Smart Growth California started off 2021 with our first ever virtual Workgroup Network Gathering, attended by active funders from our workgroups (Statewide Steering Committee, San Joaquin Valley Funders’ Collaborative, Los Angeles Funders’ Collaborative and the Community Foundation Water Initiative).
Advancing racial equity was a consistent theme throughout the convenening. Funders came to the table committing to deepen their awareness of how racism and historic inequities have manifested in some of California’s most pressing issues: housing, climate, water, transportation, land use, and wildfires.
Funders were eager to share how their own institutions are grappling with integrating racial equity, and wanting to make it the heart of their work. We watched a clip from a conversation between Calvin Gladney and Dr. Andre Perry, where Dr. Perry noted that racial equity “is the achilles heel of smart growth,” and too often well-meaning projects have led to unintended consequences, disproportionately harming communities of color. Expanding the tent, and bringing more people to the table, allows us to recognize the blind spots and address the needs. Our funders were also challenged to reimagine successful outcomes; metrics for racial equity are critical, if we intend to achieve racially equitable outcomes.
Undoubtedly, white supremacy and structural barriers prevent us from doing this work, but our collaborative network allows diverse funders to align on shared values, like racial equity, to serve communities better. Our San Joaquin Valley Funders’ Collaborative’s $4.2 million Power, Equity and Clean Water Collective and Los Angeles Funders’ Collaborative’s co-funding of the Link Program demonstrate that we’re better together than working in silos.
Time was also spent reflecting on our statewide network as a whole and exploring opportunities to leverage it in the year ahead. Ron Milam, Smart Growth California’s Director, shared a network map highlighting Smart Growth California workgroups, convenings & partnerships in the center (in orange and grey), with aligned workgroups from The Funders Network (in green) and related philanthropic networks (in blue) that funders active in Smart Growth California are also active in. Given all the good learning, alignment and collaboration taking places throughout our network, Smart Growth California will likely host a similar gathering later in 2021. If you’re a funder and interested in engaging more with any of these or would like to attend the next workgroup gathering, please contact Ron Milam.