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President's Blog

Bold Solutions for Environmental Change Under a New Administration

Friday, April 9, 2021

SCG's "Urban, Green Infrastructure Under the New Administration" hosted on Friday, February 19, 2021. 


BY SCG GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

 

Radical ideas challenge our norms. Making lasting environmental change calls on us to pull away from traditional solutions and shift toward systems change, which will allow us to think deeper and act boldly. Looking beyond the Green industries to lead us into the future is an opportunity to approach an environmental agenda as it truly is - an economic development, workforce development, and regional plan. This interconnected structure paves the way for leaders across sectors to identify the intersection of engagement and provides an avenue to address how racial, social, and economic realities show up in those areas, applying a community-centric lens to environmental change.
 
To illustrate this approach, SCG called on Alfredo Gonzalez, program director for the Resources Legacy Fund; Calvin Gladney, president of Smart Growth America; Kate Gordon, Director of the Governor's Office of State Planning and Research; and Cecilia Estolano, CEO and founder of Estolano Advisors. The panel brought forth thought-provoking yet practical solutions to what is likely to be a one-shot opportunity to enact a radical approach to environmental change. Looking at California as a model and deconstructing traditional methods to approach environmental solutions at the federal level, philanthropy has a unique opportunity to shift the power dynamics to community organizations that operate in related but different fields.

 

REINFORCE INTERCONNECTIVITY AND INCLUSIVE THINKING

Amplify the multiple benefits of environmental initiatives by supporting the connection between transportation, climate change, public health, racial justice, economic inclusion, and social equity in your funding priorities. By championing organizations enacting inclusive solutions, funders are illustrating the inherently interconnected system that relies on every sector and region to play a role in realizing a shared vision. Groups implementing a water quality project and including educational workshops to help communities understand how they can actively help decrease the heat island effect are doing more with each public dollar while engaging meaningfully with communities. Transportation for America, an advocacy-based organization, made up of local, regional, and state leaders - called for Congress to stop funding like its 1982. Their work challenged the archaic 80/20 transportation funding structure by centering the need of 2.8 million essential workers who rely on transit, supporting a recent resolution presented by Congress members to introduce equal funding between public transit and highways.

 

HONOR THE LIVED EXPERIENCE

Fund your values by trusting community organizations. In honoring their lived experience, funders make space for organizations to feel they have the freedom and capacity to act on solutions that directly reflect, support, and benefit their communities. Ensuring organizations lead the way creates ownership, attracts and fosters authentic engagement, and reinforces shared values. Providing multi-year, unrestricted funding to fuel the organization's ability to apply its dollars to the areas it needs most supports the belief that organizations best understand how inequities may impact their ability to build resiliency and deliver on their mission. Rather than imposing external ideas onto organizations, we can honor their experience by shifting that power dynamic so they may determine how and if they are serving their communities in the best way.

 

FUND THE GOAL, NOT THE PATH

Encourage community organizations to build reflection and experimentation into their work, rather than explicitly telling folks what they need to know. When funders support organizations at this level, they are encouraged to approach methods most authentic to their experience. They challenge perceptions around the role of failure - by way of reflection and experimentation. Empowering organizations to design their path invites them to look at failure as a viable strategy to approach challenges, find solutions and reach goals. It provides the freedom and flexibility to lessen unnecessary burdens and unleashes a sustainable path to learn, evolve and innovate.


 

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How Local Leaders are Addressing a History of Systemic Inequity in South Los Angeles

Friday, April 9, 2021

SCG's "Philanthropy’s Role in Addressing Inequity in South LA and Advancing Policy and Systems Change" program hosted on Thursday, February 25, 2021. 


BY SCG GUEST CONTRIBUTOR


In March 2021, a robust SCG panel of experts celebrated the launch of South Central Rooted, a 2020 report outlining the ways white supremacy and anti-Black racism have perpetuated systemic inequities for Black and brown communities in South LA. Dr. Manuel Pastor, Director of USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE), led the panel conversation on the report and was joined by Barbara Lott Holland, Associate Director of the Labor Community Strategy Center; Karen Mack, Founder of the LA Commons, which promotes diverse neighborhoods through artistic programming; Benny Torres, President and CEO of CDTech, which focuses on community organizing and leadership training; and Laura Muraida, Director of Research and Communications at SCOPE in South Los Angeles. 

The South Central Rooted report was born from conversations among the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Collaborative. The Collaborative wanted to provide a historical analysis of Black and Brown communities’ structural impediments in South LA. From the report, the panelists highlighted four lessons funders can leverage to help community leaders pursue a safer and more equitable future in the region. 

 

1 | IDENTIFY SOUTH LA’S FOUR PRIMARY DRIVERS OF INEQUITY

Drawing from the findings of the South Central Rooted report, four consistent “drivers of disparity” emerged that have kept Black and brown communities, like those of South LA, behind for generations:

1) Gentrification and displacement: The collision of exclusionary housing and a disappearing social safety net has driven a disproportionate amount of uncertainty for communities of color. 
2) Poverty and joblessness: Limited homeownership is reinforced and exacerbated by a lack of equitable public infrastructure spending. 
3) Policing, deportation, and mass incarceration: A pattern of erasure or disruption of families of color persists, as people are routinely locked up or sent away.
4) Environmental racism: Exclusionary housing ultimately shapes the health and parameters surrounding where people of color live, work, and play.

 

2 | REDUCING POLICE PRESENCE

“When someone goes to prison, just the same as when they go to college,” Lott Holland remarked, “it’s as if the whole family goes with them.” The intergenerational impacts of over-policing in South LA, largely in Black neighborhoods, routinely have devastating effects far beyond an arrest’s initial impact. Such circumstances often leave young people in their grandparents’ care or increasingly reliant upon public transportation and other services. As an example of effective leadership on the issue of over-policing, Lott Holland applauded LAUSD Board Member Monica Garcia for initiating a $25 million cut to LAUSD that, last year, ultimately reduced police presence in schools and reinvested the funds in improving equity for Black students. “That means more intermediaries, not cops,” she noted.

 

3 | CHANGING THE NARRATIVE

Local initiatives have begun to leverage the uniquely persuasive power of art and culture to reframe perceptions about L.A.’s under-resourced and underrepresented community. One new initiative, Creating Our Next LA, draws heavily from the passions and collaborations of young artists to reshape the city in the aftermath of COVID-19. An example of this initiative’s transformational output, the Destination: Crenshaw project, galvanized what Mack described as “narrative change through the built environment.” Together, artists used wide-scale artistic expression to claim space for the African-American community in response to Metro transportation that currently cuts through a section of Crenshaw Boulevard. “If [the train] is going to be above-ground,” Mack said, “let’s give [riders] something to see.”

 

4| INVESTING IN INTERSECTIONS

The South Central Rooted report’s multidimensional lenses underscore why stand-alone, issues-based advocacy will not solve the systemic and structural challenges of South L.A. Instead, leaders should champion a plan that considers where gentrification, criminal justice, and school reform overlap. Reluctance to establish sustainable, long-term solutions only means the same challenges are left to re-emerge, again and again. The result reinforces historic disparities between and among underserved communities in South LA, as Black and Latino demographics are left to compete over space and resources.

“The challenge many times is we're very siloed in terms of how we are given resources,” Torres said. “Economic development. Workforce development. Environmental justice. Arts and culture. We have not been able as much to push back and say, ‘Let's have a broader conversation about these issues intersect.’” 
 

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Reflections on Measure J’s Success: A Charter Amendment to Advance Racial Equity in Los Angeles

Monday, March 29, 2021

BY EMILY BRADLEY & ERIC ARES, UNITED WAY OF GREATER LOS ANGELES 

 

Measure J passed in California on November 2020, signaling a critical win in a long-fought battle for greater equity and reform by local advocates. The measure’s campaign was built and executed by BIPOC-led organizations who have been working for over a decade to transform our justice system and reverse structural racism’s long-term devastation of poor communities of color. 

Measure J proposed amending the Los Angeles County Charter to permanently require that at least 10% of locally controlled revenue be invested into low-income communities and alternatives to incarceration. When fully phased in, this will mean upwards of $1 billion for investments in Black, Brown, and low-income neighborhoods that will target public health, housing, safety, jobs, youth programs, wellness, and more. 

United Way of Greater Los Angeles (UWGLA) played an important role in helping get the measure on the ballot, crafting a potential pathway for victory, and facilitating the campaign’s launch before proudly joining the ReimagineLA coalition, alongside and behind community leaders. The measure’s success was also a tremendous commitment by voters to reimagine Los Angeles County’s budget, uplift community-based solutions, and continue our region’s journey toward justice. 

So, how did the ReimagineLA coalition get a historic measure on the ballot and get it passed in only a few months? 

 

1 | We centered BIPOC organizations building a movement for racial equity, justice, and alternatives to incarceration for years. 

For years organizations like La Defensa and Dignity & Power Now and coalitions like JusticeLA have been organizing to advance racial equity and justice in LA County. Our partners have secured significant victories, including a board of supervisors-approved Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) Initiative and “Care First, Jails Last” plan, which contained bold yet unfunded recommendations for reform. Shortly after the ATI initiative launched in May 2020, the recording of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd Jr. spread across the globe. This video was a catalytic moment: the Movement for Black Lives became the largest social movement in U.S. history, with protests demanding structural change at every level of government and society. With only a few months until the 2020 General Election, we connected with Black and Brown-led justice groups to discuss how we could leverage this historic moment’s momentum to forward bold policy actions. 

 

2 | We built a broad cross-cutting coalition of advocates, community organizations, service providers, faith groups, unions, and others that became known as Reimagine LA.

The Reimagine LA Coalition aimed to be as diverse as Los Angeles County. The coalition included abolitionist movement organizers, justice reform advocates, affordable housing providers, tenant rights groups, homeless service providers, homeless rights activists, and many other groups. For many months, coalition leaders worked to leverage long-established relationships with political leadership, lend expertise and capacity, and provide political cover where necessary. Additionally, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors made a strong, public commitment to ATI early in the year when they recognized Measure J’s potential to offer a tangible next step and a source of support for those largely unfunded recommendations. The Board’s early commitment, paired with the coalition’s size and behind-the-scenes efforts, helped ensure that Measure J received majority votes across three board meetings and made it on the ballot.

 

3 | We created a movement-based strategy that rightly situated this campaign as the next step in the larger movement transforming Los Angeles County.

UWGLA offered a proven-strategy it had recently employed in the fight to end homelessness in LA County through Measure H: a county-wide ballot measure that empowered voters to create a mandate where fraught, entrenched politics and policymaking have failed. As UWGLA connected with allies and advocates to build the coalition that would get Measure J on the ballot, we also wanted to test the best political and electoral strategy for success. UWGLA funded a series of polls that revealed considerable public will behind Measure J’s principles, with nearly 60% and higher rates of approval across all polls (and in the end, Measure J passed with 57% of the vote!). Leveraging UWGLA’s ballot experience and drawing on legal advisors, we identified a charter amendment as the most strategic path forward, needing only a simple voter majority (50%+1) while offering a generational change to a generational issue.

 

4 | We focused on targeted digital media, storytelling, and direct voter engagement through a massive phone banking strategy to overcome the pandemic’s obstacles. 

The broad Reimagine LA coalition became crucial in activating its base to support the campaign’s voter engagement, which relied heavily on digital influence and phone banking. With the shelter-in-place orders in effect and COVID-19’s restrictions on physical voter engagement, the Reimagine LA/Measure J Campaign decided to invest heavily in a digital and print earned and paid media strategy. Our engagement strategy centered Black and Brown leaders at the forefront of the racial and carceral justice movement (like Campaign Co-Chairs Eunisses Hernandez and Isaac Bryan) to make the case for Measure J and weave it into the broader arc of the Alternative to Incarceration movement. Our storytelling focused on this moment in history as the time for bold policy, structural change, and justice to reverse generations of historical underinvestment in BIPOC and low-income communities.

We also implemented an aggressive social media strategy to amplify our storytelling efforts. We enlisted Reimagine LA partners (organizers, nurses, social workers, faith leaders, union workers, and many others ) to share their stories and platforms to convince voters that Measure J was a concrete solution to the social problems. In addition to acquiring votes, we also wanted to recruit folks to spread the word since we couldn’t go knocking door-to-door.  We managed to build out a robust phone banking operation, which resulted in over 750,000 calls in a month and that inspired many to reach out to their personal networks, 

 

Final Thoughts: Bay Area fueled the campaign, LA Philanthropy can charge the transformation

On November 3, 2020, Measure J passed with 57% of the vote! While we rejoice in this victory, we also know the work has just begun. Ballot victories are only as impactful as their implementation. The ReImagine LA Committee is now fully engaged in Measure J’s Year 1 implementation, including creating program recommendations and advancing them through the transparent, participatory budgeting process the coalition utilized during the campaign. The Committee continues to fundraise for private support to build out its long-term infrastructure and sustainability and is welcoming new allies, system leaders, and advocates with lived expertise advocates.  

