For Smart Growth California (SGC), 2022 was a year to reconnect with each other in person. We gathered for the first time in San Diego at TFN’s annual conference, which reminded us of the value of being together. During the year, the San Joaquin Valley Funders’ Collaborative met in Tulare County for a two-day visit with advocates; the Los Angeles Funders’ Collaborative gathered and reconnected at the California Endowment in November, and our newest workgroup, the Climate Funders Collaborative (Baja/Imperial/San Diego Region), met on a cool October day at Olivewood Gardens in National City to officially launch. In addition to our in-person gatherings, we hosted a total of 49 workgroup meetings, ad-hoc strategy sessions, and webinars over the course of the year.
Much of the year focused on the federal and state administration’s commitment to equitably investing a massive influx of public funding that seeks to advance climate-resilient, equitable, and sustainable communities. Funders continue to invest in the lingering impacts of COVID, including increasingly unstable economies and shifting demographics – and the impacts this may have on our urban centers as well as smaller communities being impacted by outward migration. SGC funders also moved forward their ongoing commitment to funding community power building, civic engagement, and racial and economic justice with general operating support.
Below are ten highlights from the year:
- Racial Justice as a Key Pillar: SGC deepens our collective work around racial equity, in alignment with The Funders Network’s Strategic and Racial Equity Framework. Smart Growth California’s team continued to prioritize lifting up racial justice, including significant time on all workgroup agendas providing space for funders to engage on how to deepen their racial justice work both institutionally and in partnership with each other. SGC lifted up the voices and perspectives of BIPOC leadership from across the state and learned from 58 BIPOC- leaders (69% of 83 total speakers), at Smart Growth California workgroup meetings and at webinars.
- Leadership Development: Smart Growth California increased the number of funders serving in leadership positions in all workgroups. TFN’s vision is to create generations of courageous philanthropic leaders who are engaged, emboldened, and equipped to bring about a just society. This includes increasing representation of people of color in philanthropic positions. For the first time ever, we have four working groups with seven out of eight funders serving as co-chairs identifying as people of color, and 14 funders joined SGC working groups, with 10 out of 14 identifying as people of color. We deeply appreciate the lived experience, background, knowledge, and expertise that each of these leaders brings to our various tables. In total during the past year, 43 individual funders participated as active members of working groups in the SGC network. In 2022, the following funders joined these workgroups:
Christine Tien, The California Endowment (replacing long-time steering committee member Ray Colemenar)
Kiyomi Yamamoto, Silicon Valley Community Foundation (replacing Vinta Goyal)
Stuart Cohen, Resources Legacy Fund (replacing long-time steering committee member Corey Brown)
Susanna Osorno-Crandall, Kaiser Permanente
Almas Sayeed, Liberty Hill Foundation (replacing Joanna Kabat)
Alesandra Najera, Water Foundation (replacing Juliet Christian-Smith)
Marni Rosen, Tao Rising
Sidra Fatima, Kresge Foundation
Tida Leagnavar, The California Endowment
Climate Funders Collaborative (Baja/Imperial/San Diego Region) *The steering committee is still in the process of formation
Christiana DeBenedict (who was already serving on Smart Growth California’s Statewide Steering Committee), The San Diego Foundation, Co-Chair
Juliet Flores, The California Endowment, Co-Chair
Andrea Sanchez Davidson, Resources Legacy Fund
Marisa Quiroz, International Community Foundation
Megan Thomas, Catalyst of San Diego & Imperial Counties
- Smart Growth California’s Newest Workgroup: Climate Funders Collaborative (Baja/Imperial/San Diego Region): For several years, San Diego funders involved with Smart Growth California and Catalyst of San Diego & Imperial Counties have expressed a desire for a regional working group focused on climate issues. The conversations coalesced earlier in the year at the TFN Annual Conference in San Diego, where we co-hosted a dinner to explore the possibility of starting this group. Half a year later, we launched the new working group at a half-day gathering where funders connected to build funder knowledge in a supportive, interactive and generative environment to collectively learn and enable action on critical climate-related issues. We look forward to the ways in which the working group will solidify and grow in 2023.
- San Joaquin Valley Funders’ Collaborative In-Person Gathering: A highlight of the last year was our May 2022 two-day in-person gathering in Tulare County. We invited new funders who were growing their interest and investment in the region to meaningfully connect to field leaders and other funders. We spent the first day of our gathering with field leaders visiting small communities and farms. It was over 105 degrees that day, a reminder of the extreme heat events that climate change brings sooner each year, and the health and safety threats that they create for outdoor workers. The following day, funders explored opportunities for continued alignment and deepened their connections with each other. It was a truly wonderful time of relationship building, learning and reconnection. Funders continue to collaborate in the region to support the SJV Clean Water Collective and in work centered around finding ways to support community and collective ownership of land.
