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SCG President's Message - October 2018

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

While writing to you, I’m taking a moment to pause in the midst of the relentless news cycle we have been experiencing for some time now. The last couple of weeks—including last week’s painful Senate hearing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court—have been particularly challenging for many of us. At times like these, we have an opportunity to reflect on and re-ground ourselves in the work we find meaningful. For most of us, it’s because we care deeply about the world around us and want to make a positive impact. I know that my aspiration in this time is to see the truth of others’ lived experiences more clearly every day, so I and the team at SCG can do our part to help lead our philanthropic community forward toward real solutions.

This is why SCG’s Annual Conference last month focused on Our Common Humanity, which emphasized the intersection of racial and gender justice as well as other forms of bias and discrimination that hold people back from their true potential. (See my takeaways from the Conference below).

It’s why SCG dedicated a session at the conference to “Incorporating a Gender Justice Lens in Grantmaking,” and just last week, co-sponsored with the Akonadi Foundation, Novo Foundation and Rosenberg Foundation a convening for funders called #MeToo + Philanthropy: 1 Year Later: What's Changed/What's Possible, where experts discussed how philanthropy can rise to meet this historic moment of opportunity to create lasting change. On a related note, our colleagues at San Diego Grantmakers also recently convened a Summit on Advancing Gender Equity.

SCG is working to support you to engage as fully as possible in the upcoming pivotal midterm election. (If you have not yet registered to vote for next month’s election, the deadline to do so in California is October 22.) We at SCG encourage you to learn as much as possible about the candidates and measures up and down the ballot. To that end, we recently held a Public Policy Forum with Marshall Tuck, a candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction (to which we also invited the other candidate, Tony Thurmond); and we are also co-sponsoring a program on the upcoming ballot measures on October 10.

And last but not least, it’s why our organization recently decided to observe Indigenous People’s Day, and why we recognize the importance of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 through October 15, and celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

We must hold the complexity of multiple lenses as we look at our work—gender, racial, and other factors—to honor what unites us all as human beings. With this in mind, let's turn our attention to the Annual Conference, which was a deeply meaningful opportunity for us to learn, connect, and prepare for bold action on these issues.

As always, thank you for your interest in Southern California philanthropy and the dynamic work being done across our communities.

Christine Essel
President and CEO
Southern California Grantmakers


Jump To:

Takeaways from the SCG 2018 Annual Conference

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Expand
Public-Private Partnerships


Program Roundup

Coming Up

Takeaways from the SCG 2018 Annual Conference


Our goal for this year’s conference was to be bold and clear in examining philanthropy’s challenges and opportunities. We were inspired and affirmed to see so many of you responding with your own courage and enthusiasm. Over 650 of our colleagues from all over the Southern California region—from foundations, corporate members and family philanthropists to government grantmakers, philanthropic consultants, friends and partners of SCG—came together for a day of impact as we explored what gives us hope, powers our work and binds us all together. We were honored to be joined by an incredible variety of leaders and thinkers in sessions organized along three tracks: Advancing Racial Equity, Diversity & Inclusion; Developing Professional Skills; and Engaging in Effective Collaboration & Partnerships.

To everyone who joined us, we appreciate you coming to learn and engage. And to those of you who were unable to attend, please know that the conference was only one day in the full stream of our work in these and many other areas of interest. SCG will continue to deepen the ways in which we incorporate these crucial issues across all of our work as we move forward.

As I mentioned in my welcome remarks at the conference, the day’s frank, honest conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion are very different than the content that we offered five years ago at my first Annual Conference. I’m grateful that we in the SCG community have been able to grow so much together, in our scope, impact and courage.

While the feedback that we have received about the conference has been overwhelmingly positive, we recognize that the material presented is challenging to many of us in different ways. So whether you are clear about the necessity of this work in racial equity and inclusion through your lived experience, or you’re already steeped in the conversation, or perhaps you’re just beginning to explore these issues, SCG is here to support your work. That's why we deliberately organized the conference not only around the crucial issues of DEI, but also around professional development, as well as partnerships and collaborations.