Even though Measure J received broad public support when introduced — amid the global demands for racial justice when countless organizations released statements committing to anti-racism and equity — it was not broadly supported by local philanthropy. Overall, the budget raised to pass Measure J was $3.5M, of which only 17% came from LA-based donors. At the same time, 18 local nonprofit and union organizations, including United Way, stepped up during a challenging year to donate to the campaign. Together, these groups contributed 13% of the overall budget (not including the significant commitment these groups made in in-kind staffing and campaign support). The remaining 60% of the funding supporting this LA ballot measure came from Bay Area donors who made investments totaling $2.2M. Bay Area donors saw the potential this measure had to advance a movement and set a precedent for replication in other communities across the country and were willing to invest in that potential. 

While we were able to pass Measure J with the foundational funding of Bay Area donors, we will not have the same Bay area funding for its implementation. Philanthropic investment, both institutional and individual, is critical to funding change. It will take three years to ramp up to the total 10% County baseline commitment outlined in the ballot initiative. We will need to continue organizing and working during that time to ensure that these dollars flow into community-based and community-held programs. These community-led solutions will slowly undo decades of systematic racism in LA County and build a Los Angeles centered on equity, justice, and wellness for all of its residents. 

Implementation has many spaces for philanthropic engagement and investment. Potential funder actions include: 

  • Learn more about Measure J, L.A. County’s Alternatives to Incarceration Initiative, and Measure J’s Budget and Spending Process
  • Invest in the capacity of committee members to deeply participate in the planning and budgeting process
  • Provide flexible and core support to bolster the network of organizations whose budgets will grow with the infusion of J resources 
  • Fund research, planning, and budget analysis to promote transparency and effectiveness of J funded solutions
  • Support the continued digital communications and design work needed to keep coalition members and supporters educated and engaged throughout this process.

 

We invite the philanthropic sector to stand behind and support the community working to build a more equitable Los Angeles through Measure J. If you’d like to learn more about how you can get involved, we invite you to register for SCG’s 2021 Public Policy Conference, which will host a breakout session dedicated to Measure J’s implementation.  


 

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SCG Policy Blog: What to Know about Community Funded Projects (CFP)

Monday, March 29, 2021

BY DAVID J. CARROLL

 

On March 2021, Southern California Grantmakers, alongside our Philanthropy California partners across the state, participated in United Philanthropy Forum’s first-ever virtual Foundations on the Hill. Given the new federal administration and Congress, it was imperative to bring our collective voice of over 300 philanthropic and philanthropic-serving organizations to Capitol Hill. The Philanthropy California delegation, made up of over 40 members, held nearly 30 Legislative meetings with Democrat and Republican Congressional members and staff, representing the entire State of California. 

As our delegation shared information met with Congresspeople to discuss the importance of supporting charitable giving in policy, Community Funded Projects (CFP) became a prominent and unexpected conversation topic. Community Funded Projects are the new iteration of “earmarks.” Traditionally, earmarks have been provisions attached to a discretionary spending appropriations bill that directs funds to a designated recipient. The earmarks process does not adhere to the merit-based or competitive funds allocation process. Earmarks have not been allowed since 2011 and often carry the perception of being wasteful spending for favors and special interests. However, CPF is a new initiative for Fiscal Year 2022 that will enable Members of Congress to request direct funding for projects that benefit the communities they represent. The initiative will include strict eligibility, ethics, and transparency to eliminate past perceptions of earmarks and are strictly for the use of nonprofit, governmental, and tribal organizations. 

To access CFP resources, organizations must apply directly to the Congressperson representing the district they wish to support. Each Congressional District will have up to 10 projects they can forward to Appropriations, who will make the final decisions. Republican representatives of Congress have indicated that their caucus has not decided if they will support CFP’s; however, they will accept project proposals to be held if they choose to participate. 

This funding is for the Fiscal Year 2022 and does not offer multi-year support. Congresswoman Nanette Barragan was the most intentional about soliciting applications and provided some additional guidance for those wishing to participate. Her advice for any submitted projects is that they be visible in the community, have matching funds available, and can be completed/partially completed in the fiscal year awarded. Congresswoman Barragan provided additional information regarding the funds, application, and process below. 

Community Funded Projects offer an opportunity to significantly reduce philanthropy’s responsibility to meet funding gaps and increase our sector’s overall impact. Given that CPF is limited to nonprofit agencies and governmental entities, the funds are realistically attainable and can provide hundreds of thousands of funding. These projects, by design, are meant to be short-term and visibly impactful. Nonprofits can work with elected Congresspeople to engage in projects that create real and immediate benefits to communities. Inherent to CFP’s is the incentive to collaborate. These funds have to provide matching resources for approval. Philanthropy and nonprofit can use CFP funding to create public-private partnerships and leverage resources in a way that can make an exponential impact for both the funder and nonprofit alike.  

While we expect CPF to be available every year, this year’s turnaround is very short, with most offices requesting applications by the end of March or early April. All have expressed some flexibility but will need to submit the recommended projects to Appropriations by mid-April. If you're interested in CPF, we highly recommend you visit your representative's website or contact them directly to learn if they are accepting applications. 

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Rejecting Invisibility: Adele Lee's Opening Remarks from the TRHT Emergency Town Hall: Responding to Anti-Asian Violence

Thursday, March 25, 2021

BY ADELE LEE

 

My name is Adele Lee. I am the daughter of Korean immigrants and was born and raised in Los Angeles. As I prepared for an emergency town hall with the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation family around the country, I struggled to find the right words to share. It was difficult because, at any given moment, I am still processing feelings of anger, grief, fear, and sadness. As the names, ages, and information about the Asian Americans murdered in Atlanta were released, I got especially choked up because one of the Korean women shares the same name as my aunt, who too has a son about the same age as hers. Like my aunt, my mother, and countless other Asian women, she came to America to find a better opportunity for her family. It has been very challenging to sleep or eat, thinking about those who were killed, their families, and friends while also feeling fearful for my life and my loved ones.

The tragedy in Atlanta also brought up many suppressed feelings about my own experiences as an Asian woman — buried memories of all the times I’ve been exoticized and fetishized — as an object, not a person, as a character to some fantasy.  I’ve been asked by complete strangers what kind of sexual favors I can do for them, which anime character they think I resemble. And before I can even put together a sentence, they are quick to respond that it’s just a joke or that I should be flattered.  

I think about the countless times separate and together with racial fetishizations that I’ve been the target of racial slurs, the mimicking of my language, my eyes, and the way I laugh. I think about all the times I had to just bear it because I didn’t have the language as a child. As I got older, I was afraid if I spoke up, it could turn violent. I then had to replay those moments and live with the shame that I didn’t do more.

To say targeting six Asian women is not a race issue or a gendered issue is entirely unacceptable. This denial minimizes and erases my experience as an Asian woman, our identities, our history, and also that of other women of color. 

Part of the experience of being Asian in America feels like yelling into a dark void. I imagine we are not alone in this feeling. It feels like when you scream, people see you but do not hear it., Or you are told, “Why are you screaming? You have it so good in this country.” And then you begin to doubt yourself and think, why am I screaming when no one seems to care, or am I making a fuss, or maybe I should just be grateful for what I have. And so we too add to our own invisibility.

I know that Asian Americans also contribute to our invisibility. We don’t share our racial traumas with each other, our elders, or our kids. Perhaps because of our own internalized racism or some lingering effects of the model minority myth to not make noise, to not call attention to ourselves, to say our pain is not as horrific as other people of color. But we know that this behavior enables white supremacy, which makes us feel small, fight against each other, and feel alone and insignificant. 

And so we need to fight together against white supremacy — let’s make noise, let’s grieve, let’s start a process of healing with ourselves, with each other, and with other communities because our fight is intertwined.  

In the honest space where our TRHT community came together, I don’t feel so small. I feel seen — especially with my chosen family in solidarity. 

 

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A Personal Account on Anti-Asian Violence, Hatred, Grief, and Fear

Thursday, March 25, 2021

BY PHUONG PHAM

 

My heart feels sick like a dark, bloated & bleeding fish
The water in my chest is rotten & murky
I cry all day to try & drain it out of me
Every day, I watch as our elders are being turned into plums
Soft round faces full of bulging bruises
Our elders are shoved, made to fly through the air
89 years old, 91 years old, flying
Then found bent in strange configurations on the cement
Question: Do you know what it feels like when the media feeds us the shooters’ first, middle & last name, interviews his grandparents, spreads his photo so that I cannot unsee the shape of his glasses and texture of his beard?
It feels like six Asian women are depicted as uniform, nondescript bowling pins
While he is cast as the main character deciding the fate of their lives
Destroying them at the whim of his own emotions
I watch the media crawl through his mind, spending time in tunnels of his thoughts to find morsels of humanness to assign to his motivations
[...]
Follow-up question: How cruel is it that marginalized communities live with the knowing that they must not only fear death, but also disappearing?

Chanel Miller 

 

In the days following the Atlanta hate crime killing eight people — six of which were women of Asian descent — it’s been difficult to have conversations with my parents. They are 8,000 miles away across the Pacific Ocean, are ridden with worries for my safety, and ask questions I could hardly bear to answer. 

How do I explain to my parents that it is no longer surprising to hear of violence and mass shootings? 

A year ago, at the beginning of a pandemic that would eventually take over half a million lives in the U.S., harmful narratives blaming China for the coronavirus turned into violence as anti-Asian racism and xenophobia increased exponentially. Since March 2020, more than 3,500 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate. The history of violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander didn’t start with last year or last week. It started with the first migrants coming to America in the 19th Century, followed by racial segregation, discriminatory laws, massacres, and hate crimes.

How do I tell them that today’s trauma is very much connected to theirs?

Underlying anti-Asian racism is white supremacy and U.S. imperialism, a tangled web of war policies, militarization, and dehumanization of Asians. In my family, we don’t talk about the American war in Vietnam as those who survived would simply prefer to forget. In the U.S., we neglect to educate ourselves about the violence of settler colonialism and its imperial power. 

How do I describe being objectified and feeling small?

I could recall countless times being catcalled — being called “china doll” by men on the streets. There were several instances when someone I had just met immediately started guessing where I’m from based on my accent. I can think of multiple occasions when people speak comically slower — emphasizing every word — to make sure I understand their English.  

How do I even begin to express the gripping grief and fear? 

It might be a while until I could fully unpack how different my experience as an immigrant may be from my parents’ vision of the American dream without keeping them awake at night. From elders not feeling safe, to refugees being deported, to massage workers facing deadly misogyny — there isn’t anything new but it has been a lot to hold.

As an Asian American woman working in philanthropy, I lean on the support of my adopted families, friends, and colleagues; I learn from and live into the vision of leaders who have dedicated their lives to anti-racist work and community care. With the abundance of community wisdom and energy, I believe that we can learn, unlearn, heal, and act. Here are some learnings and resources for your considerations.

 

Solidarity against white supremacy.

In our battle against violence toward the AAPI community, we must fight against narratives that pit Asian and Black communities against each other. Our liberation is intertwined. See resources on Black/Asian solidarity.

 

Asian American isn’t a monolithic identity.

Cathy Park Hong and Morgan Ome reminded us that the term Asian American was created by the Vietnam War and the Black Power movement and by student organizers who were envisioning a pan-Asian, anti-racist, anti-imperialist movement. It isn’t a monolithic identity, but an intersectional coalition. More on why we turn to intersectionality to confront anti-Asian violence, read a blog from my colleague Alice Hom of Northern California Grantmakers. to better understand the history of Asian Americans in our country, watch PBS’s series Asian Americans.

 

Policing is not the answer.

With the rise of violence, there has been a call for more policing from leaders. Increased policing, which is rooted in white supremacy and anti-Blackness, has never been the solution to racism against communities of color. What’s powerful, supportive, and healing are mutual aid resources, community defense networks (Stop AAPI hate, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Bystander Intervention Training), and mental wellness support.

 

Turn statements into actions.

Speaking up and vocalizing your support for the AAPI community is an important first step. However, it isn’t enough. 

 

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The Face and the Flow of Finance: How Impact Investing can Move the Racial and Gender Wealth Gap  

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

BY PHUONG PHAM & KATIE JANOWIAK

 

This year, the women’s suffrage movement’s centennial celebrations were extended to commemorate the historic victory guaranteeing women’s institutional right to vote. As we honor Black, Native American, Asian American, and Latinx women suffragists in history, their stories painfully remind us that the 19th Amendment excluded women of color. A century later, women of color still face enormous barriers to achieve true equality. 

