The Problem

For too long, communities of color have been harmed by narratives that divide rather than unify. These stories are perpetuated by systems of White supremacy to keep communities at odds, such as the falsehoods that immigrants steal jobs, Black people are criminals, and all people of color should aspire to be like Asian Americans. When people buy into these narratives without question, White supremacy, and racism win. This divide splinters social movements into parallel efforts, despite shared hardships across communities of color. When communities work in isolation, it is hard to achieve the political power needed to address inequitable policy systems causing disparities in education, health, economic success, and more.

The Anchor Collaborative

Unifying communities of color and low-income communities around common root cause issues is no small task and very few integrate evaluation into their core work. Over five years a groundbreaking Racial Equity Anchor collaborative of nine leading national advocacy organizations—Advancement Project, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), Dēmos, Faith in Action (FIA), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), National Urban League (NUL), Race Forward, and UnidosUS— have worked together, to create a world rooted in racial justice, racial healing, and genuine opportunities for all children, families, and communities to reach their full potential. Here is the story of the Anchor Collaborative.

The Solution

The Anchors are guided by the principle that robust and effective collaboration makes them stronger than the sum of their parts. Each organization brings a unique perspective, skillset, blueprint, and network of relationships for change based on years of action and understanding of the distinct needs of the communities of color they each fight for. As a collaborative, they use each organization’s expertise, influence, and networks to implement activities aligned with three broad strategies: message research and deployment, data-driven cross-racial civic engagement, and policy advocacy through cross-racial partnerships and networks. The Anchors worked tirelessly to forge deeper trust, solidarity, and alignment within their partnership. The key to trust was gaining a strong understanding of each other’s needs, values, approaches, and culture.

What Anchors Accomplished Together

  • Mobilized communities of color and low-income communities and build movements;
  • Shifted narratives on race and mount affirmative, influential culture-change campaigns;
  • Influenced policymakers’ awareness of critical racial equity issues and drive policy change;
  • Conducted paradigm-shifting and racially inclusive research on the impacts of structural racism on communities of color, and told the human story behind that data; and
  • Created tangible solutions to uplift the strength of our nation, heralding its diversity, the vibrancy and contributions of our communities, and the dignity of individual lives.

Why The Collaborative was Successful

As the first organizations to build a multiracial collaboration at a national scale, they had no model to follow. The Anchors knew they would encounter challenges related to the work and group dynamics. Below outlines common challenges for coalition building and unique considerations when working in multiracial spaces that the Anchors knew they would encounter as their process unfolded.

Coalition Building Challenges and Opportunities

Coalition Building Challenges Considerations for Multiracial Spaces
Trust and Communication
  • Need to understand each other’s heritage and history
  • Acknowledge identity intersections
  • Engage in perspective-taking
Benefits v. Costs
  • Develop strategies to benefit multiple communities, such as eliminating duplication of effort.
Equitable Distribution of Resources
  • Acknowledge power dynamics and power asymmetries based on constituency size and organizational capacity.
Priorities and Strategy
  • Need to redefine group boundaries and create a shared identity as targets of oppression
  • Identify common threats and act on political opportunity
  • Consider universally agreed upon elements of leadership
  • Hire a project coordinator independent from the coalition’s membership
  • Ensure clear role expectations for coalition members

Note. The literature used to inform the content in this exhibit is included at the end of this article.

Sustain Efforts to Achieve an Equitable Future

A review of the literature shows that the Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative is no different than any other collaborative trying to work across racial lines. Their experiences only reaffirm that success requires putting forth equal effort toward advocacy and relationship-building. Multiracial collaborations such as this need constant attending to from their members to maintain a foundation of trust and understanding. It is this commitment to each other that makes all other achievements possible. Dismantling structural racism and achieving racial justice in this country requires a long-term legacy investment. There is a lot at stake for our democracy if we don’t collaborate across racial and ethnic lines.

Authors: Amber Trout and Rianna Grissom


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