Bridging the Cultural Gap

Feb 10, 2015
As part of a proactive effort to address the cross-cultural barriers that arise in culturally and ethnically diverse communities, in 2009 Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) developed a grant program called Bridging the Cultural Gap. With a focus on using cultural tactics to move hearts and minds in support of immigrant integration, the program was focused expressly on supporting projects that allowed for Silicon Valley residents to come together to discuss shared values and concerns related to immigration. Between 2009 and 2014, SVCF invested $2.4 million in 12 projects that used cultural tactics such as dialogue, film, photography and storytelling to deepen relationships and cross-cultural understanding throughout San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Over the course of five years, these grantees, with support from SVCF, focused their activities on identifying and cementing shared values between immigrants and receiving communities, as well as building relationships within and across various communities in the region.
  • Given the long-term, relationship-based nature of Bridging the Cultural Gap's (BCG's) work, grantees that were part of the cohort for multiple years really had the opportunity to see progress, both as a result of increased partnerships in the community and a ripple effect of engagement. Moreover, grantees with a long-term investment were able to plant roots for sustained engagement.
  • New Champions for Immigrant Integration. BCG projects allowed for grantee organizations to secure greater investment in immigrant integration among community leaders and decision makers. A great majority of the organizations have been working with law enforcement to address how to fairly and humanely enforce recently enacted immigration laws. Representatives from PACT and PCRC are often now requested at county meetings because of their diplomatic and successful "bridging" experiences.
  • Policy and Institutional Change. Many grantees were able to tap into the growing networks they built to generate support for policy initiatives such as voter turnout, Santa Clara's detainer policy and California Assembly Bill 60, which allows individuals without documentation to obtain a driver's license. As a result of community-wide support, Bill 60 passed in October 2013.
  • Sense of Agency Among Immigrants and Grantees. The BCG projects, which focus on "softer" approaches to integration -- understanding, trust, communication -- led to a sustained sense of agency among immigrants in the community.
  • Region-wide Attitude Shift. Between September and December 2013, Active Voice conducted a two-county BCG Evaluation Survey to assess whether the BCG projects had contributed to the attitudinal shift in support of immigrant integration. Of the 291 responses collected from Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, roughly half had attended an event held by a BCG grantee. Over a range of issues related to immigration, the differences between those who attended and those who did not indicated that the BCG successfully contributed to "changing hearts and minds," with the vast majority of participants saying their views had been influenced positively to some degree and more than 40% saying "very much so."
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