The Equal Pay Day movement highlighted that working women earn about 79 cents on the dollar compared to men. If the income gap outrages us, the women’s wealth gap is even more sobering. According to Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap (CWWG), women own only 32 cents on the dollar compared to men; for women of color, the gap widens to pennies on the dollar. Gender inequality compounded with the legacy of systemic racism makes women of color economically insecure. This blog explores the wealth gap that perpetuates inequalities and how gender lens investing can be an essential tool for philanthropy to tackle this barrier. 

 

Access to Capital and the Economic Disparity

Black and Latinx women are two of the fastest-growing groups of business owners in the United States. In 2019, women of color represented 39% of the total female population in the U.S. but accounted for 89% of the net new women-owned businesses per day. And yet, according to Goldman Sachs, less than 1% of all venture funding goes to Black and Latinx-led women-founded companies. 

“Black women are some of the most highly educated borrowers, but some may carry a high debt burden because they’ve taken on student loans,” said Shadiya Hagisufi of Accion, a nonprofit lender committed to bringing affordable small business loans to microentrepreneurs. As an underwriter who has worked in both nonprofit finance and traditional financial institutions, Shadiya looks at a borrower’s debt-to-income ratio as one input to calculate a loan’s risks. Shadiya believes a new, creative, and holistic approach is needed to ensure equitable access to capital and she values working at Accion, where holistic approaches are encouraged. As a woman of color and an immigrant, Shadiya calls for investors to understand that there are no monoliths and to carefully consider each borrower’s lived experiences. 

“It puts more work on underwriters, but we must balance risk assessments with opportunity for impact,” Shadiya said. 

 

Racial Equity and Gender Lens Investing

Gender lens investing promotes gender equity and addresses gender issues — such as women’s leadership and products, services, and practices that improve women and girls’ lives. “Gender lens and racial justice investing are no longer a case that needs to be made, but an approach that is sought after and becoming a fundamentally necessary approach for any impact investing strategy,” said Heather Marie Burke of MissionDriven Finance (MDF)an impact investing firm dedicated to building a financial system that ensures good businesses have sufficient affordable access to capital.

Mission Driven Finance’s approach is consistent with Shadiya’s guidance: Constantly look for ways to say yes to tenacious small businesses and nonprofits. Yes to their vision for impact, yes to their plans for growth, and yes to their understanding of what kind of capital they need and when to realize those plans.

“This may seem like a simple equation, but it’s a kind of radical act in the field of finance where most lenders ask borrowers to fit in a specific box,” Burke said. “The act of listening to women and BIPOC communities is in and of itself a transformative act.”

Mission Driven Finance is optimistic that they are not alone in the quest to change the face and flow of finance, a strategy well encapsulated in their Community Finance Fellowship. They stand alongside an incredible growing community of lenders, impact investors, activists, and businesses — including the Indigenous Women’s Investment Fund advisory council with Native Women Lead; Inclusive Capital Collective, incubated by Zebras Unite and Common Future; the J.E.D.I Collaborative; Social Venture Circle’s community capital working group and restorative investing initiative; and signatories of the Responsible Business Lending Coalition’s Small Business Borrowers Bill of Rights, Racial Justice Investing’s investor statement of solidarity to address systemic racism, Confluence Philanthropy’s Belonging Pledge, and the Due Diligence Commitment. “We are very intentional about engaging in the inclusive finance ecosystem in ways that complement, challenge, and advance our work,” said Burke.

 

Role of Philanthropy

Mission Driven Finance believes that philanthropy can do more to catalyze private capital for the public good. For community foundations and donor-advised fund holders, this may look like engaging DAFs to make first-loss investments in local small businesses. Burke explains that for institutional philanthropy, this means—as a start—digging into a leverage strategy for philanthropic dollars by asking: How can we draw capital to a solution by taking an early lead or assuming a junior or gap-filling position in a capital stack? By moving to a truly mission-first stance on capital allocation — beyond the preservation of capital — Burke believes that philanthropy has the power to mobilize money in pursuit of mission more than ever before.

“The cultural weight and norm-setting ability of philanthropy of all kinds should not be underestimated to shift the flow of capital for good,” Burke advises.

“Building a new financial system with a feminist and racial justice lens that works for and includes everyone? That’s not so easy, but it’s happening. And that is why we stay ever optimistic,” Burke concludes.
 

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Through Philanthropy California, SCG and Catalyst have a shared, robust calendar of impact investing learning opportunities planned in 2021 and a cohort-based investment collaborative. Visit our impact investing page to learn more and to get engaged. 

 

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"Stories of Abundance": How Women’s Foundation California is Advancing Gender Justice Through Narrative Change

Friday, March 12, 2021

BY EDDY GONZALEZ

 

Women’s Foundation California is a statewide, publicly supported foundation committed to realizing racial, economic, and gender justice. Recently, the Foundation has taken a strong interest in the emergent field of “culture change” to help advance its vision of justice by influencing and reimagining our nation’s most pervasive narratives and beliefs. For Women’s Foundation of California, investing in long-term culture change has become as critical as engaging in policy and advocacy work. 

“We recognized that policy and legislative action were not enough to erase the disadvantages that women, girls, transgender, and gender-nonconforming people – especially those from communities of color and low-income communities – face in our society,” stated Bia Vieira, Chief Strategist of Programs at the Women’s Foundation. “The reality is we need to change attitudes and build broad public support before and while we achieve legislative change, or we risk regressing and fighting an uphill battle.” 

The Foundation decided to establish the California Gender Justice Funders Network, a collaboration with a diverse group of funders, including Blue Shield of California Foundation, Fondation CHANEL, and The California Endowment, to advance the national conversation on gender justice and liberation. The Network is the first collaborative focused on the intersection of culture change and gender justice and convened by Women’s Foundation and its state partner, Philanthropy California

The Network’s first project was launching the Culture Change Fund – a $10 million initiative focused on using narrative power to change public perceptions on a broad range of gender justice issues, including racism, pay-equity, gender-based violence, maternal health, contraception, and broader reproductive justice and gender justice matters. The Fund also explores how funders can support grassroots organizations and movement leaders in employing culture as a tool to change the hearts and minds of communities. 

In March 2020, SCG connected with Bia Vieira to discuss the Culture Change Fund’s launch and their initial learnings from its research phase, Story at Scale. As the COVID outbreak took hold of the world, SCG paused the conversation to allow both organizations to focus on the pandemic response. This year, we reconnected with Bia to learn more about how the Culture Change Fund shifted its priorities in response to crises, the campaigns it supported during a critical election year, and why investing in long-term culture change continues to be necessary. 


How would you define gender justice?

BV: Gender justice is a framework used to bring about the fair and equitable treatment of people of all genders to achieve joy, justice, and dignity. To this day, Black and brown communities, transwomen, low-income women, and many other groups continue to experience unprecedented levels of criminalization, poverty, and other forms of systemic violence. We know that the pandemic has worsened many of the inequities those communities were already facing. Gender justice serves people directly impacted by gender-based oppression and ensures that they have access to the resources they need to live their lives to the fullest. 

 

What inspired the California Gender Justice Network to create the Culture Change Fund? 

BV: The Culture Change Fund idea stemmed from the feedback our funders received from their partners, who noticed they were entirely focused on policy efforts and were missing strategies to connect with folks at the heart level. Community leaders asked funders to support civic engagement work and build their capacity to tell stories to change minds. After these conversations, the Gender Justice Network began exploring storytelling’s potential to build a bridge between the people and the issues funders were trying to address. The Fund emerged from the Network asking, What does it mean to do culture change work? How can we use it to enact enduring change? And how can we support our partners in doing that work?  

 

Why do you believe storytelling is an important tool for women, the LGBTQ+ community, and other folks from historically underrepresented backgrounds?

BV: Stories humanize us. Getting to know someone's journey, where they came from, and what they’ve done is incredibly moving. However, the stories of trans and non-binary folks, poor communities, people of color, immigrants, and many others are not prevalent. When people’s experiences are not shared, it becomes easier to dehumanize and “other” them. Stories bring us together, and it becomes harder to ignore or erase a person when you feel a connection to them. Uplifting historically marginalized communities’ experiences helps bolster the cultural narrative that everyone deserves to access a fulfilling and just life.

 

The first stage of the Culture Change Fund was a research phase called Story at Scale. What did you learn in your preliminary research?

BV: The Culture Change Fund began with a robust research phase called Story at Scale, a narrative research project to provide artists and advocates with data-driven insights to create campaigns and stories to advance their efforts. For about a year, we worked with the preeminent researchers on culture change and narrative change work, Liz Mann and Ricky Conway, to discover the tools and stories with the potential to resonate with people across the nation. Our researchers conducted a national survey with about 7,000 participants alongside a set of more in-depth interviews that asked questions regarding pay equity, gender identity, leadership, and other justice-related topics. We intentionally created an inclusive research process by actively including people with lived experiences, including queer people, communities of color, and folks from different financial realities. 

While our initial findings showed that many people care about gender justice and equity issues, it also revealed that many other folks still hold rigid and conventional beliefs about gender norms. Nevertheless, we were encouraged by a messaging test we ran with fourteen different videos. One of the videos that received the most traction was Ultraviolet, which featured a trans, non-binary individual reading a letter to their father. Regardless of your knowledge or familiarity with non-binary folks, the video got traction because it was fundamentally about a child writing a heartfelt message to their parent. While we still have to reckon with the contrasting ideologies and beliefs represented in our data, the traction Ultraviolet received made us hopeful that we can sway people through storytelling.  

 

What tools and strategies emerged from the Story at Scale research?

BV: We need more than one person’s account, one headline, or one communication strategy to shift culture. We need to fill our cultural landscape with stories from folks who have been historically silenced, erased, and not represented. The Story at Scale research culminated with a new set of tools to help tell underrepresented communities’ stories and achieve culture change. The tools were the Story Platform, a core narrative to achieve gender justice, and the Story Pillars, a set of six “storytelling areas” to help artists and activists craft stories that can influence the public. We hope organizations use the Story Platform and Pillars to develop effective storytelling campaigns to reach critical audiences and further their organizing, advocacy, and narrative efforts. 

 

How did the Culture Change Fund adapt its implementation phase in response to the crises of 2020?

BV: We began implementing the completed Story at Scale research in March 2020 alongside Harness, The Center for Cultural Power, The League, and IllumiNative. These four organizations are our anchor partners who have developed this project with us from the start. As the COVID pandemic intensified globally, we knew we needed to resource our anchor partners and the Fund’s other grantees more quickly and substantially. We awarded $2 million to help our grantees navigate the crises and pivot their storytelling campaigns. The pandemic forced all of us to lean into experimentation, rethink what was mandatory, and innovate whenever possible. We continued to virtually convene a community of practice with funders, activists, artists, and researchers to build a living library of resources and host learning lessons, half of which have focused on sharing and implementing the Story at Scale research. Additionally, we have continued the Culture Shift 101 series to apply the tools of Cultural Strategy. 

 

Can you share some of the campaigns and projects your partners launched in 2020?

  • The Center for Cultural Power produced a beautiful gender justice coloring book titled, All Bodies Deserve: Creating the Future of Us distributed in digital and physical formats. The Center invited various gender-expansive artists to contribute to the coloring book to capture and celebrate different genders, bodies, and expressions. 
  • Prism produced six gender justice stories by writers of color based on the Story Pillars. They also developed Sex Positivity and the Arts, a series that explored “how sex-positivity embodies and intersects with liberation and self-determination.” 
  • She The People produce​d ​a 6-part docuseries following founder, political strategist Aimee Allison and four community organizers on a mission to mobilize one million women of color across America to vote in 2020.
  • IllumiNative, in collaboration with the Center for Native American Youth and the Native Organizers Alliance, launched The Indigenous Futures Project (IFP) to “gather and disseminate critical information and strategies about the priorities and needs of Native communities in preparation for the 2020 election.”
  • Culture Surge was a collaboration between all four of our anchor partners that served as an accelerator for building narrative power before the 2020 election. Cultural Surge connected a broad coalition of changemakers to advance critical narratives across issues and campaigns and maximize the cultural impact that could lead to change.

 

Many of your partners launched campaigns focused on the 2020 election. Did the election and the insurrection on the Capitol prompt any reflections on the narratives currently taking hold of our culture?

BV: The last administration fostered a powerful national narrative that activated and emboldened white supremacy. The administration told a segment of the population that this country belongs to them and that other groups are trying to take it away. This narrative lends itself to violence by stoking racial division; people become protective of their group and aggressive toward anyone who falls outside it. The narrative of “me first” and “me against the world” is still present and growing. Advocates for racial justice and equity will need culture change to create cracks in this dangerous narrative, especially in 2022. There are many entry points — we can talk about community, shared values, our family, and our neighborhoods to craft compelling messages. It’s important to understand that culture change work is not an endpoint; it’s an ongoing, long-term strategy. 

