Using data to inspire the Southeast Asian community
Bao Vang says striking numbers can help shape policy and open dialogue for the estimated two million-strong population
As president and CEO of Hmong American Partnership (HAP), Minnesota’s largest Hmong organization that helps approximately 8,000 each year, and president and CEO of D.C.-based Hmong National Development, Bao Vang knows first-hand what it takes to lead community engagement and empower others to share in a common goal. In Bao’s case, the goal is to “empower the people in [the Southeast Asian] community to embrace the strengths of their culture,” while helping them to achieve their fullest potential.
To do this, Bao says disseminating data is crucial.
A new report released by the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice titled A Community of Contrasts, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the Midwest, provides disaggregated data and a glimpse into the social and economic diversity among Asian American and NHPI communities. The number of unemployed Asian Americans in Minnesota alone grew 200 percent between 2007 and 2010, according to the report. Numbers like this inspire Bao, who hopes to use the powerful data to further create literacy, skills and workforce training programs for Southeast Asian youth and refugees, and help engage lawmakers at the state and local level to invest in education and skills building programs.
Data and facts “lead to the creation of a larger dialogue and collective strategy to address disparities,” said Bao, who stresses the importance of using data to educate communities, and to empower them to become active in helping foster change, taking ownership of the issues within their communities.
HAP also places an emphasis on youth services with a department that offers a variety of programs involving academic achievement, leadership and career development. To encourage open dialogue around the economic, racial and educational disparities affecting these youth, HAP connects them to media outlets, allowing the youth to voice their perspectives.
Bao sees a bright future for these children of the Southeast Asian community, one where “everybody has equal access to opportunities and an equal chance to reach their dreams.”
For more information on Bao and what her organizations are doing to address economic and racial disparities for youth and refugees, visit the Hmong American Partnership website.
Bao recently represented the Hmong American Partnership at the 2012 Advancing Justice Conference held in Chicago through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.