March 16, 2018
Dear Members and Community,
First and foremost, each member of the APANO and APANO Communities United Fund Boards wishes to express our heartfelt gratitude to each of you. We truly appreciate the patience, input and compassion you have granted us throughout the deep reflection process that we have undertaken over the past few months. Community and organizational change is an iterative process, and we know this is just the beginning of ongoing work we want to do together with each of you.
We take this initial step to make the Community Liaison report publicly available and announce our proposed resolutions to begin to address the valuable feedback we gained. While the APANO Boards embrace this opportunity to better ensure responsiveness, transparency and accountability to our staff and the community, we want to make clear that we see this turning point as an initial step towards transformation in APANO’s journey. With open arms, we seek continued partnership with you to provide the foundation for a stronger APANO.
Community Concerns Raised
APANO received a letter on November 5, 2017 from a group of former staff, one Board member, and volunteers calling for the resignation of our current Boards, Executive Director and Associate Director within three days. The signatories raised serious allegations of gender and LGBTQ discrimination during their tenures at APANO.
Taking these concerns very seriously, the APANO Boards engaged a Community Liaison to provide an independent, confidential avenue for concerns to be raised, and to conduct an examination to better understand how individual women and members of the LGBTQ community were made to feel that they were not treated equitably.
Community Liaison Report Findings
The Community Liaison undertook the following activities to inform a comprehensive findings report:
- Directly reached out to persons who had expressed concerns, including each signatory of the November 5th letter, as well as all former staff and Board members;
- Reviewed HR and personnel policies, processes and materials throughout the organization’s 10-year history as an independent organization;
- Conducted over 32 interviews with individuals; and
- Distributed an email survey to APANO’s 7,000-person mailing list, from which 89 responses were received.
APANO felt it was our duty to go the extra mile in obtaining feedback from our community, and held a total of 120 one-on-one and group meetings with members, staff and stakeholder partners. Taken all together, these perspectives provided the APANO Boards with an informed basis for future actions. While the report did not find any evidence that discrimination against any protected class occurred, it did find several factors that may have contributed to misunderstandings, miscommunications and dissatisfaction with the APANO workplace environment.
The report points to APANO’s past lack of timely and consistent guidance on job descriptions, workplans, hiring, promotions, staff recognition and other employment-related matters, particularly during its formative years, that led to frustration and hurt among some former and current staff.
While the report clarifies that the term “harm” used by letter signatories, staff and many in the social justice world does not align with the legal definition of the word “harm,” the APANO Boards fully understand the urgency with which we need to address underlying concerns.
The report can be found here. It is unchanged from the version provided to the APANO Boards, other than the redaction of respondent names for privacy reasons.
There are pivotal lessons we have learned and will continue to learn from as we deeply reflect on how to better run our organization to best serve our community:
- As Boards we are ultimately responsible for the organization and care deeply about the experience of our community and our workplace, and we take full responsibility for an environment where there were women and members of the LGBTQ community who felt that they were not treated equitably;
- Organizational issues may have undermined our ability to truly live up to our values through our work; rapid growth resulted in unclear processes that did not keep pace with staff expectations;
- We need to improve the resources, tools and ongoing training we provide staff, especially those in management positions;
- We will create a more transparent work environment where staff feel heard and respected.
Last, but certainly not least, we recognize that the Community Liaison process was limited with regard to signatory participation. We absolutely prioritize engagement with the signatories as soon as we are legally able, and intend to explore the possibility of a mediated process to move toward mutual healing and the renewal of relationships.
Our Proposed Resolutions
These are the proposed resolutions we will implement over the coming months, while allowing flexibility in continued partnership with and feedback from you, our community members. APANO will better support staff through:
- Full commitment and investment in the accredited, third party vendor The Management Center and its Managing to Change the World training and supervision, work planning and evaluation framework that all managers are held accountable to;
- Greater transparency and accountability through formal job descriptions, evaluation and promotion guidelines;
Quarterly staff input sessions with management and Board leadership;
- Thorough reviews of anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and formal grievance procedures at Board and staff-wide trainings each quarter;
- Continuing to explore transformative justice processes for staff internally as well as with the community.
We will also carry out the following with respect to Board governance:
- Work with staff and community partners to assess the Board nominations process, service terms and term limits for Board members;
- Update the onboarding and board development process for all Board members to ensure that they set the example for a more accountable APANO;
- Provide the broader community with greater transparency around Board nominations and recruitment, including continuing to ensure that our Boards are reflective of our diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
At this time, the APANO and APANO Communities United Fund Boards and staff are also thoughtfully planning for the next generation of leadership roles and models to guide the organization, continually striving to be rooted in our mission, vision and values. We see this as an opportunity to have a reset for the organization to cultivate leadership that can help best meet the needs of the APANO we have become and strive to be in the future.
Board Member and Officer roles transition each summer, and five of our 13 Board members will be departing in mid-June. This includes both of our Board Chairs, Simon Tam and Raahi Reddy, who have devoted more than 9 and 6 years to APANO and our community respectively, for which we are very grateful. The new Board Chairs will be named by July 31.
APANO has benefited immensely from the past 10 years of Executive Director Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons’s steadfast dedication and leadership, facilitating the growth of our organization to a respected and responsive statewide advocacy organization. Joseph has been planning a leadership succession with the Boards to move back to the Philippines to join his family and children who moved in 2015. In this moment of reflection and acknowledgement of the challenges stemming from our rapid growth, we have mutually agreed upon an expedited transition date of June 30, 2018. Our hope is to have an Interim Executive Director appointed by April 30, to overlap and assist with this transition. We are honored by Joseph’s service to the APANO community, while also embracing the opportunity to reflect on the leadership needed for the organization’s next phase. You can read Joseph’s reflection statement here.
Within this time period, our Director of Programs Kara Carmosino and Field Director Kathy Wai are also planning to transition from their roles. We deeply thank them for their years of courageous leadership. You can read their joint reflection statement here.
Staff are working closely with members of the Boards to carefully determine the details of our leadership succession plans, including how to incorporate community participation and input, in a respectful and orderly way to best support our staff, members and the broader community, and best set up APANO for success through its next chapter. Further details will be shared in the coming weeks.
Path Forward in Partnership with You
We recognize that our society as a whole is in an important and needed moment of transformation and accountability. APANO wholeheartedly seeks to hold itself to higher standards – it is what we strive for with our staff, our volunteers and the broader community.
To all of our members, we welcome these concrete opportunities to improve, and move forward in the critical work that builds justice both within and outside of APANO. We thank you for helping us to create dedicated space to listen and learn, and better cultivate an organization where all people are respected, valued and treated fairly.
As always, we continue to invite your input on how you hope APANO continues to grow from this learning experience, and we can be reached directly at [email protected]
With humble gratitude,
Members of the APANO Communities United Fund 501c3 Board
Mary Li, Secretary
Jessie Domingo Salu
Toni Tabora-Roberts, Vice Chair
Simon Tam, Chair
Jean Yamamoto, Treasurer
Members of the APANO 501c4 Board
Thach Nguyen, Treasurer
Huy Ong, Secretary
Raahi Reddy, Chair