 

How can the SCG network support the efforts of the Gender Justice Network and the Culture Change Fund?

BV: The intersection of culture change and gender justice is still a nascent field. There are many opportunities to create new initiatives together that advance and transform gender justice through cultural strategies. Grantmakers are always welcome to join the California Gender Justice Funders Network. We are also still looking for partners for the Culture Change Fund. We want to ensure that there’s longevity to culture change work and that it continues to be supported by a robust set of philanthropic and community-based partners. You can email Jane Lin, [email protected]a.org at  Women's Foundation to learn more. Folks interested in learning more about our work can join our many upcoming community learning opportunities

 


 

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President's Blog: Honoring the Life and Legacy of Biddy Mason, One of L.A.'s First Philanthropists

Friday, March 12, 2021

Dear SCG Community,

 

Last week, I was delighted to see NBC Los Angeles recognize the life and legacy of Biddy Mason for International Women’s Day and highlight the Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation, one of TRHT-LA’s recent grant recipients. For several years, SCG and TRHT-LA have celebrated Biddy Mason's birthday and commemorated her philanthropic work and efforts to build a Black community in today’s Downtown Los Angeles. 

Biddy was born into enslavement in Georgia and forcibly relocated to Southern California in the early 1850s. After winning her freedom in 1856, Biddy pursued a career in medicine and steadily built her wealth through real estate investments in a budding Los Angeles. She became a renowned philanthropist, co-founded the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, and continuously invested in the Black community. Today, Biddy is considered the “Grandmother of Los Angeles,” and her story has started to gain wider recognition. 

As we celebrate Women’s History Month on the heels of Black History Month, I would like to honor Biddy Mason’s legacy, not only as one of our region’s first philanthropists but also as a Black woman who overcame unimaginable prejudice and inequity in 19th century America. In many ways, Biddy modeled a giving practice that is still relevant today: one centered and led by communities most impacted by injustice. However, the lives and contributions of Black women — and women of intersectional identities more broadly — are often forgotten or actively erased from our nation’s history. Women have always been at the forefront of movements advancing our communities, culture, and policies in more equitable directions. As our sector recognizes Women’s History Month, we’d be remiss not to remember and learn from women like Biddy Mason, who advocated for her community even as she navigated multiple levels of oppression. 

Today, we are still fighting against the legacies of systemic racism, sexism, and all their intersections. Women, and particularly women of color, have been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The California Budget and Policy Center reports that Black and Latinx women’s employment fell by over 20% in the pandemic’s early months. Today, women of color are also still struggling to navigate the pandemic financially. Even as we remain hopeful that the Equality Act will advance through Congress — and provide federal protection for many women, people of color, and LGBTQ people who experience gender-based oppression and sex discrimination — we recognize it is still an uphill battle, culturally and in the Senate. 

I believe gender justice is a critical lens to apply to our systems change work. As Bia Viera, Chief Strategist at the Women’s Foundation of California, defines in our spotlight of the Culture Change Fund, “gender justice is a framework used to bring about the fair and equitable treatment of people of all genders, and that aims to provide them with the resources they need to achieve joy, justice, and dignity.” This month, we would like to elevate the efforts and voices of people advancing gender justice in our network through various focus areas, including narrative change, impact investing, and climate change efforts. We hope that this month, you celebrate the legacies of women historically excluded from our collective history and join one of the many initiatives to advance gender justice in our culture. 

 

In Partnership,

Christine Essel

President & CEO, Southern California Grantmakers

 

 

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Integrating Racial and Gender Justice into Climate Resilience Efforts

Friday, March 12, 2021

BY ALAN KWOK 

Climate change is not the problem. Climate change is the most horrible outcome of an economic system built for a few and meant to extract all of the precious value from this planet and its people.

Colette Pichon Battle, Climate Justice Advocate & Executive Director, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy.

 

The Biden/Harris administration has begun to reverse the previous administration’s dismantling and rollback of over 100 climate and environmental rules that govern our country’s clean air, water, and toxic chemicals. As we commend these actions, we also want to recognize the frontline communities and leaders who’ve paved the way for the climate justice movement and who’ve been at the forefront of fighting injustice. Women and women of color, in particular, have led many of these battles. Unfortunately, organizations and movements led by women and communities of color have faced decades of under-investment from the philanthropic sector, especially compared to their white-led counterparts. 

To achieve climate justice, we must adopt an intersectional approach that prioritizes the agendas of those working to advance racial, gender, and economic justice. Southern California Grantmakers and Philanthropy California believe that solutions to the climate crisis must be designed and implemented by communities closest to the problems. An intersectional approach requires philanthropy to reframe disaster and accelerate financial and relational investments in BIPOC-led and women-led organizations and movements, especially those serving communities most at risk of and impacted by climate change. 

SCG and the Philanthropy California will continue to partner with frontline leaders to support community-led solutions, mobilize funders across California to prevent and address natural hazards like wildfire, and advocate for the growing importance of a Just Transition. Below, you’ll find some recommendations on how philanthropy can support frontline efforts. There's no neutrality in this climate justice – either we choose to help organizations advance equitable solutions and policies, or we choose to maintain the status quo and continue perpetuating systemic inequities.

 

Rethink climate change 

We need to shift how we think about the climate crisis. We recommend listening to the TED Talk by Colette Pichon Battle at Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy and read the commentary on climate feminism by Belguun Bat-Erdene at Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights.

 

Direct money to where it counts

A new Initiative, Climate Funders Justice Pledge, calls for 30% of climate funding to back justice groups led by people of color. In California, we are fortunate to have a network of POC-led nonprofits and coalitions - several of which are led by women of color - that address intersectional issues of climate justice, health, workforce, criminal justice, and economic justice. Our partners include the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA), Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), and Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, among others.

 

Engage in advocacy efforts

Philanthropy has the power to embrace advocacy and influence legislation. Several bills have been introduced that tackle the intersectional issues of gender and climate justice, including the Protecting Moms and Babies Against Climate Change Act, as part of the Black Maternal Mominbus Act of 2021, and the Women and Climate Change Act of 2021

 

Support power building in frontline communities

Systems change won't happen unless communities prod and poke. Community organizing affects local, state, and federal policies that address community inequities and lift everyone. Resourcing community organizing is essential to ensuring long-term equity. SCG hosted a program on the importance of grassroots leadership and advancing systems change in South LA. 


 

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Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation-Los Angeles Awards Grants to Fifteen Organizations Dedicated to Racial Justice and Liberation

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation-Los Angeles (TRHT-LA), one of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s fourteen TRHT regions across the country, has awarded 18 grants totaling $223,800 to 15 partners in Southern California. Established by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) is a comprehensive, national and community-based process to plan for and bring about transformational and sustainable change to address the historic and contemporary effects of racism. 

Since 2016, Southern California Grantmakers (SCG) has coordinated the TRHT-LA effort by fostering collaboration with philanthropy, nonprofits, government, business, and community partners. SCG is a robust network of 325 grantmakers working to advance transformative change by mobilizes philanthropy to learn and take bold actions

As TRHT-LA approaches the end of its Kellogg grant and partnership in April 2021, the Los Angeles team had the unique opportunity to redistribute its unspent grant dollars back into the community. TRHT-LA regranted $223,800 in unused funds to organizations whose mission aligns with the TRHT’s values of truth, racial justice, healing, transformation, and liberation. Additionally, TRHT-LA prioritized organizations facing increased funding cuts due to crises and who are engaged in COVID response and racial justice efforts. For many grantees, these funds were vital for sustaining their work during turbulent times. 

TRHT-LA awarded three types of one-time grants to help advance the work of their grantees: six organizations received $20,000 General Operating Support Grants; three organizations received Partner Program Grants that include program design support from TRHT-LA and the funds needed to bolster existing programs; nine organizations received Program Support Grants of varying amounts to develop new programs and sustain reoccurring ones.  

TRHT-LA implemented a grantmaking process founded on trust-based principles. Instead of requesting applications, TRHT-LA leaned into its network and long-standing relationships to select its grantees. The team prioritized historically underfunded organizations and partners serving local communities, with most of its grants going to regions in Los Angeles county. TRHT-LA also focused on supporting organizations that work primarily with communities of color to bolster their leadership, racial justice, and healing efforts. In addition to allowing grantees to determine the size of their grant, TRHT-LA has decided not to engage in reporting or evaluation. 

“We are committed to upholding the principles of trust-based philanthropy by trusting our partners to lead the work,” said Adele Lee, Director of TRHT-LA. “We don’t believe in creating additional obstacles by having our partners “prove” their efforts. We value and believe in their mission, and that is enough.” 

Yet, TRHT-LA was honest about the limitations of awarding one-time grants in a trust-based practice. The team held candid conversations with every grantee about their plans to sustain their efforts after the funds expire. TRHT-LA will continue to have frequent communication with their partners and are open to future collaborations. 

Chris Essel, President & CEO of SCG, stated, “We are incredibly proud of everything TRHT-LA has accomplished in our region over the past four years and are excited to continue their work in a new form. We hope that TRHT-LA’s legacy serves as a model of the practices and frameworks needed to advance the philanthropic sector in more equitable directions.”

 

LIST OF TRHT-LA GRANTEES

 

  • Armory Center for the Arts: Armory Center for the Arts is a national leader for contemporary art exhibitions and community arts education. The Armory believes that an understanding and appreciation of the arts is essential for a well-rounded human experience and a healthy community.  
  • The Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation: The Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation provides quality services and support to current and former foster youth through innovative programs and collaborative initiatives with community partners.
  • California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ): The California Conference for Equality and Justice is a human relations organization dedicated to eliminating bias, bigotry, and racism through education, conflict resolution, and advocacy.
  • California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA): CIYJA is a statewide immigrant youth-led alliance that focuses on placing immigrant youth in advocacy and policy delegations in order to ensure pro-immigrant policies go beyond legalization, and shed light on how the criminalization of immigrants varies based on identity.
  • COLORS LGBTQ+ Youth Counseling Services: COLORS’ mission is to ensure that LGBTQ+ identified youth have the mental health support they need in order to walk into their adulthood affirmed in their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and are able to achieve their full potential while supporting strong and productive relationships with their families, partners and other community members.
  • embRACE LA: embRACE LA seeks to foster understanding, healing, and growth throughout Los Angeles by building authentic relationships, changing existing narratives, and advancing public policy solutions. Through a wide variety of programs and strategies, embRACE LA is an unprecedented partnership between government, organizations, and residents.
  • Greenstone Farm and Sanctuary: Greenstone Farm and Sanctuary's mission is to nurture people's holistic wellbeing through the healing power of gardens. They help well-being seekers find feelings of nourishment and belonging, by leveraging the power of the thousands of Healing Gardens in urban spaces across the world.
  • In My Skin: In My Skin was produced by Tatiana Zamir and showcases artists embodying their vision for the future - dancing chronicles of protest and liberation, reclamation, and hope.  
  • Initiate Justice: Initiate Justice's mission is to end mass incarceration by activating the power of the people it directly impacts. They organize members, both inside and outside of prisons, to advocate for their freedom and change criminal justice policy in California. They have more than 30,000 incarcerated members, 135 inside organizers, and hundreds more outside members and organizers throughout California.
  • Japanese American Cultural & Community Center: A hub for Japanese and Japanese American arts and culture and a community gathering place for the diverse voices it inspires—Japanese American Cultural & Community Center connects traditional and contemporary; community participants and creative professionals; Southern California and the world beyond.
  • Las Fotos Project: Las Fotos Project is a community-based nonprofit organization that inspires teenage girls through photography, mentorship, and self-expression. Offering year-round programming, they provide girls with access to professional cameras, quality instruction, and workshops that encourage them to explore their identity,  build leadership and advocacy skills, and strengthen their social and emotional well-being.
  • Sacred Place Institute: The Sacred Place Institute builds the capacity of Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples to protect sacred lands, waters, and cultures
  • Soy Africano: Soy Africano highlights the overlooked history and widespread influence of latin music in West Africa by showcasing the ways in which clave­-based Cuban music and New York Salsa were embraced by Africans, and led to thriving “latin afro” scenes in countries like Senegal, Benin, Guinea and the Congo. Dexter Story will direct and curate the Grand Performances concert on Saturday, June 18, 2021.  
  • Vigilant Love: Vigilant Love actively counters Islamophobic policies that support the Mosque-to-Prison Pipeline. Their policy advocacy is strategized in partnership with a strong coalition of Los Angeles-based organizations. The primary policy Vigilant Love advocates against in Los Angeles is Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). 
  • 580 Cafe by Wesley Foundation Serving UCLA: 580 Café is a space for students to break bread & build relationships through food, conversation, study, and arts.

