About Manaus Fund


The Manaus Fund is committed to social justice issues, particularly as related to low-income populations. We work to build the capacity of communities to empower people to actively engage to achieve a more just society.


We see our work as a journey with lessons learned along the way and changes in direction made based on those lessons.


How the Journey Began:

In 2005, The Manaus Fund was founded by local philanthropist, educator, rancher, photographer and physicist, George Stranahan. George’s passion has always been social justice and his initial intention was to address the inequities that he saw in the philanthropic world.


Here’s his thinking:

Life is rife with unintended consequences—predicaments, really—that we veneer with easy answers.
My best dictionary starts with this:
“Charity: Christian love: the virtue or act of loving God with a love which transcends that for creatures and of loving others for the sake of God.

Later on we read,
“An act or series of acts of aid to the needy.”
What possible sins here?
Creating dependencies rather than empowerment.
Reinforcing their helplessness rather than their potential.
Maintaining an unequal relationship of power between supplicant and potential benefactor.
Acknowledging oppressive social contracts rather than changing them.

Traditional charity tends to be doing it to them or doing it for them. Manaus is building a model of charity where we do it with them. The model may not be entirely sin-free, but there is a conscious effort to build a partnership of equals.

And so George charged Manaus with promoting social entrepreneurism within the local nonprofit community. His thinking was that if nonprofit organizations could generate earned income, they would no longer be as dependent on charity.  Many exciting projects ensued (See Partners/Projects section for a partial list) and many lessons were learned.
One lesson, was that to create lasting change within communities around social justice we needed to work on a much more grassroots level - with the people and families in our community — and not just on the organizational level.  Thus, we have shifted our from promoting social entrepreneurism to working directly with families to mobilize their personal and collective power to improve their lives.


Our Journey Continues:

Our two major areas of work are the Valley Settlement Project and the Manaus Valley Project.


Valley Settlement Project: is a multi-generation program addressing school readiness, elementary school achievement, economic stability and community engagement for local families. Our focus is low-income families who are not successfully settled or attached to the community in which they live.  Through community organizing and partnerships with local nonprofits, schools and government agencies, we work to support and empower these families.


Manaus Valley Project: Manaus believes that community organizing is the way to engage all people in a community to create change and achieve social justice.  We have partnered with the West/ Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation (www.swiaf.org) to learn from their decades of work in 29 states and explore how to best build our region’s capacity for broad based community organizing.


“Never do for others what they can do for themselves. Never.” - The Industrial Areas Foundation’s Iron Rule is our guide in the Manaus approach to working to support and empower people.