Former President Clinton famously noted, "We live in an interdependent world. We cannot escape each other." This insight anchors AJWS's approach to global justice. In nearly three decades of work, we have learned that creating connections is critical to empowering marginalized people and helping them gain power to pursue change.
Online and on land, we're strengthening relationships between and among our partners around the globe and in the U.S. From our readers in the blogosphere to our grantees in the developing world to our allies in the halls of Congress, these relationships increase our impact.
Here are a few standout examples from 2011:
AJWS's new blog, Global Voices, launched in April 2011, advancing AJWS's work in the digital landscape and sparking online conversations about human rights, international development and Jewish justice. With more than 300 posts in the first year, written by staff, board, alumni and guest writers, the blog has become a social media hub, attracting a dedicated readership with more than 5,000 page views per month.
Our content has caught the attention of opinion-making sites like The Huffington Post, Care2 and the Religious Action Center's blog—which have cross-posted our articles to wide audiences. Less than a year after its launch, Tom Murphy of The Huffington Post nominated Global Voices for "The Best Organizational Aid Blog of 2011" alongside the blogs of USAID, Oxfam UK, World Bank Development Impact and Center for Global Development.
AJWS cultivates strong alliances with peer organizations, increasing our collective power. In 2011, we worked on 18 different coalitions to advocate for just policy changes on topics ranging from global health to women's equality to debt relief for developing countries. Taking leadership roles in many of these coalitions, AJWS helped shape the conversation and action on critical issues.
One exceptional example was the Jewish Farm Bill Working Group, which AJWS was instrumental in founding in late 2011 and convened in 2012 to create a united Jewish front to fight hunger. With our partners—the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, Hazon, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, MAZON, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Union for Reform Judaism—we have gathered more than 16,000 petition signatures and have taken Congressional offices by storm through lobbying, briefings and publications. The Congressional daily paper, the National Journal, dedicated a full page to the group, which it says "transplants religious values into the prosaic realm of government policy."
Another exciting new relationship born in 2011 was with Oxfam America, one of our major allies in the food justice movement. Together, AJWS and Oxfam recently released an infographic (and accompanying report) that crystallizes our claims about the need for food aid reform. To announce this exciting joint venture and marshal support for our campaigns, AJWS and Oxfam sent a joint press release and hosted a press telebriefing, which resulted in coverage by Forbes, Reuters, Bloomberg and a host of other media outlets.
AJWS has been cultivating a growing network of young Jewish activists who have been at the forefront of our organizing efforts to reverse hunger. Both through Pursue, our activist community led in partnership with AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, and through Global Circle, AJWS's young leadership division, these young changemakers have embraced food justice as a key issue in 2011. The programs now have vibrant communities in New York, Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Bay Area. Pursue events have attracted more than 1,000 young Jewish activists to participate in the Reverse Hunger campaign. Highlights this year were a "food justice seder," an activism education series called "Chewing on Food Justice" and programs like "Faith, Food Justice and the Farm Bill." By inspiring young people to become globally minded philanthropists, Global Circle members have raised nearly half a million dollars to promote food justice from among their peers, and formed the first ever AJWS marathon team to fuel young people's commitment to global change.
Many of our grantees in developing countries work in remote communities, where their nearest allies may be hours or days away. Because we know that effective social change can't take place in silos, AJWS creates opportunities for our grantees to collaborate with each other and form strong alliances. Peer exchange meetings are valuable tools for our partners to learn, share strategies, reflect on their work, and build networks that expand their reach and impact.
For example, in June 2011 AJWS brought 16 natural resource rights activists from seven Thai grassroots organizations—many of whom had never set foot outside of Thailand—to India, where they participated in an exchange with some of India's most seasoned activists. Our grantees reported that they gained valuable new skills and left the meeting invigorated, ready to collaborate and more hopeful that Thailand can overcome its land and natural resource rights challenges in the future.
They also said that they see AJWS not only as a donor, but as a partner working toward shared, community-driven goals. This is the kind of relationship we seek in order to move our shared agenda forward in building a more just and equitable world.
To read about some of the accomplishments that our movement-building brought about in 2011, skip to Celebrating 11 Victories of 2011.
Inspired by Judaism's commitment to justice, American Jewish World Service works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.
This is a Web-only annual report. No paper, period! This change saved AJWS thousands of dollars that we can now spend fighting poverty and defending human rights. Going online also saved 30 tons of wood and 206,173 gallons of water. It prevented 18,575 lbs of greenhouse gases from polluting our air and kept 23,443 lbs of solid waste out of our landfills! Now that's savings we're proud of.
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