 

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Four Years of Transformative Change and Learning with Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation-Los Angeles

Thursday, February 18, 2021

BY ADELE LEE

In April 2021, our Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation-Los Angeles partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will come to a close. After being a part of TRHT-LA for four years, I would like to share some of the most impactful lessons I've learned in my time advocating for transformative change in our region. 

 

To heal, grow, and make progress, our society must have a greater awareness of our history.

For hundreds of years, our country’s history was written to enshrine white supremacy and silence the voices of Black, Indigenous, and people of color. From the history of redlining and racist housing policy, to the landscape of Downtown Los Angeles that has erased the histories of the Tongva and Gabrieleno people, to the long legacies of enslavement where Africans were forcibly embarked on slave ships to the Americas, truth-telling has been a grounding and humbling element of our work. SCG will continue to honor and confront our past to pave the ways for racial healing. 
 

Authentic relationship-building is grounded in trust, generosity, and reciprocity.

While organizing the Tongva History Walk of Downtown Los Angeles, we prepared a meeting agenda and plan of action. In response to our logistical questions, local Tongva leaders asked us about our family histories, roots, and values. Even with the best intentions, we still made mistakes and truly felt the meaning of progress moving at the speed of trust. There were countless moments when our errors were met with generosity and grace. We feel immense gratitude for our partners who have taught us to listen deeply and build trust.
 

Self-reflection and personal transformation are integral in racial justice.

We can’t create systems change without personal transformation — without living into our values and acknowledging our truths. The process of self-education and self-reflection might be different for all of us. This practice is essential even when we are fully committed to advancing racial justice. There is so much to learn and unlearn that dismantling deep-rooted racism will require a lifetime of interrogating ourselves and sustaining accountability at the personal level. 
 

Healing justice is essential in addressing intergenerational trauma and oppression.

By hosting numerous community gatherings to talk about our own lived experiences, our ancestral pain and joy, and the impacts of racism on all of us, we learned that open and difficult dialogues have the power to start the healing process. It can be liberatory to bring the conversations and rituals - that generally happen in our living rooms and kitchen tables -- and share in appropriate spaces with neighbors, colleagues, and community members. In addition to normalizing community dialogues, we acknowledge that people of color embody intergenerational trauma and began to explore different modalities of healing justice practices to sustain our collective wellbeing as a community.
 

As TRHT-LA approaches the end of its Kellogg grant, the Los Angeles team had the unique opportunity to redistribute our unspent grant dollars back into the community we've served for four years. Today, we are excited to share that TRHT-LA has awarded $223,800 in one-time grants to 15 local organizations whose mission aligns with the TRHT’s values of truth, racial justice, healing, transformation, and liberation. Our team was intentional about applying trust-based philanthropy principles and prioritized supporting organizations impacted by funding cuts and whose efforts primarily serve the needs and leadership of communities of color. You can learn more about our grants and process by reading the full announcement

I hope that TRHT-LA’s legacy serves as a model of the practices and frameworks needed to advance the philanthropic sector in more equitable directions. We hope you are inspired to join SCG in its racial justice efforts moving forward. 

 

In Partnership, 

Adele Lee 

 

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SCG Analysis: Breaking Down Governor Newsom's 2021-2022 January Budget Proposal

Monday, January 25, 2021

By: SCG Public Policy Team 

 

OVERVIEW

Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2021-2022 January budget mirrors the triage conditions we see across the country as it simultaneously attempts to meet the emergency needs created by the COVID pandemic, respond to the perennial needs of Californians, and manage a tenuous political landscape. Newsom’s January 2021-22 budget is a record-setting $227 billion, $5 billion more than last year’s proposed budget and $30 billion more than the $196 billion budget approved in 2020-21. The additional $5 billion in the proposal consists of COVID relief, including massive one-time funding to address emergent needs in addition to proposed investments in health care, education, small business, and social safety net programs. 

While we expected 2020-21 to be a deficit year due to the various crises, it surprisingly is positioned to yield a surplus of between $15 and $30 billion. California’s massive budget cuts did not occur as predicted. Additionally, even though California did not receive about $14 billion in expected Federal relief, other Federal programs helped mitigate the state’s additional expenses. Also, tax revenues were much higher than expected because many high-wage earners were not negatively affected by the COVID pandemic as low wage earners were. The stock market also remained robust because, as Governor Newsom put it, “Folks at the top are doing pretty damn well.” While the 2021-22 fiscal year is forecasted to have a moderate surplus under this proposal, the following three years are expected to produce deficits, primarily due to the utilization of “rainy day” funds and spending from 2020 through 2022.

Also, unique to 2021-2022 is an emergency request to approve the $5 billion portion of the budget designated for immediate COVID relief resources. The remaining part of the Governor’s proposed budget is simply a starting point for negotiations that will continue until the official budget is approved in June 2021. 

 

Jump to a Section: Economic Security and Equitable RecoveryHealthcare & Human ServicesEnvironment and Climate ChangeNonprofit/Small Business | Justice SystemHomelessness & Housing | Education | COVID-19 Response

 

Economic Security and Equitable Recovery 

As the state begins to recover from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, it’s investments and relief must prioritize all Californians, especially low-income families, individuals, and communities of color, to rebuild equitably and anew. In this proposal, the Administration includes immediate relief for families and individuals, including: 

  • Golden State Stimulus: The state would provide $600 tax refunds to eligible families and individuals who qualify for the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) program, which could be disbursed as early as February 2021. This proposal builds off last year’s budget agreement, which expanded the CalEITC to families and individuals who file taxes with Individual Taxpayers Identification Numbers (ITIN). These tax filers are also eligible to receive the Golden State Stimulus tax refunds. The state allocates $2.4 billion for this stimulus program. 
  • Food Banks: The budget includes a one-time $30 million funding to support regional food banks, tribal organizations, and other emergency food assistance providers, to alleviate food insecurity amongst low-income communities. This amount supplements the latest federal relief package that allocated $400 million nationwide for Emergency Food Assistance Programs. 
  • California Food Assistance Program (CFAP): CFAP provides food assistance to immigrant families ineligible for CalFresh or other federal relief programs. The budget includes $11.4 million in funding to ensure eligible households can receive the maximum amount of assistance until December 2021. 
  • Expansion of California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS): CalWORKS, the state-administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), receives a total of $9.3 billion in combined local, state, and federal funding, with $7.4 billion allocated for program expenditures and the remaining $1.9 billion designated for other programs, such as Child Welfare Services and Foster Care. The governor is calling for a grant increase of 1.5 percent in assistance payout levels effective October 2021. Due to COVID-19, the budget also suspends the accrual of months in which a household receives CalWORKs benefits from counting towards the CalWORKS 48-month time limit until May 2022. 

 

The older adult population is the most vulnerable demographic to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. On January 6, 2021, the Administration released the Master Plan on Aging, a collaboration between government agencies, older adult advocates, community-based organizations, and philanthropy (including SCG members SCAN Foundation), to map out the future of healthy and dignified aging across the state. While the Master Plan identifies the need for equitable and affordable aging, this budget does not adjust the State Supplementary Payment. The State Supplementary Payment is California’s contribution to the federal Supplemental Security Income amount designed to match the rising cost of rent, food, and healthcare for low-income older adults and people with disabilities. 

The Governor has elevated several investments and initiatives to ensure an equitable economic recovery through workforce development, livable wages, and workplace protections. These initiatives include: 

  • Workforce Development Board: The budget calls for $25 million for the High Road Training Partnership (HRTP) to increase and retain workforce training collaborations between employers, non-profits, and training institutions for apprenticeship pathways. It also includes $407 million in federal funds to improve training and apprenticeship pathways.  
  • Increase CalOSHA inspectors: To ensure a vibrant and secure workforce amid the pandemic, the Governor calls for a mid-year $11.4 million increase to hire more CalOSHA inspectors and investigate workplace health violations. 
  • Enforcing SB 1159 - Workers Compensation: Under SB 1159, employees who contract COVID-19 from their workplace are eligible to access worker’s compensation benefits. The budget allocates an additional $8.6 million to the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) to implement and enforce SB 1159 statewide, 
  • Creation of the Department of Better Jobs and Higher Wages: The budget calls for creating a new state department to consolidate and streamline various workforce development programs and initiatives across different labor agencies. 

 

Healthcare & Human Services 

The pandemic has highlighted the extreme health disparities in our state resulting from systemic racism and historic disinvestment in low-income and rural communities and communities of color. Governor Newsom’s budget reflects increased expenditures for the state’s healthcare system due to increased caseloads caused by the pandemic. 

  • Medi-Cal Expenditures: Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, is anticipated to cover over 15.6 to 16.1 million Californians this fiscal year. This increase in caseloads, primarily due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 and households losing employer-provided health plans, is estimated to increase the state’s Medi-Cal expenditures by $13.5 billion. The budget calls for the following under Medi-Cal: 
  • Telehealth Expansion: The proposal includes $94.8 million to make telehealth services and monitoring a permanent Medi-Cal benefit
  • Postpartum Medi-Cal Eligibility: The Administration will delay the sunsetting of the Medi-Cal Postpartum Eligibility provision from December 2021 to 2022 in this proposal. 

 

California Advancing and Innovating in Medi-Cal (CalAIM): Last year, the Administration delayed its plans to initiate CalAIM in the 2020-21 budget due to the economic contraction from COVID-19. This year, Governor Newsom has allocated $1.1 billion for the launch of CalAIM. Many of our funders deeply involved with the intersection of health equity, housing, and homelessness are excited for the state’s renewed framework for whole-person care that involves better coordination and service delivery of Medi-Cal programs. 

  • Office of Health Care Affordability: The budget also includes an $11.2 million initial investment to create the Office of Health Care Affordability within the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. The new office would be responsible for increasing transparency in the cost and quality of medical services, establish cost targets for providers, and enforce compliance to those targets. 
  • Dignified and Healthy Aging: In less than a decade, 1 in 5 Californians will be 65 years of age or older. This significant demographic shift requires a statewide, coordinated response to this group’s unique economic and medical needs. The combination of the economic uncertainty from COVID-19 and the high percentage of older adults, especially people of color, living in poverty in California, makes this group highly susceptible to housing and food insecurity. To this end, the Administration has included these investments: 
  • Adult Residential Facilities (ARF) and Residential Care Facilities (RCF): $250 million will be provided in one-time funding to the Department of Social Services to acquire and repurpose property for older adults. The Administration specifies the goal to keep older adults securely housed and add 5,000 beds across the state.
  • Office of Medicare Innovation and Integration: The budget includes the Administration’s intent to create an Office of Medicare Innovation and Integration to provide better analysis methods and data-driven plans better to expand access to Medicare for low to middle-class older adults. 

 

Older Populations: Notable, the Administration has omitted its Medi-Cal expansion to undocumented seniors age 65 and older. The Administration included this plan in the January 2020-2021 budget proposal but retracted it from the May Revised Budget due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. As we have witnessed, the risks of exposure and susceptibility to the COVID-19 virus are higher amongst older adults, especially within immigrant communities excluded from receiving federal assistance and the past COVID-19 relief packages. Expanding full-scope Medi-Cal services to undocumented older adults comes at a time when affordable and a stable source of preventative and chronic healthcare is critical to their health and well-being amidst a pandemic. 

 

Behavioral Health: The pandemic has made clear the need for and disparate access to behavioral health services, especially at a time where safer at home orders, distance learning, and financial stresses have defined our reality. This budget proposal includes investments into county health departments and capacity and information sharing infrastructure with schools to address the rising need for behavioral health services. Some key highlights include: 

  • $400 million to increase the number of students accessing behavioral health services through Medi-Cal managed plans, in partnership with county health services and K-12 schools.  
  • $25 million in one-time funding to provide grants to the Mental Health Student Services Partnership program, which funds partnerships between schools and county health departments.
  • The budget also includes $750 million in competitive grants for counties to strengthen the behavioral health services continuum ranging from acute, emergent services to rehabilitative programs. Grants may be used to acquire and rehabilitate real estate properties for behavioral health treatment centers to reduce the number of at-risk and unhoused individuals and increase the number of available beds. 

 

Environment and Climate Change 

This year, on top of the pandemic, California saw its most widespread devastation from wildfires. The reality of climate change demands bold steps and effective policies to mitigate further damage to our environment. 

  • Wildfire Resiliency: The Administration has proposed $1 billion for wildfire resilience and disaster preparedness. Investments include: 
  • Increase Fire Personnel: The budget includes $143 million to hire more firefighting personnel across the state. Last fall, the Governor signed legislation that would reduce barriers to former inmates seeking careers in fire or other emergency response. 
  • Forest Management and Prevention: $512 million will be dedicated to improving landscapes across California to strengthen wildfire resilience. Tactics include forest thinning, prescribed fire, and other management methods. 

 

Cap-and-Trade: The proposal also unveils a $1.37 billion Cap-and-Trade spending plan. 

