The S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation launched the Community Foundation Water Initiative (CFWI) in 2015 to support five regional community foundations to work individually and collectively to explore integration of water-related issues into their existing grant portfolios and to advance sustainable water management in California. The CFWI cohort included the California Community Foundation (Los Angeles County), the Central Valley Community Foundation, The San Diego Foundation, The San Francisco Foundation, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
The Community Foundation Water Initiative formally wrapped up in the summer of 2020 after five years of impactful work together.
Each partner approached water through its own lens; while some conducted programs that focused on climate, others addressed water issues as part of their interest in equity, agriculture, land use, or housing. All recognized the impact water has on their respective communities. Group members connected quarterly to share progress and lessons learned from their individual efforts, examine and better understand challenges that were relevant to each of their regions, and explore ways to connect local and regional efforts for broader statewide impact.
In 2017, these partners engaged Smart Growth California to facilitate their efforts to identify and implement high value collective activity. Smart Growth California was selected for its strong track record of serving funders who want to help build environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, and economically prosperous regions and communities in California.
SGC staff supported the completion of a shared pooled fund project, a $250K effort led by the Local Government Commission to begin implementation of the Bringing Water and Land Use Together report that was released in early 2019. LGC selected five organizations in five regions around the state that correspond with the geographies served by the five community foundations in this initiative (San Diego: Anza Borego Foundation, Los Angeles: Nature for All, Central Valley: Fresnoland, Silicon Valley: Youth United for Community Action and San Francisco: ClimatePlan). Each group received a CivicSpark Fellow and worked on developing a plan for local implementation of the report.
In July 2020, Smart Growth California and Local Government Commission co-hosted a policy briefing which culminated in eight Guiding Principles for Equitable Engagement in Coordinated Planning. Check out the resources and recording from the policy briefing.
For further reflections on the success of this initiative, see this 2020 Inside Philanthropy article on CFWI’s impact and read S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation’s blog post on working on this initiative. To learn more about the impact of CFWI, check out this report developed by Estolano Advisors, released in early 2021.