November 5, 2015

Growing Pains and Gains

by Joseph Santos-Lyons
Executive Director


As an organization, APANO is committed to building a healthy, effective and adaptive team of board, staff and members. We strive to build our capacity to examine the root causes of injustice and campaign for systems change and social transformation in order to achieve justice. Our work is dynamic, difficult and daring, and as we’ve built the foundation of the organization we have had real challenges and real gains over our 5 years as an independent nonprofit.

In 2009 we had a few thousand dollars in revenue, and concentrated our resources on bringing in staff capacity to support communty listening circles, identify issues of concern and strategic planning. By 2011 we had raised enough money for one regular full-time staff person, and living into a strategic vision of winning equity in public policy, building a stronger base, and establishing a sustainable organization including a healthy board, staff and internal culture.

Along the way we had our share of challenges. We invested in a diverse team of leaders who took on important roles, we experienced successes, we experienced conflicts, and worked hard to build the organization to reflect our values of social justice, community self-determination, partnership and accountable leadership. It wasn’t easy, and we took our growing pains seriously. Board and staff grew, reflected, and grew some more.


Today we still face challenges in an environment that under resources and pushes back against the cultural work, community organizing and lasting social change that is at the center of APANO’s theory of change. At the same time, it is my honor to share some significant gains we’ve achieved over the last year that hopefully signal our intention to improve and do our best with what we’ve got. I hope you will join me in celebrating the following accomplishments:

  • APANO was named one of the 100 Best Nonprofits to work for by the Oregon Business Journal in 2015. We are one of the only culturally specific organizations recognized, and is a sign of the great teamwork, trust, compassion and fun of the staff and board.

  • Anita Yap was honored as Extraordinary Board Member by Portland Monthly Magazine at the 2015 Light a Fire Awards. Anita is a part of the vibrant APANO Board that has continued to evolve and ensure the organization has strong oversight as well as adapts to new challenges and opportunities including our place-based organizing on SE 82nd Ave.

As we strive to achieve our mission and hold our values, we know that there will be difficult times ahead. I want to express my deep appreciations for all those who have served APANO, volunteers, board members, staff, interns, funders and partners, for your dedication and contributions in building APANO in small and large ways. This is truly a collective effort.