Word cloud of how attendees described this year's conference


While there were so many lessons to be captured from the conference, the following are a few of the key takeaways from the day that stood out to me:

  1. “The problem of “Othering” is the problem of the 21st century. In the United States, the primary form of othering is racism.” This was the central message from john a. powell, Director, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society; Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion; Professor of Law, African American and Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley, just before his impactful interview with Fred Ali, President and CEO, Weingart Foundation. Professor powell noted that the way we have structured our country and the problems we face today have been animated by fear of “the other,” which we have designated by race. He also noted that philanthropy can play a leadership role in constructing a meta-narrative that bridges differences in communities and between issues such as climate change and social justice. As he jokingly put it: “I’m not saying that you should drop everything you are doing and start funding bridging work; I’m saying that you should drop everything you are doing and start funding bridging work.”
  2. “Achievement does not equal wellness,” said Daniel Beaty, Founder, I Dream, in a plenary session discussion with Martine Singer, President and CEO, Children's Institute, Inc. and moderator Judy Belk, President and CEO, The California Wellness Foundation. Daniel and the panel emphasized that well-intentioned funders often go after the surface needs of the most vulnerable citizens, and overlook the deep power of addressing trauma and the core identities of self-worth that trauma can create. They then discussed how trauma-informed solutions such as the arts can support philanthropic efforts in health, education, criminal justice and housing.
  3. We need to create and commit to a New Social Compact for America, and there are many ways to go about doing this. In this session, Dr. Robert K. Ross, President and CEO, The California Endowment, moderated a conversation with Saru Jayaraman, Co-Founder and President, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United); Director, Food Labor Research Center, University of California, Berkeley; Maria S. Salinas, President and CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; and Edgar Villanueva, Vice President of Programs and Advocacy, Schott Foundation for Public Education, about what a new American Social Compact looks like. The panelists then considered a set of core inclusive values that embrace dignity, equality, inclusion and opportunity and prosperity for all of us.


If you are interested in keeping the conversation about these topics going, then I encourage you to consider attending Upswell LA 2018, Independent Sector’s annual conference, which will be held this year in Los Angeles at the same venue as our conference—the InterContinental Hotel Downtown LA. As an added bonus, SCG members receive a $200 discount to Upswell by using the discount code SOCALG on the final page of the registration process.

(L) Fred Ali, Weingart Foundation and Professor john a. powell, University of California, Berkeley.
(R) Evan Spiegel, Snap Inc. and Cinny Kennard, Annenberg Foundation​​​​

(L) Beatriz Solís, The California Endowment; Ed Cain, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation;
Chris Essel, Southern California Grantmakers. (R) Daniel Beaty, I Dream

(L) Judy Belk, The California Wellness Foundation; Daniel Beaty, I Dream; Martine Singer, Children's Institute, Inc.;
(R) Maria S. Salinas, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; Edgar Villanueva, Schott Foundation for Public Education;
Saru Jayaraman, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United and Food Labor Research Center, University of California, Berkeley


You can also check out social media coverage of the conference (see the hashtag #SCGAnnualCon19), as well as our photo album. We are pleased to make available a number of resources, including videos of all the plenary sessions, on our conference resource page (member login required).

And I want to give one more special thanks to our conference Presenting Sponsors (and all others): Annenberg Foundation, California Community Foundation, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation.


Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Expand Public-Private Partnerships


On September 19, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl permanently establishing the newly renamed Center for Strategic Partnerships within the County of Los Angeles. The motion moves the Center to the Chief Executive’s Office, expands the Center’s scope and launches it into a Strategic Planning process to determine a new shared agenda, metrics for success and mechanisms for stakeholder input.

Launched in 2016 as an initiative of SCG and Los Angeles County, the Center for Strategic Public-Private Partnerships is a collaboration between government and philanthropy that has been located within the Los Angeles County Office of Child Protection. Since its launch, the Center has helped its partners co-invest more than $4.5 million to transform Los Angeles County’s system serving vulnerable youth and families.

I want to congratulate Center Director Kate Anderson, Associate Director Lizzie Cohen and consultant Gita Murthy Cugley on all of their hard work. I also want to thank all of the Center partners who have supported our work throughout the years, as well as Supervisor Solis and the entire Board for taking this necessary action supporting the Center. The Center has effectively brought together stakeholders from philanthropy and government to align strategies and efforts to tackle the most pressing problems experienced by children and families in the County. This model of collaboration, closely watched nationally, has demonstrated the power of thoughtful, deliberate and focused efforts to empower the most vulnerable in our communities.

