Each of our personal lives and institutions have been thrown askew in 2020, demanding resilience, flexibility and urgency of action. Yet amidst what feels like nonstop chaos, Smart Growth California (SGC) funders and partners have stepped up to the challenge. This has been a year of constant pivoting, reflecting and pivoting some more amidst unprecedented change in our field and in our work. To best serve our funders, SGC has worked to move our funder working groups and all gatherings online to provide spaces for funders to connect, learn align and collaborate. And beyond providing information and ideas, your personal funder relationships and support have been evident across our Zoom screens. We have shared laughter, tears and honesty about the challenges of this year. Thank you for helping to make 2020 a year of continued network engagement and growth.
Here’s a few highlights of the great work happening across our network in 2020.
- Engaging New Strategies in a Time of Change. Throughout this year of upheaval, we have focused on sharing and lifting up stories of our funders, beginning with the creative, flexible and rapid responses to the pandemic, all of which shared themes of protecting the most vulnerable. After the murder of George Floyd, Smart Growth California created space for ongoing dialog in our gatherings and shared stories within the network on how funders were more openly and honestly addressing racial injustices in their own institutions’ work.
- Lifting Up the Voices of BIPOC Funders and Partners: In a year that highlighted the stark racial injustices that persist in our state, SGC amplified the voices of BIPOC funders and partners in SGC’s meetings, social media, newsletters and blog posts. We heard from 54 BIPOC- leaders at workgroup meetings and virtual funder gatherings and elevated powerful funder testimonies such as those from Shawn Escoffery (RPDFF), Jacqueline Waggoner (Enterprise Community Partners), Alfredo Gonzalez (RLF), Alex Johnson (CA Wellness) and others. We also lifted up specific policy recommendations from multiple BIPOC-led organizations.
- Using Our Own Voice to Speaking Out Against Racial Injustice: Following the lead of The Funders Network, who boldly spoke against racial injustices and is actively putting equity first, SGC’s Director added his voice condemning white supremacy and worked to include anti-racist practices throughout the year at Smart Growth California, including multiple opportunities for dialog and learning between funders, advocates and the SGC team.
- Continuing to Create Space for Powerful Funder Alignment in Working Groups. After starting the year off with five face-to-face meetings, we have hosted 34 workgroup meetings, seven ad hoc meetings with ClimatePlan’s steering committee, and eight San Joaquin Valley ad hoc meetings (a record 54!). Attendance and participation have been high as funders crave authentic spaces for engagement and sharing. Some highlights of our working groups this year include:
- The Statewide Steering Committee hosts monthly meetings with the ClimatePlan Steering Committee to discuss the intersection between racial justice, COVID-19, climate, land use and transportation and is exploring potential strategic collaboration opportunities.
- The San Joaquin Valley Funders’ Collaborative steering committee continued to move funding for the $4.2 million, 3-year Power, Equity and Clean Water Collective and is growing together in their learning of how to make pooled funding efforts as effective and partner-centered as possible. Additionally, they began collective work on addressing the digital divide and are also exploring a shared effort to grow philanthropic investment in the SJV.
- Members of the Los Angeles Funders’ Collaborative steering committee continue to provide funding for the Link Program, which build on their shared focus on equitable implementation of the countywide ballot measures for transportation, parks, stormwater and homeless housing (over $1.5 billion annually). They also began to explore aligning existing work around leadership development and capacity building ecosystems in LA. We also mourned the passing of LAFC co-founder, Bea Solis. She will be greatly missed.
- SGC wrapped up the final year of coordinating the Community Foundation Water Initiative, which has served as a space for community foundations to work individually and collectively to advance sustainable water management in California. To culminate their work, on July 9th, 121 participants joined a virtual policy briefing that highlighted the creation of five regional action plans, story maps and Guiding Principles for Equitable Engagement in Coordinated Planning.
- Lifting Up Relevant and Timely Opportunities for Shared Learning. In a year of shifting ground beneath us, SGC has produced more online learning events than ever before! With six SGC webinars, as well as co-hosting ten additional webinars (a six-part series on wildfire, and four additional sessions with Southern CA Grantmakers, with over 500 funders registered), we worked to remain nimble in this year where our learning was evolving at such a rapid pace. Topics included transit justice, shifting ground for funders, redistricting and trust-based philanthropy practices, all with a lens towards the evolving impacts of COVID and advancing racial justice.
We do not take lightly the time and energy each of you put into your duties as funders, and are grateful to work in a community where you want to go above and beyond your individual and institutional tasks and look to work more collaboratively with colleagues across the region. Thank you for your investment in our communities and for showing up, time and time again, to make this network a powerful space for funder learning and collaboration.
We look forward to continued growth in 2021!
Below are some screenshots from various Smart Growth California workgroup meetings and virtual gatherings that took place over the course of the year: