Reflection on 50 Years

Cardea is grateful and humbled to celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2021!

Over the last 50 years, we have had so many opportunities to do what we articulate in our new mission…to address complex program, policy, and systems issues by co-creating solutions that center community strengths and wisdom.

We stand on the strong and wide shoulders of those who came before us and continue to have a dedicated Board of Directors and team of “people with good minds and good hearts”…a statement highlighted by our consultant Inca Mohamed in her work with our team. We are honored to have funders and partners who support us in being thoughtful and strategic in our work…to live our values of collective humanity, humility, compassion, collaboration, and innovation. And, we see change on the horizon that gives us hope for the next 50 years.

In a recent blog on “Rebuilding Our Post-COVID Work Together,” Mr. Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, posed the question, “What actions can we take—collectively, collaboratively, concurrently—to secure and advance progress?”

As I reflect on Mr. Walker’s question, I am aware that our world and our communities are changing. Nearly every day, we hear or see a story of how much life has changed over the last two years…how many of us are reflecting on the historical, systemic, structural, and institutional issues that shape our lives and the lives of those across our community, as well as on how we spend our time and with whom, what we do, and where we work.

As we share on our new website, when we started in 1971, we had a very small team. Over the last 50 years, we have grown into a national organization with offices in Austin, Oakland, and Seattle and with a geographically disperse team focused on national, regional, state, and local initiatives and on initiatives with Indigenous partners.

As someone who has been with Cardea for 22 years, I believe that, while much has changed, much has remained the same.

We remain an organization that is deeply committed to equity, both internally and externally. I am grateful that we created a new vision, mission, and core set of values that reflects, freshly articulated, our long-standing commitment to a world in which optimal health and well-being, equity, and justice are realities for all communities.

We remain an organization that is committed to addressing complex program, policy, and systems issues, by co-creating solutions that center community strengths and wisdom. I am grateful to our team for thoughtfully centering the communities in which we work and those with lived experience, so that we remain true to that commitment.

And, we remain a team that truly cares about our relationships with each other and with our partners.

Yet, while much has changed and much has remained the same, it is clear that we are changing as an organization. To secure and advance progress, we recognize that there are actions that we can and must take, collectively, collaboratively, and concurrently.

Internally and externally, we continue to seek ways to address historical, systemic, structural, and institutional issues that shape our lives and the lives of those across our community.

Externally, we continue to seek opportunities to highlight and build on connections within and across sectors and issues, recognizing, as Yuri Kochiyama noted that “we are all part of one another.” We continue to work with partners who are similarly focused on securing and advancing progress. And, we continue to integrate new frameworks and learnings with a focus on emerging, community practices.

Internally, we are welcoming new members who bring their experience and gifts to our team, building infrastructure and systems to support our work, articulating and drawing connections between our strategic approaches and focus areas, and strengthening how we tell the story of what we do and, perhaps most importantly, why we do what we do.

To all of you who have been part of Cardea’s work over the last 50 years, thank you. We are deeply grateful, and we look forward to the next 50 years together.


In service and celebration,

Wendy Nakatsukasa-Ono, MPH