  • AB 617 (Community Air Protection Program): $325 million would be used for targeted air monitoring, emission reduction programs, and incentives for cleaner vehicles for communities at disproportionate risk of air pollution. 
  • Transportation and Zero-Emission Vehicles: Last fall, Governor Newsom signed an executive order that requires all cars manufactured and sold in the state to be zero-emission vehicles. To this end, $635 million will be dedicated to reducing carbon emissions from cars, trucks, and off-road and other transportation vehicles. The budget includes funding for sales tax exclusion incentives and infrastructure for manufacturers and the Clean Cars 4 All trade-in program, which encourages low to middle-class households to trade in their older, higher-polluting vehicles. 

 

Nonprofit/Small Business

The Governor’s 2021/2022 proposed budget includes numerous investments designed to support small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Some of these investments are in direct response to the immeasurable challenges created by the COVID pandemic, while others are an advancement on previous resources aimed at these sectors. The budget includes more than a billion dollars to support struggling businesses and nonprofits through tax credits and cash grants. Intertwined throughout these supports for small businesses are workforce proposals that create and retain jobs for California’s workers.

 

Proposals included in the “Early Action Package.”

The COVID-19 Relief Grant Program includes an investment of $575 million. This program provides grants of up to $25,000 for small businesses and nonprofit organizations that have been impacted by COVID-19.  The grants will prioritize industries, communities, and geographies that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Included in this program is $25 million for small cultural institutions such as museums and art galleries.

Emergency relief of $70 million is proposed for individuals and small businesses from service industries that have been overwhelmingly affected by COVID shutdowns. Many of these businesses have been closed since March 2020 and include restaurants, bars, and salons. Organizations can obtain these funds through one-time fee waivers.
Lastly, the budget proposes $35 million to startup grants for entrepreneurs to create new small businesses. Grants will be up to $10,000 and would prioritize people of color, women, and immigrants.

The budget proposes the following supports for businesses and nonprofit organizations:

  • Main Street Small Business Tax Credit: The Administration allocates $100 million credit against state income or sales taxes for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. These resources aim to support in retaining and hiring employees. 
  • California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority (CAEATFA): The budget proposes doubling the state’s investment in this program by providing a $100 million expansion. Under CAEATFA, businesses can exclude sales taxes if they are purchasing manufacturing equipment that utilizes alternative energy. 
  • California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (IBank): IBank would receive a $100 million investment with $50 million for small business loan guarantees and $50 million for broad support of IBank’s programs, with a focus on those that benefit underserved businesses. 
  • The California Rebuilding Fund: This California Rebuilding Fund, a partnership consisting of public, private, and philanthropic funds, would receive an additional $12.5 million to provide loans to small businesses. The fund is expected to provide $125 million in resources for small businesses.

 

Justice System

The Governor’s budget is proposing a program to allow individuals charged with traffic violations to avoid in-person appearances and pay fees online. This program focuses on supporting low-income individuals, providing discounts over 50% of fines and assessments, and the opportunity to participate in a fee payment plan. The amount of this budgetary proposal is $12.3 million, with the hopes of increasing the allocation and expanding the types of infractions included over the next few years. 

 

Homelessness & Housing

Addressing Homelessness:
With more than 25 percent of the state's population experiencing homelessness, Governor Newsome has proposed a series of one-time investments to "further develop a broader portfolio of housing needed to end homelessness." The funding includes acquiring and rehabilitating property for our most vulnerable communities. Though the budget does not propose a long-term funding strategy to address homelessness, it does focus on the need for permanent housing.

The proposed investments are as follows:

  • A $750 million one-time General Fund to continue acquiring and rehabilitating hotels/motels and other buildings through the Homekey Program. California will convert the acquired property into interim or permanent housing for individuals experiencing homelessness. $250 million will be available through early June.
  • A $750 million one-time General Fund is available over three years to acquire and rehabilitate behavioral health treatment and community-based residential facilities administered through the Department of Health Care Services via grants to counties. This funding will focus on providing individuals with behavioral health treatment. However, such grants will require a local match and the production of about 5,000 beds, units, or rooms.
  • A $250 million one-time General Fund will be available through the Department of Social Services to acquire and rehabilitate adult and senior facilities.

 

Focus on Housing:
Last year, Governor Newsom stepped up to protect renters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this year’s budget, Newsom has proposed an extension of the state eviction moratorium past its expiration date, January 31, 2021. In addition, a second federal COVID-19 relief bill enacts $2.6 billion in assistance for rent and utility expenses for low-income California renters, which aims to stabilize at-risk renters.

The 2021-22 proposed budget allocates one-time investments to support housing development. The new investment of $500 million towards the Infill Infrastructure Grant Program focuses on housing production while providing job opportunities. Afterward, a third round of $500 million will be allocated for low-income housing tax credits to help builders create affordable, low-income rental housing to ramp up affordable housing development. 

 

Education

Governor Newsom recognizes the importance of funding education, especially after the tremendous impact the pandemic has had on education and districts across the state.  In his 2021-22 budget, Newsom proposes a record $98.2 billion focused on reopening schools for grades TK-6, summer school, community colleges, and a 3 percent increase in funding allocation for UC and CSU school systems.

A few highlights from the budget include a historic proposal of $4.6 billion for summer school and extra learning for students who have struggled with virtual education, special needs, and students experiencing housing insecurity. Focusing on our educators, a one-time $500 million is proposed for professional development programs focused on educator effectiveness, justice, implicit bias training, and social and emotional learning. The budget will allocate $250 million to address the teacher shortage by improving our educator pipeline through the Golden State Teacher Grant Program. As a reminder, Proposition 98 constitutionally guarantees annual funding for K-12, community colleges, and state preschool programs. Below is a breakdown of the proposed educational budget:

  • Transitional Kindergarten: A proponent of transitional kindergarten (TK), Governor Newsom proposes to invest $500 million in one-time funding to expand TK programs for younger students, rebuild existing facilities to use for TK and full-day kindergarten, and training for TK instructors.
  • K-12 & Community Colleges: Much of the Prop. 98 funding, $88.1 billion, is allocated for K-12 and community colleges, bringing the total spending to $89.2 billion. Focusing on K-12, the budget aims to repay deferred payments, expand learning time, and begin in-person instructions. The funding for community colleges also includes $250 million for emergency financial aid for students in need and experiencing housing and food insecurity.
  • CSU & UCs: The proposed $144.5 million CSU budget focuses on increasing resources for operational costs, providing basic needs for students experiencing homelessness, hunger, and financial insecurities, and addressing the digital divide as we continue with virtual learning. The UC $136 million budget similarly focuses on addressing operational costs, the digital divide, and the UC Programs in Medical Education expanding to American Indian communities.  

 

COVID-19 Response

Praised for its early response to the pandemic, California is now scrambling to contain the virus's transmission while also speeding up vaccine distribution. In response, the state continues to deploy federal, state, mutual aid, and private sector resources to support communities across the state.

  • Federal Relief: The fifth federal relief bill, Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, passed in December 2020 and extended unemployment insurance through March 14, 2021, provided a one-time direct relief payment to individuals and families, and allotted more business support through March 2021. States expect $100 billion to provide additional funding for testing, contact tracing, and vaccine distribution. However, it is imperative to acknowledge that support beyond this bill is critical for the recovery and rebuilding of our state.  
  • State Emergency Response: Vaccine Distribution: The budget includes over $300 million for vaccine distribution, including a public awareness campaign to increase vaccine outreach. The state will continue to partner closely with community partners and stakeholders to help plan and expedite a fair and equitable vaccine distribution. Vaccines remain limited and will be made available according to approved state guidelines. 
  • COVID-19 Pandemic Response: Throughout the budget, allocations for the pandemic indicate a focus on preparedness, response, and recovery. The budget focused on the procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the establishment of Health Corps deployed to facilities across the state to address the surge, maintain hospital staff capacity, and implement programs to protect vulnerable populations. The current estimates of the COVID-19 Pandemic emergency response are about $13 billion. Federal funds are expected to offset the state's cost, which has offset the net General Fund.

 

Opportunities for Philanthropy

Despite the pandemic’s substantial social and economic repercussions, the past year has highlighted the strength of the partnership between philanthropy and government. From disaster resilience support to the inclusion of immigrants in COVID-19 relief to the wraparound services provided through Project Homekey, philanthropy has shown its remarkable ability to respond quickly and in thoughtful coordination with the state. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that California’s stronger than predicted revenue streams or even additional federal relief will prevent the state’s future deficits. Funders should anticipate how the impact of these deficits are likely to impact the communities they serve. Philanthropy alone cannot indefinitely fill the gap for critical social services programs affected by our state’s future cuts. This need will result in more calls for philanthropic investment in similar public-private partnerships.
 
For this reason, philanthropy must be active and bold in advocacy during the budget process. In this proposal stage of the budget, philanthropy and its nonprofit partners have the opportunity to engage and educate policymakers on innovative solutions and priorities until the state approves the final budget in June. Funders interested in learning more about advocacy related to the state budget and foundations’ legal limitations can find more information in this Primer on Advocacy for Funders by Bolder Advocacy. Contact our Public Policy team if you need further clarification on how funders navigate these advocacy guidelines. 

The Public Policy team at Southern California Grantmakers will closely monitor the budget process and provide updates on significant developments.

 

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President's Blog: Welcoming a New Administration & the Work Ahead

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Today, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as the President and Vice President of the United States of America. We congratulate them and all of the newly elected officials who will join the 117th United States Congress, including Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who achieved historic victories at the Georgia runoff elections. Ossoff will become the first Jewish Senator elected from the Deep South since Reconstruction, and Warnock will be the first Black U.S. Senator elected from Georgia. 
 

Our Collective Wounds

The incoming administration will usher in a new era of politics and fresh opportunities for the philanthropic sector. But, if we are to take a step forward meaningfully, we must acknowledge the damage that our democracy has suffered during the last administration. Over the past four years, we have all witnessed white supremacy become more emboldened, organized, and intent on harming our communities and our democracy. The last administration stoked these flames by spreading misinformation, elevating hostility, and working to undermine our democratic principles. During the State Capitol attack on January 6, 2020, these forces coalesced and have continued with every new threat of organized violence. Let’s be clear that the attack on the State Capitol was a white supremacist insurrection that was incited by leadership at the highest political levels. This attack was not a random act by a fringe group but rather the latest manifestation of centuries of systemic racism. 
 

Healing Requires Accountability

Even after this tumultuous election and transition period, our new administration calls for unity, healing, and collaboration to repair our polarized country. While we support these sentiments, we also recognize the incredible challenge of undergoing equitable recovery. The healing process necessitates accountability; we must identify those who participated in the insurrection and bring them to justice. History has shown us that failure to denounce and hold violence accountable guarantees that it will rise again. Unity cannot happen if we ignore these atrocities and pretend that white supremacy has been defeated by electing a new administration. This ideology is not a different perspective; it is a poisonous worldview fixated on its dominance and intent to strip others of their dignity, rights, and life. Yes, unity is necessary, but we must unite against white supremacy, injustice, and autocracy. Our unity must be defined by equity, accountability, and mutual respect. 

Healing Is Integral to Racial Justice

This week, we embraced healing at the 2021 National Day of Racial Healing. SCG hosted two programs dedicated to uplifting Black femme practices and knowledge for the long-overdue racial healing needed in this nation. The first program, Keepers of Ancestral Medicine, invited three Black and Afro-Indigenous healers to share what it means to remember, reclaim, integrate, and sustain ancestral medicine as crucial components to racial healing. The second, Emergent Strategy Ideation Workshop, provided an overview of the principles from adrienne maree brown's book needed to harness the power of change, including adaptation, interdependence, transformative justice, and resilience through decentralization. Together, we spent a day in solidarity, taking steps toward healing and repair by elevating community organizers' wisdom and lessons. We encourage you to visit the National Day of Racial Healing website to learn more from healers and changemakers. 
 

An Opportunity for a Bold Agenda

The incoming administration cannot be expected to solve systemic injustice independently. As a sector, it is time to push forward the bold agendas we’ve built and advocated for the last several years. As Judy Belk of the California Wellness Foundation stated in a recent op-ed, “It’s we, the people, who must do the heavy lifting of preserving democracy.” Let’s hold our new elected officials accountable to their promises of justice and reimagine the systems necessary to create an equitable society. Let’s continue to learn from the leadership and wisdom of community and movement leaders who have spent generations working tirelessly to protect our collective humanity and who have always stood bravely against white supremacists. Let’s invest in the immediate and long-term needs of our communities that continue to be devastated by the pandemic. Let’s urge our new administration to adopt a new governance model that prioritizes co-creation and shared leadership. 

