Trust for Mutual Understanding

Mission

Our geographic region

The Trust for Mutual Understanding (TMU) awards grants to American nonprofit organizations to support direct exchange in the arts and the environment (and the intersection of the two) between professionals from the United States and our geographic region of 28 countries:

Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

JEDI statement

Our justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) statement:

We believe in the fundamental value and dignity of all individuals and pledge to continue and grow an environment that respects diverse traditions, heritages, and life experiences. The many perspectives of our current Trustees, Advisory Board members, and staff are highly valued for what they bring to the foundation’s practices, and we are conscious that we have more to do and more to learn as we look for ways to better engage diverse voices in all areas of TMU’s work.

Here are our ongoing commitments:

We strive to eliminate unfair discrimination in all its forms in our organization and programs. In that spirit, when recruiting and selecting trustees, staff, and advisors, we will consider candidates from a broad pool of qualified applicants with varied experiences and backgrounds, including those from outside of familiar networks.

In addition, we will regularly examine our systems, codes of conduct, practices, and policies to identify and address unintended barriers. In our work with Native and Indigenous grantees and philanthropic partners, we commit to uphold, incorporate, and value the principles of free, prior, and informed consent as stated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We will encourage organizations we support to address justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion within their organizational practices. TMU works in many diverse geographies and cultures, and we seek to understand the distinctive and varied ways in which attention to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion can combat isolation and open opportunity.

History

The Trust for Mutual Understanding was established in 1984 by an anonymous American philanthropist as a private, grantmaking organization dedicated to promoting improved communication, closer cooperation, and greater respect between the people of the United States, the Soviet Union, and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Our program reflects her conviction that grantmaking can contribute to this process by supporting international face-to-face contact and professional interaction. Our mission has been shaped by the belief that creative international collaboration encourages global harmony.

We continue to support professional exchanges, reflecting the founder’s appreciation of the importance of culture and ecology in people’s lives. Before 1985, there was relatively little American funding for such activities, and what support there was—mainly governmental—was often restricted by political considerations. It remains our goal to enable talented people to come together from different countries to freely share ideas and stimulate creativity in a nonpolitical context.

Team

Barbara Lanciers

Barbara Lanciers

Director

Irina Yurna

Irina Yurna

Regional Representative

Alina Enggist

Alina Enggist

Senior Program Officer

Caroline Mabee

Caroline Mabee

Program Officer

Board

Trustees

Susan Berresford

Former Ford Foundation President, New York
Philanthropic Advisor, New York Community Trust, New York

Elizabeth Campbell

Executive Vice President, Programs and Communications, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, New York

Joel Motley

Managing Director, Public Capital Advisors, LLC

Blair Ruble

Vice President for Programs, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, DC

Valerie Rockefeller

Board Chair, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, New York and Co-Chair, BankFWD

Advisors

Jim Enote

CEO, Colorado Plateau Foundation

David Gordon

Philanthropic Advisor Former Executive Director, Goldman Environmental Prize, California

William H. Luers

Former President and CEO, United Nations Association, New York

Mladen Miljanović

Artist, Former Vice Dean for Arts and International Relations and Full Professor at Academy of Arts, University of Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Arlene Shuler

President and CEO, New York City Center, New York

Former Trustees and Advisors

  • Donal O’Brien ,
  • Elizabeth J. McCormack ,
  • Isaac Shapiro ,
  • Joseph Polisi ,
  • Julie Kidd ,
  • Laura Chasin ,
  • Marcia McLean ,
  • Richard Lanier ,
  • Ruth Adams ,
  • Wade Greene

  • 1. founding Trustee
  • 2. founding Trustee
  • 3. founding Trustee and Director, retired as Trustee in 2019

Brand story

There comes a time in the life of any organization where major milestones cause a natural inclination toward self-assessment. 2020 marked the 35th anniversary of the creation of the Trust for Mutual Understanding. With the weight of our own history, as well as the possibilities presented by entering a new decade, in the forefront of our minds, our Trustees, Advisors, and staff members began thinking about how to intensify existing efforts to advocate on behalf of our grantees and our geographic region of focus to the wider philanthropic community.

This increased interest in advocacy brought about larger questions surrounding how we more clearly articulate our values and priorities both visually and through language, which, ultimately, led us to the decision to rebrand. Through this process, our goal was to articulate our values, engage our constituencies, and tell the story of who we are as a foundation. In examining current political and social trends, we decided it was important to move away from using the TMU acronym as our primary descriptor and, instead, lean heavily on the simplicity and beauty of our name: Trust for Mutual Understanding. 
These three words serve as the foundational element and anchor of our organization, and all three have deep meaning. In considering how best to embark on the rebrand process, we knew right away this would not be an exercise in raising our public profile.

Consensus was reached that a crucial outcome would be finding internal agreement regarding common language used to describe the work of the foundation as well as our geographic region of focus, which encompasses 30 countries worldwide. Instead of hiring an outside consulting firm, we decided to engage in a process that was reflective of our mission: bringing people together across borders to work on solutions to common issues.

Working with faculty and student teams at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, Maryland and at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design (MOME) in Budapest, Hungary, Trust for Mutual Understanding staff and board members engaged in a two-year-long series of bilateral encounters. The relationships built over these two years and the skills developed by all participants in this unique process are truly the most significant outcome of the rebrand; although, the brand itself is something to be proud of. With our new visual identity, every element has a story while the brand story itself provides a basis of common language and answers to strategic questions about who we are, what we do, and who we fund.

We’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Lee Davis of MICA and Bori Fehér of MOME for deftly and strategically leading this process – if only all collaborators were as thoughtful and talented. And to the MICA and MOME faculty and student teams, we wish to express our deepest gratitude for your hard work, brilliance, and for trusting us to carry out your vision into the future. It has been an honor to work with such dedicated colleagues. It is our hope that this new, refreshed identity will help serve as a platform of understanding and allow for deeper communication between our foundation and other peer funders, our community of grantees, and the pool of potential applicants.

Visual Identity

In examining current global political and social trends, we decided it was important to move away from using the TMU acronym as our primary descriptor and, instead, lean heavily on the simplicity and beauty of our name: Trust for Mutual Understanding.

Do you want to use our logo in your publication?

Download the guide

Publications

Download our anniversary publication from 2015, or browse between our yearly annual reports.