Amanda Misiko Andere has spent her entire career fighting to prevent and end homelessness and break the cycle of poverty. She has worked in the nonprofit sector, the public sector and now the philanthropic sector. For the past four years, Amanda has served as Chief Executive Officer of Funders Together to End Homelessness, which is the only national network of grantmakers working to end and prevent homelessness, and she sits on the Board of Directors of United Philanthropy Forum. In her ForumNation interview, Amanda shares with David how her longtime devotion to helping people in need has been strongly influenced by her immigrant parents’ experience getting help from virtual strangers who greatly improved their lives. She also explains why addressing racial equity is an imperative to ending homelessness in America, how her theater experience has come in handy throughout her career, and why “surrender” is her word of the year for 2020.
Dave Biemesderfer (00:03):
Continue listening to part three of my interview with Amanda Masiko Andere on ForumNation, presented by United Philanthropy Forum.
Dave Biemesderfer (00:13):
So what's next for you with Funders Together, the next three years, four years?
Amanda Andere (00:18):
Well that's interesting. I think that homelessness is getting a lot of attention in our national landscape and so we are working on how we continue to bring funders together to think about using their voice, creating capacity and resources to do policy work and change the narrative around what this country thinks in terms of our possibilities of ending homelessness and what does it mean to have housing stability. So I think that for us, we are going to continue to work on our racial equity work and now everything we do is going to have a racial equity lens. But I think the next three years is going to be a lot of getting funders to kind of get out of their natural way of just being a grant making institution and really step up and convene and use their voice in different ways to affect policy change, to combat narratives and stereotypes around homelessness that will only move us backwards.
Amanda Andere (01:29):
We are kind of in a posture of, I don't want to say fighting, but a posture of being really bold and going deep and thinking about how our members and institutions can change internally, but also how we have influence on the field overall and be a real strong voice.
Dave Biemesderfer (01:47):
And for you personally, do you have any personal goals, work related or otherwise in the next few years that you want to focus on?
Amanda Andere (01:56):
Yeah, so I have been really squarely rooted in showing up for black people, especially black women. And so that's not a goal, but I realize my gift and my work is being a coach and a confidant for our members. And I feel like I can be the same way for especially black women in the nonprofit field and showing up for them and being a support to them. And so that's been really important to me personally, is to make space and time to not say that I'm too busy and not get caught up in things that don't matter and not just sit and listen and be a ministry of presence to folks because that's so important. So that's a real goal to think about how I mentor and fellowship more with black leaders and create space for that.
Amanda Andere (02:47):
And I think just showing up in spaces in different ways and continuing to be my authentic self and being really rooted in my community, and those are goals for myself besides things like going to the [inaudible 00:03:07]. having a lot of time for reflection, I pick a word every year. Last year my word was clarity. This year my word is surrender. So I want to surrender to the things that will happen and not in a way that's just like, oh, this is just going to happen to me. But really understanding why things are happening and what my unique role can be and being led in that direction to not just help people but really be a support system to folks.
Dave Biemesderfer (03:35):
Yeah, tell me more about that. First of all, I follow you on Twitter. You tweet a lot. You do social media. I don't know if you do Facebook because I'm not on Facebook but I want to ask you about that too. But first I saw your tweet, it was yesterday or today about surrender. I thought that was really fascinating. Just tell me more about that word and the meaning of it to you this year.
Amanda Andere (04:01):
It's a journey, right? So the word is to center yourself in it. It can be in big ways. We have a really big meeting next week. I'm a part of a group that's formed a racial equity working group for the field of ending homelessness and housing stability. And there's a lot to be put into that meeting and I just kind of last week said, I have to surrender to folks who are going to show up. They're going to bring their best selves and I can't influence and impact everything, and that is not my job to make people do the work that they need to do to be more anti-racist. And so that is a surrender. Sometimes as a leader, just my personality type get caught up in all the details and that puts a burden and stress on me. And I think particularly for black women, there is a work ethic and a way of doing things that actually doesn't allow us to surrender and just let other people or other things be.
Amanda Andere (05:05):
So that's just one example of surrendering. And it's also to me being present and being in the moment, so not having to have control over things, allows me to be more present with people in a moment and surrounding to like, this is what the time I have is supposed to be and maybe I won't always get to do that other thing. I said to a colleague last week, "I'm surrendering that I'm not going to get to my to do list ever or to all my emails."-
Dave Biemesderfer (05:34):
Or to your inbox.
Amanda Andere (05:35):
And that's okay. And that if it's really important, some will follow up with me, I hope.
Dave Biemesderfer (05:42):
So that's why you didn't answer my email from two weeks ago?
Amanda Andere (05:44):
Exactly. But I'm surrendering to being reminded and I am open about we're all human beings and really busy. So just having a bit more presence in the moment and realizing that this work is a long liberation journey, and so there's lots of things to do and we're not going to all get it done, but there'll be pathways to do the thing that needs to be most on our most pressing and we have to follow that.
Dave Biemesderfer (06:16):
Yeah, that's awesome. That's great.
