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United Way of the Bay Area

Meet the Experts: Tse Ming Tam, VP Community Investments, East Bay

Posted on November 11, 2009, by United Way in Uncategorized

TseMingTamTse Ming Tam joined United Way of The Bay Area in September 2006 and oversees our grant making in the East Bay. He is also responsible for the development of our SparkPoint Initiative, which helps low-income families achieve financial stability.

United Way: What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

Tse Ming: I've really enjoyed building new programs from the ground up - like SparkPoint - which can make a real difference in people's lives. Economically-disadvantaged people have such limited opportunities; usually they have only “bad choices” or “worse choices” they can make. SparkPoint is all about providing low-wage workers and families with the opportunity to make good choices. Bringing together all the pieces and partners to build SparkPoint has been very rewarding. SparkPoint Oakland Center has been open for just a few months, and we're already starting to see members take significant steps towards being more financially stable.

United Way: What is the biggest challenge that our community is facing?

Tse Ming: It's no secret that the economic crisis is having a huge impact on the low-wage families in our community, especially because they were already struggling to make ends meet. But there's a whole new group of people who are asking for help now, and the nonprofits trying to meet the huge surge in demand are being overwhelmed.

Fortunately, some nonprofits are recognizing this as an opportunity to change and re-evaluate the way they work. In addition to seeing families asking for help for the first-time in their lives, agencies are seeing clients whom they helped years ago returning for help, essentially having to start over. It's causing nonprofit organizations to rethink howthey are helping clients. They're asking, can we provide better services so that clients can survive and endure both the ups and downs of the economy once they leave our agency?

United Way: What is the best-kept secret about United Way?

Tse Ming: The role United Way has as a change agent - we are bringing tools and resources together to make things happen in our community. People have a misperception that we are only giving grants. They still learning about all of the other powerful “muscles” that we use to achieve community impact, including our role as a convener, our public policy work, and the direct service provided by our community projects.

United Way: What do you do for fun in your spare time?

Tse Ming: I enjoy the outdoors, including camping, hiking, skiing and hang gliding. I still want to learn how to SCUBA dive. I also enjoy brain-challenging games, like Soduko.

Before joining United Way, Tse Ming spent more than 10 years at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, a national research, consulting and legal organization dedicated to building economic health and opportunity in vulnerable communities. Prior to that, Tse Ming served as the director for Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), a non-profit civil rights advocacy organization. During his tenure, CAA received President Clinton's Community Excellence Award.

Tse Ming lives in Pinole and hasresided in the Bay Area since 1983. He is a graduate of the New College of San Francisco with a B.A. in activism and social change.

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