SCG looks forward to working with the new administration to advance racial justice and equity. Alongside the philanthropic sector, we are ready to embrace new partnerships, transformative agendas, and a new future. As Amanda Gorman, the first-ever youth poet laureate and former SCG Keynote Speaker, beautifully captured in her poem today, "The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it."


In Partnership,

Christine Essel
President & CEO, Southern California Grantmakers

 

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President's Blog: Closing the Year with Clarity, Solidarity, and Imagination

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Dear SCG Community,

2020 has brought a storm of surprises that left us devastated and exhausted but also activated and inspired. Amid all the chaos and uncertainty of the past several months, I hope that the end of the year will bring you a few moments to cultivate hope and gratitude. While the near future won’t be less complicated or more comfortable to navigate, I am — at this moment of reflection— hopeful and thankful for the clarity, solidarity, and imagination that this turbulent year has brought. 

 

Clarity

During SCG’s 2020 Annual Conference, Black Lives Matter founder Melina Abdullah made it clear the choice we have to make — are we on the side of liberators or oppressors? This choice isn’t necessarily difficult to make, but one that some of us have had the privilege to avoid for most of our lives. As our friend Kaci Patterson — the architect of the Black Equity Initiative — eloquently articulated, “the disease of white supremacy is killing this country. It’s killing our democracy; it’s killing our norms; it’s killing our climate; it’s killing justice.” And so, even while we might not all know the exact next steps, we must remain unequivocally committed to humble ourselves, fight complacency, and dismantle racism.

 

Solidarity

As I reflect on Building Movement Project’s Social Change Ecosystem Map, I am thankful to have been in community with healers, caregivers, disrupters, builders, experimenters, storytellers, visionaries, and other changemakers throughout the multitude of crises in 2020. Together, the SCG community worked to adopt a racial justice framework for a resilient democracy, center Black communities and Black leadership, and support the hardest-hit organizations during the pandemic’s rapid response phase. More importantly, we engaged in difficult conversations about being in solidarity with community-based leaders to sustain the momentum of the racial justice movement.

 

Imagination

We can’t deny that, as a sector, philanthropy has not always been the most imaginative. This year has made me hopeful that a better future is not only possible but is already taking shape rapidly. At the beginning of the pandemic, SCG members shed the many shackles of paperwork and bureaucracy to respond urgently to grantees’ and communities’ needs. And albeit challenging, the 2020 elections showed us the promise of co-governance, the power of woman leadership, and the possibilities of investing in racial equity. Now more than ever, we can push the boundaries to reimagine philanthropy.

 

It’s important to acknowledge that we have felt a lot of frustration, anger, and grief in 2020. However, I believe we still show up to work and continue fighting for social change because we have also harnessed hope and gratitude. Through it all, the SCG team has learned and grown tremendously. Before the year-end, I want to celebrate that growth and extend a warm welcome to three new members of the SCG Board of Directors — Shawn Kravich, Raul Bustillos, and Jennifer Price-Letcher. Their commitment to SCG’s vision, mission, and values will solidify our clarity, reinforce our solidarity, and expand our imagination as we head into 2021.

 

In Partnership, 
Chris Essel

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Shawn Kravich's Challenge to Power, Privilege, and Belonging in Philanthropy

Thursday, December 10, 2020
SCG is excited to announce that Shawn Kravich (Executive Director, Snap Foundation), Raúl Bustillos (Senior Vice President of Community Relations, Bank of America), and Jennifer Price-Letscher (Vice President, Grantmaking & Initiatives, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation) will join SCG's Board of Directors in January 2021. We spoke to our new Board members about their professional values, the role of equity and trust in their grantmaking, and what's giving them hope for the future. 

Shawn Kravich had an awareness of privilege even before he had a name for it. Shawn grew up in a household with little financial security and often didn’t know where his next meal was coming from. When he received a scholarship to a prestigious private school, Shawn felt like he lived a double life as he navigated an elite institution filled with people with vastly different home-lives. During this time at private school, Shawn first experienced how his white identity served as an insulator that allowed him to “pass” in the space without question — protection not afforded to his peers of color who were equally qualified to be there. Shawn was grateful for the privileged position, but he began to be critical of the systems that created a sense of belonging for a few while actively excluding others. 

It was not until Shawn attended UCLA’s Public Interest Law and Policy program that he acquired the language to speak to his childhood experiences. While he originally intended to only focus on civil rights work involving disability, gender, and sexuality, he decided to also specialize in Critical Race Studies, a decision that shaped his entire practice moving forward. The program helped him learn about racism’s intrinsic and insidious nature in every system and the intentional work required to combat white supremacy. In his decade of law practice, Shawn understood that he needed to apply an intersectional lens to his policy and litigation efforts to affect change at the systemic level. Through his legal work, Shawn had the opportunity to develop housing and health access programs for low-income communities of color, represent transgender individuals in discrimination claims, and direct a national cancer-related legal services program.  In 2013, Shawn received a Ford Foundation grant to serve as founding director of a collaborative medical-legal partnership designed to meet the legal needs of over 60,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County.

In Shawn’s time in the philanthropic sector, he has taken significant steps to shift more accountability onto foundations and help grantees better support their communities. At the John N. Calley Foundation and the Snap Foundation, Shawn has been committed to breaking down funder and grantee power dynamics by eliminating administrative obstacles around compliance, reporting, and evaluation to help organizations devote more time to service provision for their communities. And yet, Shawn knows there is more philanthropy must do to meet this moment. He believes the sector needs to abandon its historic paternalism and forfeit more of its power to those with lived experience, particularly Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) individuals. Shawn is an advocate for community participation and wants to see philanthropy invite community leaders into spaces and decision-making processes that have historically excluded them.

In his grantmaking work, he prioritizes authentic relationships and approaches grantees as if they were friends or family members. The Impact Fellowship program Shawn developed at the John N. Calley Foundation reflects his approach. The Fellowship program created a new channel to hear the voices of people historically excluded from philanthropy. “Frankly, my entire childhood and my experiences at UCLA have all reinforced my views on equity and my moral obligation to move the needle to improve people’s lives,” Shawn stated. “Those experiences are all facets of my approach to philanthropy, from the systems we create internally to the grants that we, ultimately, make as an organization.”

When asked what gives him hope today, Shawn enthusiastically discussed the Snap Foundation's Youth Advisory Council (YAC), a group of eight young people of color ages 18-24 who make decisions alongside the foundation’s Board of Directors. For Shawn, the YAC is an example of intergenerational collaboration and trust and a testament to his Board’s commitment to creating space for individuals not traditionally included in the foundation's work. The YAC operates through a unanimous decision-making model, making it imperative for every member to feel safe and respected enough to make their voice heard. Shawn shared that this level of trust required months of rapport building and profound interrogation of the systemic variants like white supremacy, gender-based differences, and class disparities that actively work to exclude voices from the conversation. Through this trust-building process, Shawn found himself frequently asking how he could give up some of his power to more meaningfully include others in the conversation. “Yes, I grew up poor, and that gives me a sense of empathy with another low-income person,” Shawn reflected, “But that does not give me any ability to understand people going through a crisis right now. The only way to understand is by including people with present lived experience.” 

Looking ahead, Shawn is eager to continue his philanthropic work by joining SCG’s Board of Directors. “I feel so indebted to SCG for helping this attorney who was unexpectedly thrown into an Executive Director role learn more about the inner workings of philanthropy,” Shawn shared. “Today, SCG’s vision of philanthropy—that it should advance transformative change by collaborating with communities and across sectors to create an equitable and thriving society—feels like an extension of my personal philosophy. I look forward to continuing to extend a hand out to community leaders and inviting them to help us push our sector forward.” 

 

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Raúl Bustillos’ Commitment to Community Leadership and Access

Thursday, December 10, 2020
SCG is excited to announce that Raúl Bustillos (Senior Vice President of Community Relations, Bank of America), Shawn Kravich (Executive Director, Snap Foundation), and Jennifer Price-Letscher (Vice President, Grantmaking & Initiatives, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation) will join SCG's Board of Directors in January 2021. We spoke to our new Board members about their professional values, the role of equity and trust in their grantmaking, and what's giving them hope for the future. 

When he was only three years old, Raúl Bustillos’s parents came to the United States to work as immigrant farmworkers. From a young age, Raúl spent his weekends and summers working alongside his family on California’s agricultural land. While his parents did not have the privilege to pursue an education or understand what success could mean in the US, they knew they wanted better for their children. At every turn, they encouraged Raúl to apply a strong work ethic to his studies, pursue his love of reading, and explore a different career path. With his parents and his teachers’ support, Raúl became the first in his family to attend college. 

During his undergraduate education at the University of California Irvine, Raúl began working with a physical science professor to launch multiple talent pipeline programs designed to engage Latinx students and encourage them to pursue higher education. These programs recruited K-12 students and brought them onto the college campus to learn about the physical sciences and lay the foundation for their college careers. Raúl realized that he wanted to help create opportunities and access for underrepresented communities, but to do that, he would need to learn how to address complex systemic issues. Raúl decided to focus his graduate school education on tackling societal challenges on a structural level. Drawing inspiration from the foundations and corporations that had supported the physical science programs from his undergraduate experience, Raúl wrote his graduate thesis on Corporate Social Responsibility, an emerging concept at the time. Through his research, he explored the intersection of policy, communities, and grantmaking, which served as a catalyst for Raúl’s future in the corporate sector. 

Raúl began his career in the social impact sector at the Los Angeles Times, where for ten years he managed the grantmaking activities for both the Los Angeles Times Fund and Family Fund. Afterward, Raúl joined Bank of America, where he has overseen their philanthropic giving in the Los Angeles Market and the Inland Empire for over thirteen years as Senior Vice President of Community Relations. Throughout his career, Raúl has remained committed to creating opportunities for historically marginalized communities. When it comes to his philanthropic work, he understands that the best way to create leadership opportunities for communities is through partnership. Raúl believes that community leaders are best suited to assess their communities’ challenges and propose solutions to address these issues. “Funders often don’t engage communities from the onset because they fail to see their leadership and expertise,” Raul stated. “Instead, I look at our role as multi-year partnerships built on honesty, trust, and respect.” 

Given the unfathomable crises of this year, Raúl is proud of the bold steps Bank of America has taken to support racial equity and economic development. Earlier this year, Bank of America announced a four-year $1 billion initiative focused on creating opportunities for people and communities of color in the areas of health and healthcare, jobs and reskilling, support to small businesses, and affordable housing. Bank of America selected these issue areas because of their long histories of systemic inequity and because they are critical levers for progress to be enacted and sustained. This $1 billion commitment will be split between philanthropic and business opportunities, with most funds delivered locally. Moving forward, Raúl would like to see corporate philanthropy continue to increase their support of movements and racial equity efforts and permanently embrace the practices that funders have implemented in response to the pandemic. “For twenty years, I’ve seen trends come and go, but I am hopeful that the turn toward racial justice is here to stay,” Raúl reflected. “I encourage us all to continue cultivating a diverse and inclusive culture, having courageous conversations with our stakeholders, and focusing on partnerships that drive change as we collectively work to do more, quickly.” 

Today, after eight years of active involvement in the SCG network, Raúl is ready to join its Board of Directors. In his time, he has seen our organization expand the scale of its philanthropic work, embrace bold new ideas, and attract a diverse number of new members to the network. “I am proud to join SCG’s board in this pivotal moment as the organization adapts to the changing landscape in philanthropy while also helping our sector take a stronger role in advocating for our communities. I am eager to bring my experience and life-long commitment to our communities to help our sector heal and address the root causes of our societal challenges.” 


 

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"Leading with a Spirit of Inquiry": Jennifer Price-Letscher’s Vision for a More Creative and Empathetic Sector

Thursday, December 10, 2020
SCG is excited to announce that Jennifer Price-Letscher (Vice President, Grantmaking & Initiatives, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation), Raúl Bustillos (Senior Vice President of Community Relations, Bank of America), and Shawn Kravich (Executive Director, Snap Foundation) will join SCG's Board of Directors in January 2021. We spoke to our new Board members about their professional values, the role of equity and trust in their grantmaking, and what's giving them hope for the future. 

Jennifer Price-Letscher grew up in a household of strong, determined women. Raised by her mother, grandmother, and older sisters, Jennifer developed a sense of purpose and creativity from a young age. Her mother was a first-generation college graduate who worked tirelessly to serve others as an educator, social worker, and criminal justice legal advocate. Her grandmother was a concert pianist who gave Jennifer a keen ear and nurtured her musicianship and awareness about the power of artistic expression. Jennifer’s home life fostered a sense of creativity and justice, and she credits her mother with teaching the importance of seeing the humanity in everyone. It is no surprise that Jennifer dedicated her life to arts, education, and social change. 