- Los Angeles Funders Collaborative (LAFC) In-Person Meeting: On November 4th, after having not met in person for two and a half years due to the pandemic, the LAFC met in person in the courtyard of The California Endowment. It reaffirmed the value of meeting in person and what can happen when folks have the time to connect, reflect and strategize. A priority that continues to be centered is the continued collaboration among several funders in the group providing technical assistance in support of park development adjacent to affordable housing (LinkLA).
- TFN’s Annual Conference: TFN hosted its annual conference in San Diego on March 14-16. Smart Growth California helped plan the conference, which included keynotes and panels discussions lifting up a broad set of intersecting issues, and several leaders throughout the program hailed from California. These included engaging sessions on climate equity investments, dismantling housing segregation, park equity, and agroecology in the San Joaquin Valley. SGC hosted a funder dinner attended by 17 funders. It was the first time funders connected in person since the pandemic began and provided a space for reconnection and collaboration. SGC also organized a breakfast on the last day of the conference to connect California-based advocates with Smart Growth California funders, with over 25 folks attending. Check out this post sharing additional highlights.
- Online Learning: SGC hosted or co-hosted 13 virtual gatherings, including co-hosting the following sessions with:
- The Funders Network
- Small Towns, Big Issues: Mobility, Land-Use & Housing
- Designing Justice40 (A 2-Part Webinar Series): Equitable Implementation of Federal Investments, with a focus on community leadership and frontline-serving organizations
- Beyond City Limits: How evolving migration patterns can reshape California and promote or harm the state’s climate progress
- Philanthropy California
- Ensuring Equitable and Sustainable Public Funding: Philanthropy’s Critical Role
- Southern California Grantmakers Environmental Funders Group
- Northern California Grantmakers Funders for Climate Equity
- The Funders Network
- Equitable Implementation of Federal and State Funding: Across the SGC network, funders are focused on the billions of dollars that are flowing into communities for infrastructure and climate projects, workforce development and other priorities. The SGC Statewide Steering Committee has centered this discussion at their meetings, with multiple funders supporting equitable implementation of various federal and state funding streams. Funders leading these efforts were invited to share updates at multiple statewide steering committee meetings and are participating in smaller ad hoc meetings to discuss further.
- “Beyond City Limits”: Smart growth advocates have long supported dense, urban development in already urbanized areas. However, with the realities of outward migration, SGC funders have begun a discussion on what smart, climate-friendly, and equitable growth looks like in less densely populated regions of our state at a virtual gathering we hosted in October. We explored how funders, advocates, and stakeholders can leverage opportunities and mitigate risks to meet our state’s housing goals while also creating equitable, resilient, and affordable communities across California. We look forward to advancing this conversation in 2023.
- Team Transitions and Staff Connections: Within the Smart Growth California team, Tim Mok moved on as Program Associate and we welcomed Kriselda Bautista, who joined the team mid-year. Kerry Hastings took on a new role at TFN coordinating the Urban Water Funders workgroup, and also will take on a role outside of TFN coordinating the newly forming Wildfire Resilience Funders, while still serving as Program Manager at Smart Growth California. Ron Milam served on the Strategic Growth Council’s steering committee for its upcoming Catalyst Conference, scheduled for Feb 1-2, 2023.
Central to our network is the value of bringing people together across issues, geographies, and strategy areas to learn together and explore opportunities for alignment and collaboration in support of community leadership and advocacy. We’re a big tent and if you’re interested in engaging more, please reach out to Ron Milam.
As we reflect on another engaging year together, we’re also starting to plan ahead for the year ahead, including a TFN Urban Water Funders Gathering in Los Angeles January 30-31, which funders from our Los Angeles and Climate Funders Collaborative are planning on attending. Our statewide steering committee will meet in person for the first time in three years on January 19th, and the day before, our San Joaquin Valley Funders Collaborative Steering Committee will meet in Fresno. Ron and other funders also planning on attending the upcoming Strategic Growth Council Catalyst Conference, scheduled for February 1-2 in Sacramento. TFN is hosting its annual conference in New Orleans, March 20-23. We’re also looking into hosting a funder retreat in the late spring. To stay posted, we invite you to sign up for our monthly newsletter, follow us on Twitter and connect with The Funders Network on Linkedin and Twitter.