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Belonging and prosperity: A Q&A with Norman Chen, CEO, The Asian American Foundation

May 17, 2022

Headshot_Norman Chen_TAAFThe Asian American Foundation (TAAF) was launched in May 2021—amid a rise in anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) hate and violence—to help solve for the longstanding lack of investment provided to AAPI communities and to build the infrastructure needed to improve AAPI advocacy, power, and representation. That month, TAAF announced that through its AAPI Giving Challenge and donations from its board, it secured nearly $1.1 billion in donations and in-kind commitments from partners—the largest philanthropic commitment in history fully focused on supporting AAPI communities—including $125 million from board members to support AAPI organizations and causes over the next five years. TAAF’s work focuses on several priority areas: anti-hate, data and research, education, narrative change, unlocking resources, and racial solidarity.

Norman Chen has served as CEO of TAAF since November 2021. Before joining TAAF, Chen co-founded Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change (LAAUNCH) in September 2020 and created the Social Tracking of Asian Americans in the U.S. (STAATUS) Index, a landmark study of American attitudes toward Asian Americans. Prior to his leadership in AAPI advocacy and philanthropy, Chen spent his career as an entrepreneur, investor, and community leader building innovative life sciences companies and supporting nonprofit organizations in both the United States and Asia. 

PND asked Chen about TAAF’s mission to address the historic lack of philanthropic investment in AAPI communities through key initiatives such as the AAPI Giving Challenge, the factors behind the historic underinvestment in AAPI communities, TAAF’s Anti-Hate National Network and AAPI Action Centers, and key findings from the 2022 STAATUS Index.

Philanthropy News Digest: TAAF’s mission is “to serve the community in their pursuit of belonging and prosperity that is free from discrimination, slander, and violence.” The AAPI community is often seen by other Americans as quickly attaining prosperity—i.e., the model minority myth—while continuing to be perceived as foreign, as other, generation after generation. How does the foundation work to address the tension between those two components of its mission?

Norman Chen: Prosperity is a core piece of TAAF’s mission because we are addressing often overlooked social and economic challenges in AAPI communities—one being that we are the most economically divided racial group in the U.S., with the highest median household income and the highest intra-racial group income disparity. Contrary to the model minority myth, which perpetuates a misguided perception about AAPI socioeconomic success, prosperity is not equally accessible across AAPI communities or to AAPI immigrants who come to the U.S. in pursuit of a better life for their families.

Belonging is part and parcel of our work because AAPIs continue to face other harmful stereotypes such as being seen as perpetual foreigners. For example, according to the 2021 STAATUS Index, one in five Americans agreed with the statement that Asian Americans as a group are “more loyal to their countries of origin than to the U.S.”

For these reasons, TAAF has sought to close critical gaps in support and make strategic investments in our communities. We are committed to accelerating prosperity and creating a greater sense of belonging for all AAPIs by bringing to bear more cross-sector support from partners who are also committed to these efforts....

Read the full Q&A with Norman Chen, CEO of the The Asian American Foundation.

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