Context is Everything
In our increasingly data-driven world, we often turn to numbers and data to understand complex issues, including the well-being of immigrant families. However, what data can’t always capture is the intricate context of people’s lives. This fall, MAF hosted the third webinar of our IFRP research series to dive deeper into the context of immigrant families’ lives, and what it means for nonprofits to show up and serve with intentionality.
“The only real difference between numbers and data is context.”
Christopher Dokko, Evaluation Manager at MAF, laid the foundation for the event by highlighting the significance of context in understanding immigrant families’ lives. Numbers can nudge us in the direction of learning about people’s experiences, but it’s not enough to get the full picture. Christopher pointed out that data collection should extend beyond what is traditionally considered to be an indicator of financial wellness. It should encompass various variables, including social conditions, identity, geography, policy landscape, and access to opportunities.
Taking it a level deeper, it’s important to understand that context and crises, like inflation or environmental disasters, don’t impact everyone equally, leading to uneven consequences. Christopher noted, “When we’re thinking about data within the context of the broader world, we’re not just thinking about what’s happening, but how it’s differentially impacting different people’s lives.” This holistic mindset allows us to gain a more comprehensive understanding of immigrant families’ lives, and how we can better meet their needs accordingly.
How nonprofits show up in times of crisis
Given the ever-changing context of immigrant families’ lives, nonprofits serving those communities have a duty to listen intentionally to what families are experiencing and respond accordingly to meet their needs with dignity and respect. We were honored to be joined by three incredible nonprofit leaders doing this work across the US. In conversation with MAF’s advocacy and engagement director Joanna Cortez Hernandez, they shared their own learnings and experiences with us about how they show up for immigrant communities, and how they make it sustainable for their staff in the long run.
I think one of the most valuable things that we can offer the community is our commitment to listen, to be nimble, and to continue to create things that are actually meeting the expectations, the opportunity, the potential, and the needs.
Karla Bachmann, VP of Financial Wellness at Branches
For us, it’s really about focusing on an asset-based perspective. We know that there are lots of challenges; it’s easy to start off with all the things that, in our (Immigrants Rising) case, undocumented people cannot do. But it’s important to switch it up and say, what are the opportunities that do exist out there? Then, really focusing on those opportunities and meeting people where they’re at.
Iliana Perez, Ph.D, Executive Director at Immigrants Rising
One of the biggest things I’ve taken away is the space that we’re in. We have a kitchen, and we try to cook meals, como familia as much as we can… It gets us all in the same room to share stories, because those are the most powerful things that keep us moving and keep us doing what we do every day.
Lizette Carretero, Director of Financial Wellness at The Resurrection Project
In times of uncertainty, the context may shift, but our dedication to understanding, supporting, and celebrating immigrant families’ lives remains unwavering. We invite you to watch the recording of our most recent webinar and stay tuned for more insights as we continue this learning journey.