ prestigious Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking.
Mannion, who is Director of the U.S. Democracy Program at Carnegie Corporation of New York, and Higashi, who is Executive Director of Unbound Philanthropy, are co-founders of the Four Freedoms Fund (FFF), Public Interest Projects’ national collaborative fund founded in July 2003 to energize democracy by supporting and engaging immigrants and refugees. Shaped by Higashi and Mannion’s vision, FFF aims to build an infrastructure in the United States that links immigrant rights groups on a local, state and national level on issues of immigration reform, civic engagement, immigrant integration and protection of civil liberties and human rights.
“Geri and Taryn are extraordinary grantmakers,” says Public Interest Projects Executive Director Michele Lord, who was a leader and early proponent of using a collaborative approach to advance immigrant civic engagement nationally. “They had the foresight, patience and passion to support the growth of the immigrant rights movement through lean and flush times and myriad victories and defeats. But what is also so extraordinary about these individuals is that they were able to see beyond the confines of their grant programs to understand that by creating the FFF and joining forces, grantmaking together would strengthen not only the movement but both of their programs and institutions.”
Mannion and Higashi have championed the fundamental belief that immigrants renew democracy and that upholding their constitutional rights in a free society strengthens similar human rights protections for all American citizens. Through FFF they have turned these ideals into action and results. Since its creation in 2003, FFF has invested almost $25 million in more than 85 grantees working in 33 states to protect immigrants against myriad abuses and to encourage their integration into social, economic and civic life.
The fund’s grants have promoted humane immigration policies, engaged new immigrants in civic life and built bridges between communities and new residents. Mannion and Higashi have also been active leaders of two nationally recognized grantmaker affinity groups, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees and the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation. These groups bring together like-minded funders interested in addressing the challenges facing newcomers and local communities and enhancing their participation in all aspects of civic life.
“We’re strongest when funders who share the same goals join forces,” Higashi has said. “A problem of this scope can’t be solved alone.” Adds Mannion, “Using this approach we were able to aggregate funds from both our own foundations as well as from our funder colleagues. In addition to increasing the funds available to the immigrant integration field we ourselves became better and more strategic grantmakers. Instead of looking through only my Carnegie lens we could also see through the Ford lens and learn from other grantmaker perspectives that were regional, local and international. We have also been able to work collaboratively with grantmakers who weren’t able to contribute to the fund directly but were funding similar efforts at the local and/or state level.”
Mannion has spent more than 35 years in the area of philanthropy. Before joining the Carnegie Corporation she was employed for two years at the Ford Foundation as a consultant and for 13 years at the Rockefeller Foundation, where she worked on a range of issues including international relations, arms control and security issues.
Higashi started her philanthropy career in 1993 at New York Community Trust, where she was a grantmaker to organizations working on immigration issues and coordinated the Fund for New Citizens, an immigration funding collaborative for New York City. From there she went on to the Ford Foundation in 1997, where she worked for 11 years as Deputy Director of Human Rights and Program Officer for Migrant and Refugee Rights and supported the Four Freedoms Fund. In 2008, Higashi left Ford to become Executive Director of Unbound Philanthropy, a family foundation dedicated to securing justice and opportunity for migrants and refugees and building grantmaking programs in the U.S., Great Britain and in the developing world.
Last year, Mannion and Higashi were awarded the Community Change Champion Award by the Center for Community Change for their collaborative grantmaking to advance immigrant rights and integration.
The Scrivner recipients, who are also close friends, plan to donate their $10,000 award money to the newly established Freedom from Fear Prize, which will recognize “ordinary” individuals who commit extraordinary acts of courage in defense of immigrant and refugee rights. The prize, which is named after one of the four freedoms cited by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, will be administered by the Center for New Community, which is a fearless leader in the fight against hate speech and violence. Additional contributions to the award will be accepted through Public Interest Projects on the Network for Good (please specify “Freedom from Fear Prize” in the designation box).
Mannion and Higashi will receive the Scrivner and be honored on May 5 in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Council on Foundations’ gala philanthropic awards celebration.