The SEAD Project

The SEAD Project

The SEAD Project (Southeast Asian Diaspora) is a community organization on a mission to be an accessible creative hub that provides streamlined workshops and tools to engage and share knowledge in Khmer, Hmong, Lao and Viet diaspora communities. Through safe and welcoming spaces, we hope to grow empowerment to plant

The SEAD Project

SEAD is led by, for, and with Southeast Asian diaspora communities in Minnesota, with 100% representation on staff and board leadership. We developed our core programs after speaking with multiple generations of Southeast Asian diaspora community members. decisions are made with equal input from both staff and board members, in order to share power, converge resources, and promote leadership within all aspects of our organization. We also engage cultural community advisors in each respective area we work in. For instance, our programs use an advisory council consisting of alumni and creative leaders, who provide input on program decisions. We monitor and track all programs and share transparency about our work and decisions with our constituents. We foster a constituent-led environment, so we are held accountable to our work by housing forums and roundtables periodically, as well as involve past participants in redesigning our programs. Our team has 20 years of combined experience in community engagement, narrative storytelling, and visual design. As a trusted community resource, we have strong outreach networks for engaging our community members. SEAD prides itself on being led by and for Southeast Asian diaspora communities. We use an equity, justice, and culturally nuanced lens in our human-centered design thinking approach, which informs our communications strategies and materials, and ensures that our work meets the needs of each community we serve. Our design process includes community input, ensuring that designs speak to community needs and are accessible.

About the Organization:

SEAD is led by, for, and with Southeast Asian diaspora communities in Minnesota, with 100% representation on staff and board leadership. We developed our core programs after speaking with multiple generations of Southeast Asian diaspora community members. decisions are made with equal input from both staff and board members, in order to share power, converge resources, and promote leadership within all aspects of our organization. We also engage cultural community advisors in each respective area we work in. For instance, our programs use an advisory council consisting of alumni and creative leaders, who provide input on program decisions. We monitor and track all programs and share transparency about our work and decisions with our constituents. We foster a constituent-led environment, so we are held accountable to our work by housing forums and roundtables periodically, as well as involve past participants in redesigning our programs. Our team has 20 years of combined experience in community engagement, narrative storytelling, and visual design. As a trusted community resource, we have strong outreach networks for engaging our community members. SEAD prides itself on being led by and for Southeast Asian diaspora communities. We use an equity, justice, and culturally nuanced lens in our human-centered design thinking approach, which informs our communications strategies and materials, and ensures that our work meets the needs of each community we serve. Our design process includes community input, ensuring that designs speak to community needs and are accessible.

organizational budget

$500,000 - $1 MILLION

existence for

6-10 YEARS

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

California • Connecticut • District of Columbia • Georgia • Illinois • Maine • Massachusetts • New Hampshire • New York • Rhode Island • Vermont

organizational budget

$500,000 - $1 MILLION

existence for

6-10 YEARS

Organization benefits AAPIs residing in the following state(s):

California • Connecticut • District of Columbia • Georgia • Illinois • Maine • Massachusetts • New Hampshire • New York • Rhode Island • Vermont

The Issue:

Storytelling is currency for humanity. Minnesota is home to more than 10,000 active and thriving Southeast Asian communities yet when data is disaggregated, young people (12-25) lack the adequate access to tools, training, support and representation from mentors they need to thrive successfully in education and economic opportunity. According to recent reports from the last Census' American Community Survey and Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, Southeast Asians (Hmong, Khmer, Lao and Viet) in high school have one of the lowest educational attainment rates and many aren't attending college or do not finish at all. And within our legislation, policies are written by people outside of our community. We want to grow our advocacy skills with personal stories, framing our own histories so that we can advocate by ourselves and for ourselves.
Over the last two years, we have continued to witness the serious challenges and opposition toward achieving true racial justice. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, anti-Asian violence and overt racialized harassment has increased by more than 1800% (New York Times, 2021). Equally devastating, we've also seen the insidious ways that well-meaning people and institutions act to uphold white supremacy in the name of ‘safety’, ‘avoiding division’ and ‘color-blindness’.
We're constantly reminded of the tenacity and grit that exists within our Southeast Asian diaspora people. Working within the community takes double the effort, because organizers are pulling from personal stories and traumas. SEAD wants to collaboratively hold space, places where we can recognize the power of our heritage and cultural practices, learning to trust in our own voices. At the same time, we need spaces for grace and healing, places to process our trauma, and be in community with like-minded folks.
By trusting in our voices, our Southeast Asian people can take back the narrative. Rather than those in power presupposing what we need, we can use our own stories to create awareness, organizing and advocating for what we know we need. Making progress toward equity will require a sustained, committed investment of resources, energy, and effort, and an ongoing focus on centering and elevating voices from within oppressed communities.

The Solution:

During the ongoing dual COVID-19 and systemic racism pandemics, we have a critical opportunity to engage our community members to create a more just recovery through creative community building and innovative problem-solving through cultural arts, utilizing our new theory of change. As a cultural organizer, SEAD’s programs create safe and welcoming spaces for Southeast Asian diaspora communities to grow their voices and visibility through storytelling, arts, and culture. We are re-imagining our current offerings in the following ways:
Grow and Strengthen our SEA Roots Program. We are working to offer our language and culture workshops digitally, and looking toward creating a hybrid model where those who feel isolated from community can join in from wherever they're at and in whatever situation they find themselves in. We are investing in technology tools and software for online program delivery, as well as adapting our curriculum for hybrid delivery.
Expand our Planting SEAD’s Program: We are expanding our storytelling work to help community members engage on critical conversations like community safety and racial justice and finding new and creative ways to showcase our stories through public art. For instance, this fall we will begin a story collection project with our elders, gathering their stories to be illustrated by second and third generation emerging artists, creating that intergenerational connection and preservation of heritage.
Serve more youth through our SEA Change Lab Program: We plan to reach at least 10 additional youth through our leadership development program. Last year we received over 80 applications for only 20 slots. Youth apply leadership skills through arts advocacy projects, including writing, theater, music, and dance.
Provide timely and urgent translation and mutual aid in our Community Response: Because we’re in close proximity to our Southeast Asian communities and understand how to use multimedia and language across all issue areas, we have pivoted to quickly adapt and mobilize our constituents so they are fully informed, engaged, and able to access information and resources, as well as make their needs heard.

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