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SVCF 2019 2019 Annual Report
Our Work

Supporting the Civic Leaders of Tomorrow

By Sam Mittelsteadt

Sandy Chau’s vision of building a more civically engaged Asian American community began more than 50 years ago, when he arrived in the United States as a foreign student at UC Berkeley and saw firsthand the challenges and obstacles that first-generation immigrants often encounter.

“It’s a big concern, how to assimilate into American society,” says Chau, a longtime venture capitalist and real estate investor who focuses his philanthropic efforts on social justice issues. “It takes determination to successfully adjust your lifestyle and the viewpoints of your heritage so you can merge into the new mainstream.”

As the founder of what is now the Asia America MultiTechnology Association, Chau first realized that the principles that helped his networking organization thrive — distribution of knowledge, leadership and mentorship — could also work to engage and encourage civic leadership.

“The first step is usually focused on teaching the least able, who need the most amount of assistance,” he says. “Later, it’s more effective to train people who can then teach their own communities through mentorship.”

Civic Leadership USA, the organization that Chau founded to empower and organize Asian American communities, aims to use that principle to create a national network of community-minded organizations and leaders. “It’s not only about Asian Americans being able to receive their fair share of rights in return for contributing their fair share to the community. It’s also about being good citizens and supporting the fabric of society by serving on the civic level,” Chau says.

Through Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Civic Leadership USA has made a substantial capacity-building grant to the Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute (APALI), which works to build the next generation of Asian and Pacific Islander leaders.

“We’ve been in the field training civic leaders for 20 years, so we had been funding APALI in a modest way but wanted to build up its capacity,” says Civic Leadership Executive Director Anthony Ng. “We wanted to be there for the long haul, so APALI can create strategic ways to train members across the country to develop local and regional resources, become community leaders and even run for office.”

Their philanthropy advisor at SVCF worked closely with Chau and Ng to create a specific plan for the multiyear grant. “We feel that it’s the right strategy and that we’ve found the right partner,” Ng says. “When we met with the foundation, they even pointed us to different resources and let us know who’s doing similar work in the field, so we don’t have to do the battle alone.”

This story originally appeared in the 2019 SVCF Spring magazine.

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