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Jennifer began a career in the social impact sector following a visit to her sister’s home in Los Angeles in the early ‘90s. Her trip coincided with the city’s civil unrest, as countless Angelenos organized to demand racial justice. Seeing Los Angeles and its potential to be a place for all things possible, challenging, and just, Jennifer decided to stay. Soon after, Jennifer started working in the arts and became involved with prominent artists and art organizations, including 18th Street Arts Center and Highways Performance Space. Jennifer found herself immersed in a community of people exploring their identities and artistic voices at the height of the culture wars of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Jennifer advocated alongside these artists who demanded that marginalized voices in mainstream theater have equitable access and a seat at the table. “One of art’s greatest qualities lies in its capacity to elicit greater understanding and empathy — why wouldn’t we want to hear more voices?” Jennifer reflected. This experience building empathy and power shoulder-to-shoulder with underrepresented artists would later guide her work in the nonprofit sector. 

Jennifer started her philanthropic career at the Whitecap Foundation, where she led capacity building programs. She then joined the Sterling-Dorman Foundation and spent a decade focused on college access and success. “Education can be a profound lever for transforming lives and lifting people out of poverty,” Jennifer noted. Today, Jennifer is Vice President for Grantmaking and Initiatives at The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, where she manages its responsive grantmaking and efforts focused on collaboration, organizational effectiveness, and systems change. Her grantmaking philosophy aspires to weave together all the strands necessary to create a strong community fabric. To realize her vision, Jennifer taps into a long-standing “spirit of inquiry” that allows her to listen to her nonprofit partners deeply and with humility and curiosity. She credits SCG and early philanthropic mentors with helping her see the importance of building strong relationships founded on trust. “Our nonprofit partners and their constituents know what's best for their communities and what’s needed to accomplish transformational change.” While she recognizes that not all foundations can immediately enact a comprehensive trust-based strategy, she is hopeful that the sector will gradually embrace more of its principles. “I hope some of our funder colleagues will let go of the ‘power over’ framework reliant on directives and bureaucracy and shift toward a ‘power with’ model founded on a collaborative spirit and willingness to make change together.  Community transformation requires all hands on deck.” 

Given the devastation wrought by the crises of this year, Jennifer is proud of the bold actions The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation has taken to support their nonprofit partners. At the beginning of the pandemic, they signed onto the Council of Foundation’s pledge advocating for more flexible and equitable grantmaking, canceled all their grant reporting, and distributed nearly half a million dollars of emergency funding outside of their typical board cycle. In June, the Board of Directors decided to increase the Foundation’s payout by 10%, bringing their total payout to $20.5 million for 2020. With the additional funds, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation doubled down on its support of the Nonprofit Sustainability Initiatives (NSI), a pooled fund designed to support nonprofits’ strategic restructuring. The Foundation also made one of the largest grants in its 40-year history: $2 million toward a pooled fund supporting relief and recovery for Los Angeles arts organizations. Seeded with an initial $10 million investment from the Getty Foundation and housed at the California Community Foundation, the fund will launch publicly in early 2021. Given that one in seven jobs in Los Angeles is in the creative economy, Jennifer is confident that profound economic recovery can happen through supporting the arts and culture in this dire moment. Personally, Jennifer also knows that the arts will be necessary for our spiritual recovery. “We need to support creativity — it is one of our community’s greatest assets, and it is essential for our collective wellbeing,” she asserted. “There are opportunities for healing that only the arts can provide.” 

When asked what is giving her hope at the moment, Jennifer elevated philanthropy’s recent recommitment to equity and racial justice. However, she’s also cautious, “I don’t want racial equity to be philanthropy’s bright and shiny object of the moment. I want the sector to stay true and committed in its demand for racial justice.” Jennifer hopes that funders maintain a bias toward action, moving beyond statements and taking concrete steps to keep equity at the forefront of their efforts. She encourages foundations to codify racial equity in their policies and practices while including those who have been most impacted by structural racism in decision-making processes. Looking ahead, Jennifer is hopeful that philanthropy can keep itself accountable to the values and aspirations it set for itself this year. Given the deep polarization fracturing our country, she believes the sector can play a role in promoting civic dialogue and exchange while protecting everyone’s integrity. 

Today, Jennifer couldn’t be more excited to join SCG’s Board of Directors and further the vision, mission, and values that align deeply with her own. Jennifer looks forward to helping the SCG network continue to grow and embrace the importance of the arts, racial equity, and trust-based philanthropy. She feels fostering meaningful dialogue on critical issues while working across differences and diverse perspectives can and should be at the heart of our collective work. “I believe SCG stands for the best of what we can be as a social impact sector,” Jennifer declared. “Our network holds so many brilliant people who are deeply committed to transformational change and equity in our community. By continuing to put the community first, each member of the SCG network can stand for something larger than themselves.  We are better together.” 
 

 

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Looking Ahead to SCG’S 2021 Policy Work

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

By David J. Carroll 

As determined by most American voters, the incoming administration will be led by President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, alongside a new Congress comprised of a record number of 141 women, 51 of which identity as women of color. However, our federal government is likely to remain split with a narrow Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and a Senate composition determined by Georgia's runoff election in January 2021. This election cycle has exposed our country’s deep division, and continued political tensions as millions of Americans remain skeptical of the election results. In contrast, others demand a peaceful transition of power. 

As the United Philanthropy Forum declared in their recent letter to the philanthropic sector, funders have an essential role in rebuilding our democratic systems and values’ strength and credibility. Moreover, philanthropy is responsible for ensuring that our communities always have access to the democratic process. As we look toward a new administration and Congress, our sector must intentionally set policy and advocacy agendas that center equity in 2021. We must work to close the gap between communities and politicians to ensure that our public-private partnerships and efforts work in the service of the communities most affected by systemic injustice. Below, you will find three intentions the SCG Policy team will carry into our policy efforts in 2021 to better serve our communities most impacted by systemic injustice.

 

1 |  BUILDING ON OUR 2020 ACTIONS

In 2020, the SCG policy network took bold stances in response to federal actions, racial justice, and multiple crises. This year, we joined 506 philanthropic leaders to demand that the Census Bureau not cut the 2020 Census short, stood together with our state’s philanthropic organizations for a just and inclusive California, urged Congress to Include urgent nonprofit policy priorities in COVID-19 Legislation, and co-wrote a statement with GCIR in response to Trump Administration’s memorandum to remove undocumented immigrants from the 2020 Census. As we navigated an uncertain and tumultuous election cycle, we championed civic participation and access and ensured that funders had the election resources and information needed to engage in advocacy efforts. As the election results became clear, we signed on to letters advocating for a stronger civic community nationwide and the appointment of women of color to fill the vacant Senate seat previously held by Kamala Harris. 

As we move to reconcile the country and meet our most vulnerable communities’ needs, we have an opportunity to build upon the actions we’ve taken this year and sustain the momentum that we acquired this election season. Our collective responsibility will be to continue imagining and advocating for a better future for our communities, rather than a return to the normality that left many marginalized.

 

2 | TRACKING & RESPONDING TO THE RESULTS OF CALIFORNIA’S BALLOT MEASURE 

This year, Californians voted on several ballot measures that will significantly impact our communities and philanthropy’s work in the new year. For example, voters chose to restore voting rights to individuals on parole and passed Measure J to amend the county budget to reinvest resources into community-led restorative justice initiatives. The SCG Policy Team has already begun to breakdown the results of the ballot measures and their potential impact on our sector’s policy and grantmaking efforts in 2021. Our team looks forward to monitoring these ballot measures as they take into effect and providing the SCG network with further opportunities for advocacy and civic engagement. 

 

3 | HELPING FORGE NEW PARTNERSHIPS IN 2021

With the election results in mind, we are committed to helping our sector continue partnering with public leaders and institutions to address pressing systemic problems. We should strive to be a part of the legislative and budgetary processes to help influence, partner, and work alongside the government to address these disparities. To help our members build new relationships with public and civic leaders, we are excited to announce the dates for next year’s Foundations on the Hill and our 2021 SCG Public Policy Conference. At both of these multi-day events, SCG members will have an opportunity to meet with congress members, policymakers from the Executive Branch, and national stakeholders to discuss philanthropy-related policy issues and opportunities. 

This is just the beginning of the policy and advocacy opportunities available to us in 2021. We look forward to partnering with all of you to push our sector forward. As always, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or ideas at [email protected]

 

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What the 2020 California Proposition Results Mean for Philanthropy

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

This year, California’s state ballot included many propositions covering a broad range of issues, including rent control, business property taxes, cash bail, and more. The SCG Policy Team has provided a breakdown of the ballot measures results and the potential implications these results will have on California and the communities our sector serves. 

Regardless of the ballot results, there will be many opportunities for philanthropy to work with our public leaders and institutions to address the most pressing systemic issues affecting our communities. The SCG Policy Team looks forward to monitoring these ballot measures as they take into effect next year and providing the SCG network with further opportunities for civic engagement. 

 

Proposition 15: Commercial Property Tax – FAILED 

Proposition 15 failed to pass by a margin of over 4 percent. This proposition would have generated up to $11.5 billion in revenue for K-14 schools and local governments by amending the businesses' tax code. Proposition 15 was placed on the California ballot by a coalition of civil rights and community groups. Foundations such as the Liberty Hill Foundation and the California Community Foundation also supported Proposition 15. 

With the looming economic crises brought on by the pandemic, Proposition 15’s failure means that California will inevitably need to balance school budgets through deferrals and deep cuts to statewide school funding and additional social services. The philanthropic sector will likely be looked upon to “fill in” the gaps in public financing for critical social safety net programs and education. 

 

Proposition 16: Affirmative Action – FAILED 

Californians disappointed proponents of affirmative action who wanted to test the state’s readiness for racial equity and systems change by voting down Proposition 16. This measure would have restored affirmative action in hiring, spending, and admission decisions at government offices and state universities. 

Stakeholders invested in racial equity and access will need to continue advocating for equal opportunities for all Californians, especially those who have been historically excluded and underrepresented from our institutions. 

 

Proposition 17: Parolee Voting Rights – PASSED

California’s philanthropy sector has spent the past several years working to ensure that our state has a more complete and engaged electorate. Now, California has joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing individuals on parole the right to vote. This proposition expands voting rights to nearly 50,000 Californians and guarantees their ability to fully participate in local, state, and federal office and elections.  

 

Proposition 18: 17-Year-Old Voters – FAILED 

Despite the increase in youth organizing and participation in pivotal social justice movements, such as the March for Our Lives and Black Lives Matter, California’s young leaders will have to wait until they are of official legal age to vote. Proposition 17 would have allowed 17-year-old minors to vote in special and primary elections if they would be turning 18 before the general election. 

Proposition 17’s failure will require our sector to continue sustaining integrated voter engagement strategies to ensure that young voters — a voting bloc with historically low voting rates — remain informed and prepared to participate in upcoming elections. 

 

Proposition 20: Expanding Criminal Felonies – FAILED   

Proposition 20 would change the categorization of petty and low-level misdemeanors, like shoplifting, into felony charges in addition to requiring DNA collection for specific misdemeanors. Supporters of Proposition 20 claimed that this ballot measure would have perpetuated the criminalization of black and brown Californians. Opponents have argued that this proposition would have undone years of criminal justice reform. This was concerning to activists and community leaders given the existing policing and sentencing disparities amongst black and brown communities, for example when Latinx Californians are more likely to be charged with felonies than misdemeanors than their white counterparts.   The failure of Proposition 20 reinforces the growing “care first, jail last” approach towards criminal justice reinvestments, pioneered by the Alternatives to Incarceration framework in Los Angeles County. 

 

Proposition 25: End Cash Bail – FAILED 

Proposition 25, which would have replaced court-determined cash bail with a risk-algorithm, failed to pass this November, keeping our state’s current bail system intact. Without achieving structural change first, opponents of Proposition 25 argued that this motion would have had a disproportionate impact on Black and brown communities. 

Funders interested in justice reinvestment and inequitable bail amounts should continue to watch for further developments on reforming the cash bail system. 

 

Measure J: Reimagine LA - PASSED 

Voters in Los Angeles County made their demands for racial justice clear this election. Measure J also referred to as Reimagine LA,  passed the November ballot with 57 percent of the vote. This regional measure redirects 10 percent of the county’s unrestricted funds in the general budget to community investments and alternatives to incarceration, championing the “care first, jail last” approach. This permanent amendment to the county charter ensures reinvestments in historically and disproportionately divested communities through job training, youth development, housing, and restorative justice programs. 

Amid the backdrop of systemic racial injustices and police brutality, as well as local and national movements demanding structural change, the success of Measure J illustrates how to translate the values of equity and racial justice into systemic change. 

The Reimagine LA coalition, chaired by Eunisses Hernandez and Isaac Brown, included over 100 community organizations, including SCG members United Way of Greater Los Angeles and Liberty Hill Foundation, participating in the coalition’s steering committee. 

 

 

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