In the current political climate, California has emerged as a striking counterpoint to the often noxious policies emanating from Washington, DC on a broad array of fronts ranging from climate change and the environment to health and immigration. It’s why being a funder working in California at this moment in time is such a unique privilege, as well as a great responsibility to be as thoughtful and effective as possible with the limited resources at our disposal.
As part of that drive to be effective and impactful, we’ve thankfully had a vehicle for the past eight years to help funders investing in California to act strategically. Today, the Smart Growth California community includes hundreds of funders working together to build healthy, equitable, and sustainable communities throughout the state, with particular attention to our communities with the greatest need. Smart Growth California’s partnership with and support of key front-line partners and impacted residents have yielded groundbreaking accomplishments, from state climate policy and its implementation in the regions, to billions of dollars in funding for affordable housing, public transit, and parks that prioritize disadvantaged communities.
As co-chairs of the Smart Growth California Steering Committee, we are proud that this funder network has become so nimble, strategic, action-oriented, and effective. A primary driver of this success has been the leadership of Nina Bohlen, who helped get Smart Growth California off the ground in 2009 and has been an essential force within it as its director since then. Nina’s thoughtfulness, integrity, and tenacity are a big part of why we now have a true community for funders: one where we can come together in a safe space and from different perspectives to get things done.
Earlier this summer, Nina shared that she will be leaving Smart Growth California this fall to pursue a lifelong dream with her partner to go sailing together to Mexico and likely beyond. This was hard news to hear. Nina is such an exceptional facilitator, policy thinker, and people-connector. She’s had her finger on the pulse of state and regional transportation, housing, and land use policy, as well as the network of nonprofits working on these issues in every corner of California.
Nina has helped to create a wonderful organizational culture that funders are eager to be part of, and has made the network a welcoming, big tent for funders working on the diverse array of issues that broadly fall under the rubric of smart growth as we define it, including social justice, public health, affordable housing, transportation, water, parks and open space, climate, and jobs and economic opportunity.
We are so grateful to Nina for her contributions over these past eight years and thankful for all that she has taught us not only about funder networks, but also how to effectively translate compassion and humility through philanthropy.
Although we will miss her terribly, she sets sail at a time when the Smart Growth California funder network is stronger than ever. Smart Growth California now supports multiple funder-led efforts, including the Los Angeles Funders’ Collaborative, the San Joaquin Valley Funder Working Group, and several other working groups tackling critical issues in California. Our Steering Committee will remain deeply engaged in the strategic direction of Smart Growth California, and we will continue to reach out to engage other funders who share our commitment to California’s future.
One of Nina’s shrewdest moves was to hire Ron Milam to serve as the facilitator of the Los Angeles Funders’ Collaborative, where over the past two years he’s helped funders coordinate their engagement around pivotal ballot measures and other policy opportunities in the region. We are happy to share that Ron has graciously agreed to serve as interim director for Smart Growth California starting on September 1. He’s been doing great work in LA, and all of us on the Steering Committee have witnessed Ron’s excellent facilitation skills and commitment to these issues and look forward to working with him to move the network even further forward.
On behalf of the Steering Committee, we extend our heartfelt thanks to Nina for all her contributions to Smart Growth California and welcome Ron in his new role. We invite funders to join us in celebrating Nina and our Smart Growth California community on September 13, 2017 at happy hour in Oakland. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.