Connecting The Dots: Advocacy, Policy & Impact

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On March 29th, the Orange County Funders Roundtable had the pleasure of hosting a policy discussion with the Alliance for Healthy Orange County. The Alliance is a county-wide collaborative of healthcare organizations, community-based organizations and universities whose mission is to champion policy strategies and leverage funding opportunities that result in enhanced health outcomes and reduced health disparities for Orange County residents. This year, as the OC Funders Roundtable focuses on our enhanced mission and objectives, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with other community organizations in order to bring discussion and learning to our members and the nonprofit community.

The Olin Group served as the facilitator for the morning, guiding attendees through a discussion on current local policy wins and efforts, challenges faced by the funder and nonprofit community dealing with system change work and recommendations and strategies that have enabled policy change to happen. Many of the challenges were expected: board hesitancy, negative perceptions, the need for more resources and the need to develop long-term plans vs focusing on year to year activity. The recommendations and successes shared however are what the Orange County Funders Roundtable will continue to incorporate into our learning and activities.  Policy work demands changing the narrative and understanding the root cause behind issues. It asks for long-term funding, supported by data but not expecting immediate results. And it calls for champions at all levels, those individuals who are willing to dedicate a strong communication and messaging plan to getting the message out across many platforms.

In preparation for the policy convening participants were asked to complete a survey sharing their own work, collaborations and challenges. The Olin Group will compile this information into an infographic and white paper to be shared in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, we encourage those who are already engaged in policy, or those who would like to become active in the discussion, to think about one thing their organization could use to support the work. We look forward to continuing the discussion.

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How do we build a compassionate and inclusive America in an age of distrust? WAJAHAT ALI knows from personal experience that when we come together to be the superheroes of our own stories, we can create honest social change. The beloved TED speaker has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic about our urgent issues—immigration, politics, parenthood—with boldness, hope, and humor. His memoir Go Back to Where You Came From, one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year, follows his life as a Muslim Pakistani-American on a surprising, emotional, and challenging quest for the good life. Iconic journalist Katie Couric says that “we are all so fortunate to be on the receiving end of his intellect, his humanity, and his heart.”

Wajahat Ali

“With wit and charm, Ali delivers a masterful meditation on growing up brown in America...he gives us a clear-eyed affirmation of the country America could be.” — Mara Gay, New York Times

Wajahat Ali uses his platform to fight tirelessly for the social change we need in our country—and he isn’t afraid to get personal while doing it. The Daily Beast columnist and former New York Times writer, TED speaker, award-winning playwright, and Peabody-nominated producer of the documentary series The Secret Life of Muslims offers us his experiences of triumph over hardship as a beacon of hope and resilience in the face of life’s impossible situations. From his experiences of Islamophobia growing up as a Muslim Pakistani-American to his two-year-old daughter’s liver cancer diagnosis, Wajahat is living proof that when we share our authentic stories, we build the America we wish to live in.”

In his memoir Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American, Wajahat teaches us how to create our own superhero origin story, invest in hope for the future of America, and enact real social change. The book was called “biting and funny and full of heart” by NPR. Representative Ilhan Omar called Wajahat’s work “hilarious” and “deeply moving”, and legendary writer Dave Eggers said it was the book he’d “been hoping Wajahat Ali would write for ten years—hilarious, stylistically fearless, deeply humane.”

Wajahat is also the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim-Americans in a post-9/11 world. He was the lead researcher and author for the Center for American Progress’s seminal report “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” and served as a national correspondent for Al Jazeera America, where he told stories about communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media.

As Creative Director of Affinis Wajahat Labs, he worked to create social entrepreneurship initiatives to support and uplift marginalized communities. He also worked with the US State Department to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. Wajahat initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore. For his work, he was honored as a “Generation Change Leader” by Sec. of State Clinton and recognized as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. 

He has given keynote speeches around the world such as TED, The Aspen Ideas Festival, Google, the United Nations, and The New Yorker Festival. His writing appears regularly in the New York TimesThe Atlantic, the Washington Post, and The Guardian. He’s a Senior Fellow at The Western States Center and Auburn Seminary and co-host of Al Jazeera’s The Stream.