How community-based organizations can use the power of partnerships to empower their neighborhoods

2017 UnidosUS Affiliate of the Year MAAC speaks about upcoming Affiliate Peer Exchange

By Stephanie Presch, Content Specialist, UnidosUS

UnidosUS Affiliate of the Month | Affiliate Spotlight | UnidosUS

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a regular series that will highlight the work of UnidosUS Affiliates. These community-based organizations—nearly 300 strong—work daily to assist, educate, and empower communities nationwide. They are the heart of UnidosUS. 

In 1965, MAAC was created by a small group of community leaders in San Diego who recognized the need to advocate on behalf of the Latino community to access the employment opportunities that were being created.

At the time, the poverty rate was 19% in San Diego County, and President Lyndon Johnson had just declared a War on Poverty. This signaled an aggressive new approach to combatting the problems that people face in trying to make ends meet, put food on the table, and afford their children’s medical bills.

Since then, MAAC has evolved into a 500-staff member organization that serves all of San Diego County with five focus areas: housing, economic development, health and well-being, education, and advocacy. Establishing strong public-private partnerships is key to accomplishing the goals of this UnidosUS Affiliate, particularly in regard to their role as affordable housing developers.

Building affordable housing requires both public and private partnerships. For example, having relationships with elected officials was necessary to break ground on Comm22, a mixed-use development that includes 300 units of housing, which was built on property owned by the local school district.

“Without a partnership between our organization, the school district, and the elected officials who were willing to put their name on the line for it, the development never would have happened,” notes Lisette Islas, MAAC’s Chief Impact Officer.

MAAC | Affiliate Spotlight |
Photo: MAAC

This location is just one of seven communities owned and operated by MAAC, providing nearly 1,000 units of affordable housing in San Diego County for low-income families.

And these communities don’t just offer shelter.  They also include on-site resident service centers that provide case management and the resources needed to get individuals and families on the path to educational and economic success.  MAAC’s goal is to create healthier and revitalized neighborhoods, anchored by the affordable housing developments.


MAAC is one of the nearly 300 Affiliates that work with UnidosUS on areas such as health, education, immigration, and workforce development. Every day, MAAC, and all of UnidosUS’s Affiliates, are hard at work to strengthen access to the American Dream in communities all across the United States.

MAAC | Affiliate Spotlight | UnidosUS
Photo: MAAC

Last year, MAAC was recognized as UnidosUS’s Affiliate of the Year. This distinction comes with the responsibility of hosting the annual UnidosUS Affiliate Peer Exchange from February 7-9. Over the course of those three days, UnidosUS Affiliates will come together in San Diego to share how they’re tackling the challenges that face the Latino community in their city and state.

Affiliates who attend the Peer Exchange can expect to tour one of MAAC’s housing developments, in addition to attending a reception at the San Diego Museum of Art, which is exhibiting Modern Masters from Latin America, which showcases some of the foremost artists from  Latin America.

The three-day exchange will focus predominantly on leveraging the power of relationships. They will showcase MAAC’s work in their community, Islas explains. But the convening will also include workshops and panels that focus on the work that can be accomplished working together with other nonprofits, academics, or elected officials.

Affiliate of the Month | Affiliate Spotlight | UnidosUS
Photo: MAAC

While MAAC plans to underscore the best practices that have led them to be recognized as Affiliate of the Year, Islas was quick to stress that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the issues that Affiliates face in communities across the country.

“MAAC fundamentally believes in the importance of ongoing learning and leadership development,” Islas emphasizes.  “Not just for the communities we serve but for our staff, as well.” That is what they intend to provide for the Affiliates who participate in the Peer Exchange.

Islas hopes that attendees come away with “new tools and strategies for accomplishing their work,” and can walk away feeling invigorated by the workshops and discussions.


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