Dave Biemesderfer (06:20):
I need to have a word for the year. I've never done that. Back to social media, I love following your Twitter feed and you tweet a lot, both professional and personal and it's all intermix and it's really great and interesting. Why do you use it so much? What are the thinkings behind it? And what does it give you in terms of any kind of support or satisfaction for your own life?
Amanda Andere (06:49):
I remember again 10 years ago when social media felt like a very new thing and there was all this conversations about nonprofit leaders being on it. I really saw it as a tool and I think actually a lot of people of color or a lot of groups who are marginalized see it as a tool to have their own voice and to create their own sense of community. So there are people that I follow and interact with on Twitter that maybe I've only met a couple of years ago, but we've had deep relationship, and I wouldn't have found those folks if not for being online or being present in social media. One of my closest pastor friends, even though she was a minister of a church right down the street from me, she always says the story like we met on Twitter, which is kind of true, and now I call her my soul sisters. But I think it's also a space to build community. It's a lot of noise, I will say that I think it's a lot of noise right now, but it's also a way for people to have points of views or press people in ways that you won't get in mainstream communication and media. And so I think it can be a really important tool.
Amanda Andere (08:00):
I think for me, I'm an introvert, which people are surprised about, so I tend to find people who are more introverted, it's a way to express yourselves in a different way than just having conversation. There's a feeling about having conversation in that way that feels maybe more safe for introverts. It can be fun. I wouldn't have caught especially because I use Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, I wouldn't have caught up or been in community with some people that live far away if it wasn't for social media. We connected with my God-sister because of social media and now we're super close. It's just a way to keep up with people.
Amanda Andere (08:43):
But I think for us professionally, it's a way to create a community and a dialogue that sometimes doesn't happen in in-person convenings and keep up to date on things. I learn about what's happening in philanthropy because I follow you or I follow a bunch of other PSOs and it gives me knowledge that I wouldn't already have. I think if you're on Twitter, create lists so you can curate your information. When I'm watching the debate, I have a woke list for all the people who say all the things that I wish I could tweet, I just follow it and like it. So I think it's just another way, it's not the only way to interact obviously, but it's another way to interact and get information.
Dave Biemesderfer (09:24):
I often wish I could have an anonymous Twitter account. Wouldn't that be nice?
Amanda Andere (09:28):
I know people who do. They just like to put stuff out there. And so I'm trying to get more bold just to say the thing.
Dave Biemesderfer (09:36):
Well, when I'm retired someday maybe I'll do that. Say whatever I want. I feel like I'll be caught if I have an anonymous one that someone will somehow figure it out like they did with a US Senator recently.
Amanda Andere (09:54):
Well, I think what we're talking about is saying maybe provocative things about justice or race or maybe catty things too.
Dave Biemesderfer (10:02):
That might be, or I might want to say a profane word here or there if nobody knew it came from me.
Amanda Andere (10:09):
And so speaking about being your authentic self, I look at my social media presence from five years ago and I'm a different person now. I'm saying things in a way that are more provocative and maybe I'm not using profanity, sometimes maybe I do. But I think that's also something that we need to be mindful of is, we can say things and be bold and use profanity or not. And we have to live into that truth and we shouldn't need a secret Twitter handle to do that.
Dave Biemesderfer (10:45):
That's a good point. You talk to me about always wanting to use Masiko tell me more about that and why you make a point in that.
Amanda Andere (10:59):
Yeah. And thank you for mentioning that. As I said, my dad's Kenyan and your middle name is your tribal name that's passed down from your [Foreign Language 00:11:11] so your grandmother. And so for a long time I didn't use it and then I was kind of like, this is such a beautiful name and it's part of my identity and it tells my story and so I'm just going to start putting it in my signature. And my last name is hard enough for people to pronounce, but I get to tell a story, people always ask, "What does your middle name mean?" In my dad's tribal language, it means one who carries beauty, and my dad is probably the only one who calls me Masiko actively, but it's just special to me.
Dave Biemesderfer (11:47):
Well, one who carries beauty, that describes you beautifully Amanda, so I love that. Thanks for sharing that.
Amanda Andere (11:52):
Dave Biemesderfer (11:54):
Well, Amanda Masiko Andere, thank you so much for being on Form Nation today. It was a pleasure chatting with you.
Amanda Andere (12:00):
Thanks for having me.
Dave Biemesderfer (12:02):
And we'll see you soon.
Amanda Andere (12:04):
Yes, in justice and solidarity.
Dave Biemesderfer (12:06):
All right, thank you.
Dave Biemesderfer (12:07):
ForumNation is a podcast of United Philanthropy Forum, the largest network serving philanthropy in America. ForumNation is produced by Bouyant Partners and producer Eric Rigaud. Many thanks to the entire United Philanthropy Forum team, especially Courtney Moore, Brandon Iracks Edelin, and Ivana Bikombe. Subscribe to ForumNation on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts. To learn more, go to www.unitedphilforum.org, that's www.unitedphilforum.org.