The Aspen Institute Diaspora Investment Alliance (DIA) recently received the 2015 Diversity and Inclusion (DANDI) Award (International Category), which recognizes individuals, groups, and organizations with exemplary commitment to and focus on diversity and inclusion. Below, DIA Senior Associate Benjamin Stephan explains.
In a globalized and interconnected world, diaspora communities have taken on new meaning and significance in the economic development of their countries of origin. Beyond remittances, diasporas may invest in local economies and transfer human capital and skillsets back home.
Economic development is often done through partnerships between governments, private sector entities, and nonprofit groups. But when people with ties to developing nations are able to accrue knowledge and financial resources, they can be unique leaders in spurring development in countries of origin and ancestry because of their local know-how and innate desires to do so. Mobilizing the wealth of diaspora communities is at the heart of what the Diaspora Investment Alliance (DIA) does.
DIA takes the mission of the Aspen Institute, to promote values-based leadership, and applies it to diaspora impact investments and strategic philanthropy in countries of origin. We aim to build a community of diaspora investors, mentors, and social investors to amplify the social and financial impact of diaspora investment.
DIA was formed in 2013 as a partnership between The Rockefeller Foundation and the Aspen Institute, and was officially launched at the beginning of 2014. In the next couple of months, we led a diaspora roadshow throughout the United States, hosting discussions with various migrant communities. We wanted to learn firsthand from diasporas their interests, motivations, and barriers to investment and philanthropy in countries of origin. What we discovered from our engagement with stakeholders in many diaspora communities has led to partnerships with public and private entities to launch Diaspora Advised Funds in India, Kenya, and the Philippines, as well as a crowdfunding platform in Kenya.
In recognition of our work, DIA won the 2015 DANDI Award in the International Category after being nominated by the US-Philippines Society, winner of the award in 2014 and our partner in outreach to the Filipino-American community.
Although we were fortunate to win, there is much work to be done to enable diaspora communities to magnify their impact on countries of origin. At DIA, we work with migrant communities to empower them to be primary contributors in the development of their countries of origin. Migrants have both the desire and the capacities to be part of their countries’ development narratives. We are proud of the recognition of our work to date and will carry on our mission to catalyze diaspora investment and strategic philanthropy for development efforts in countries of origin.
With Hank Hendrickson (center), Executive Director of US-Philippines Society and 2014 DANDI winner, and Lira Luis (right), Founder of the Leapfrog Project and 2015 DANDI winner in the Environment and Sustainability Category