2011 was filled with the energy of evaluation, reflection and progress. Our staff and board spent our 26th year engaged in a milestone of maturity: an extensive strategic planning process to assess our recent rapid growth, fine tune our goals and ensure that we are deploying our resources as efficiently and effectively as possible.
The plan hasn't changed our essence: AJWS will always work to create a better world, fighting poverty and injustice worldwide. Our work is inspired by the Jewish tradition to pursue justice and made possible by the generosity of the American Jewish community. But 2011 has brought change. By its conclusion, we had chosen a newly crafted mission that better articulates the impact we want to make on the world:
This emphasis on "human rights" reflects an important shift that we've been making over the past several years. By embracing a rights-based approach to development, we are expressing our belief that all people are entitled to the same human rights (economic, social, cultural, civil and political) and that realization of these rights is inextricably connected to people's ability to overcome poverty. This concept is central to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and we see its roots in the ancient Jewish belief that all human beings are created in the Divine image—unique, equal and infinitely valuable.
In terms of our work on the ground, the difference is in the depth of our impact. By promoting human rights we go further than simply fighting poverty—further than helping people access things like food, social services and jobs and giving communities the support they need to thrive. We now support activists and movements that are working to overcome systemic inequalities and injustices that bring people to a place of poverty in the first place. Without both operating in tandem—rights leading to economic security and economic security enabling full expression of rights, development cannot take place.
To make sure that our entire organization is aligned with this new guiding star, we examined AJWS's activities in 2011 and made some important changes.
In our grantmaking, this has meant choosing organizations that are pursuing human rights agendas and helping them forge strong alliances with likeminded organizations so that they can create powerful movements for change. Many of our 412 grantees provide vital services to poor and disenfranchised communities, while, at the same time, lead and participate in broad-based movements for equality, freedom and justice.
There are clear indicators of their progress in 2011. In places like Burma, Kenya and Bolivia, our grantees empowered people to stand up for their rights, secured the passage of just and equal laws, and changed discriminatory attitudes and practices that cause certain populations to be excluded from society.
This movement-building emphasis also pervaded our work in the Jewish community. American Jews have long supported the work we do in developing countries and have joined us in advocating for justice in critical human rights struggles. But now, more than ever, we are bringing our supporters on board as advocates and activists in their own right. In 2011, AJWS supporters lobbied dozens of members of Congress and mobilized their own communities to pursue U.S. policy change to help curb the current global food crisis. From volunteers and alumni to members of Pursue and Global Circle to Jewish leaders in major U.S. cities, our supporters are mobilizing to support global justice. And to increase our impact, AJWS is creating alliances with other organizations, in both the Jewish and advocacy spheres. In 2011, AJWS led and/or participated in 18 advocacy coalitions in Washington to promote human rights on a variety of issues.
While we've set our goals higher, we've also streamlined and refined the steps we're going to take to get there, creating greater alignment between our domestic and international work. You'll see evidence of this throughout this annual report, as we work to align all of our resources to achieve our mission.
You'll see it in our work to Reverse Hunger, where our grantees addressed famine and food shortages in their own countries while AJWS pursued changes to U.S. food aid policy that will enable our food aid to save more lives. You'll see it in our work to fight the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill, where our Ugandan grantees and our American staff and allies worked in concert to stop a dangerous piece of legislation that would severely compromise the human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex Ugandans. And you'll see it in our work in post-earthquake Haiti: while our grantees worked to rebuild a society fractured by both an earthquake and years of systemic inequality, AJWS's staff was busy advocating in Congress for the U.S. government to do its part to create an enabling environment for this change to occur.
To make sure that all of these efforts are indeed bringing human rights closer, AJWS has adopted new ways to measure and evaluate our impact. We've set the bar high for what we're striving to achieve, and we are taking deliberate steps to get there. Our staff and board conducted the strategic planning process hand in hand and will continue to marshal our combined strengths and resources to ensure that it is implemented thoughtfully and that AJWS's goals are met.
In a world as broken as ours, each one of us is needed to reverse injustice and advance human rights. Thank you for adding your voice to our movement and for supporting AJWS as we grow, evolve and continuously strive to build a better world.
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.
© 2012 American Jewish World Service. All rights reserved.