This move—the first of its kind in LA County—is a testament to the innovative and collaborative spirits of the Center’s partners, public and private alike. 


(L to R) Mary Lou Fulton, The California Endowment; Chris Essel, Southern California Grantmakers; HIlda S. Solis, Los
Angeles County Supervisor; Aileen Adams, The Weingart Foundation; Jennifer Price-Letscher, Ralph M. Parsons Foundation


Program Roundup


  • On September 13, we held the LA Arts Funders meeting focusing on how nonprofit arts organizations and Los Angeles County departments are working together on issues related to juvenile justice. 
  • On September 24, our Emerging Leaders Peer-to-Peer Network held one of its regular meetings. The Emerging Leaders Peer-to-Peer network is SCG's highly regarded peer-learning professional development coaching program for select emerging and mid-level career leaders from SCG member organizations. 
  • On September 28, SCG co-sponsored with the Akonadi Foundation, Novo Foundation and Rosenberg Foundation a convening for funders called #MeToo 1 + Philanthropy: Year Later: What's Changed/What's Possible, where a panel of experts discussed how philanthropy can rise to meet this historic moment of opportunity to create lasting change.
  • Also on September 28, we partnered with FSG for Being the Change: Foundations Transforming for Greater Impact. At this program, FSG presented examples of new approaches that some foundations are using to foster greater connectivity, vibrancy and engagement both internally and externally. This session built on the Being the Change research conducted by FSG, which outlines 12 ways foundations are transforming themselves for greater impact, through their staffing philosophy, structure and design, skill development and organizational culture. This program is part of our programming for our new HR/Ops/Finance peer group.
  • On October 1, SCG, along with The Los Angeles Food Policy Council, The California Wellness Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, hosted the Fresh Perspective: Food, Equity and Community Development Funders' Bus Tour in South Los Angeles. We explored how food can be a powerful driver of equity and community economic development. The tour featured the projects of several non-profit organizations that are bridging healthy food access and equitable economic development, from street vendors to neighborhood markets to a major distribution and growing hub. The tour also helped make the case for an increased investment of social and economic capital, specifically in South Los Angeles.
  • Also on October 1, SCG hosted a Public Policy Forum with Marshall Tuck, candidate for State Superintendent for Public Instruction, in an interview with Cara Esposito, Executive Director, Leonetti/O’Connell Family Foundation and SCG Board Member. (SCG also extended an invitation to Assembly member Tony Thurmond, the other candidate running for the seat in the election; SCG does not make political endorsements.)  Mr. Tuck spoke to our members on a number of education-related topics, including universal pre-K, increasing graduation rates and how philanthropy can partner with public education and serve as an innovation lab for improving public education.


Coming Up


We hope to see you at these upcoming events:


Career and Technical Education 101 – The Landscape, Promising Practices, Opportunities for Philanthropy

At this program, we will look at the growing pool of living wage, middle skills jobs in fields like health care, advanced manufacturing and energy; explore the shortage of qualified workers to fill these jobs; and talk about the renaissance in career and technical education in California as promising pathway that can equip people of all ages to pursue rewarding careers and greater economic mobility. Read More


The Crisis of Black Infant Mortality in Los Angeles

Los Angeles County is seeking to reduce by 30 percent over the next five years the infant mortality gap between black and white babies, which has been growing for the past 20 years due to a complicated mix of social, environmental and health factor, including black mothers’ chronic stress resulting from experiences of racism. Read More


Save the Date! Tongva History Walk

The Tongva History Walk will be organized by Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation - Los Angeles. Details to follow. For more information and to sign up for TRHT-LA communications, Read More



Digital Impact for Foundations

Join SCG and Dr. Lucy Bernholz, Ph.D., Senior Research Scholar, Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS) Digital Civil Society Lab, Stanford University, for an action-oriented workshop that investigates the challenges and opportunities facing foundations in the digital age and provides tools to help them use digital resources safely, ethically and effectively. Read More

View Full List of Upcoming Events