We sat down with NEO’s Anti-Trafficking Fund director Sienna Baskin for a little Q&A.
Q: As you settle into your new role, what is your vision for NEO moving forward?
The Anti-Trafficking Fund is NEO’s newest venture, but the Oak Foundation (our donor) has long been investing in eradicating trafficking by enlarging human rights. I have been working on this issue for almost a decade, as have many of our grantees. I would like to see NEO amplify the innovative work of our grantees and teach the field more about their approach to human trafficking. The issue has been so sensationalized by the media that many feel hopeless to do anything about it. By approaching human trafficking as an issue of justice and human rights, our grantees are uprooting the causes of trafficking and empowering survivors to recover and thrive. They do this in ways that benefit all migrants, survivors of violence, and workers.
Q: Since you’re looking at NEO with fresh eyes, what do you see as our greatest strengths? What about potential challenges?
I don’t think I could work at just any foundation, but NEO is different. I love the idea of not only giving out money, but giving organizations the tools and support they need to build healthy, effective movements. I see how NEO’s collaborative funds have bolstered social justice organizations, and plan to make ample use of NEO’s roster of skills and services for the Anti-Trafficking Fund.
What will be your first big project that you tackle at NEO?
The organizations we fund could learn a lot from each other. Some are experts at policy advocacy, but struggle in engaging individual donors. Some have developed special ways to help service providers manage trauma, but need more skills in building and motivating networks. I hope to arrange peer to peer learning laboratories where best practices can be shared, developed, or refined. I think strengthening connections between the grantees, and documenting the outcomes, will benefit the whole field.
Q: NEO recently adopted a new set of organizational values. What do those values mean to you?
I think these values accurately describe what NEO is and can be. I see how much NEO offers grantees, but these values teach me how much it also offers donors who want to use their philanthropic dollars in the smartest, most strategic way. I’m glad to be in a place that is moving resources in line with clear values – it gives me hope even in these uncertain times!
Q: Give us a peek into Sienna outside of the office. What do you like to do when you aren’t at work?
I used to have a lot of hobbies – then I had a baby! My daughter Lina is 16 months old, she loves to dance and run and keeps me on my toes. My family recently moved to Western Massachusetts, so we are exploring New England’s beautiful natural places and enjoying all the local apples, cheese and beer. I come into New York twice a month for my infusion of city energy. I’m lucky to call both places home.