For Smart Growth California (SGC), 2023 was a year to strategize together, both in person and virtually to support equitable implementation of public funding in support of healthy, equitable communities. A common thread through all of our conversations: providing grantmaking support, whether it be through power building, technical assistance and/or capacity building to BIPOC led and serving organizations and networks engaged in these processes. We gathered in person multiple times in San Diego, Los Angeles, the San Joaquin Valley and San Francisco, and met regularly through Zoom throughout the year where we deepened our collective work around racial equity, in alignment with The Funders Network’s Strategic and Racial Equity Framework.
Below are seven highlights from the year:
1. Statewide Steering Committee: 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 (check out this blog post for a summary). 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. Some funders also supported California at a Crossroads: Unleashing Climate Progress in Transportation Planning.
2. Climate Funders Collaborative (Baja/Imperial/San Diego Region): In 2023, our Climate Funders’ Collaborative hosted four, in-person gatherings. These included a visit to Barrio Logan, to learn more about the Transformative Climate Communities project community members were working on, which has just been recommended for over $22 million in funding by the Strategic Growth Council. The group also hosted our first international trip, crossing over into Baja California to learn more about the Binational Coastal Resilience Initiative, a collaboration between several funders. The group also met at the University of San Diego to learn about a report on the region’s environmental organizations. And finally, under the leadership of Catalyst of San Diego and Imperial Counties, which we’re partnering with in support of the CFC, a group of funders visited the Imperial Valley to learn more about environmental issues in the region.
3. San Joaquin Valley Funders’ Collaborative: In January of 2023, our SJVFC met in Fresno in partnership with organizations active in the Power, Clean Water and Equity Initiative, a three-year collaborative project supported by several funders. Building off of that success, funders heard from community leadership about the importance of community ownership of land, whether it be for housing and/or to protect agricultural lands. Throughout the year, funders took a deeper dive in this work, which we highlighted when we met in person for a second time later in the year, in Stockton. We’re pleased to share that nearly $1M has been aligned to support Equitable Land Access moving forward in the San Joaquin Valley. At our meeting in Stockton, we also celebrated the leadership of Kerry Hastings, who has supported this group since 2018. Read Kerry’s reflections here. We welcomed Diana Williams as her replacement.
4. Los Angeles Funders Collaborative: Our Los Angeles Funders Collaborative met in-person in April and throughout the year discussed strategies to align existing initiatives in support of equitable implementation of public funding streams. The groups greatest accomplishment is the ongoing LinkLA Initiative, a collaboration supported by several funders. After several years, a report came out in 2023 highlighting the impact of this nearly $2 million project, which has already secured over $30 million in public funding. Check out this blog post for more details.
5. Rural Urban Interface: At the Wildfire Resilience Funders Network meeting, which Smart Growth California helped launch, we held an ad hoc breakfast to discuss the possibility of launching a new Smart Growth California group focused on how communities with less than 100,000 residents are changing in California, based on the Beyond City Limits webinar we held the preceding year. Two engaging virtual meetings later, we’re thrilled to report our new Rural Urban Interface Learning Group is up and running.
6. 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. For the first time ever, we have five working groups, with 10 co-chairs! In total during the past year, 45 individual funders participated as active members of working groups in the SGC network. We deeply appreciate the lived experience, background, knowledge, and expertise that each of these leaders brings to our various tables.
7. 2024 Funder Summit Planning!: After hosting an ad hoc breakfast at TFN’s annual conference in New Orleans, (check out these California highlights) we decided it was time for Smart Growth California to start planning it’s next in-person Funder Summit, which we last held in 2019. A group of seven Funders are currently in the process of helping plan this gathering, which is scheduled for March 4-6, 2024, in Sacramento. Register here.
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. To join us in person, in the new year, we invite you to attend our 2024 Funder Summit. We’re a big tent and if you’re interested in engaging more, please reach out to Ron Milam. To stay posted, we invite you to sign up for our monthly newsletter and connect with The Funders Network on Linkedin.