Coming Together on California’s Most Urgent Issues
Smart Growth California’s working groups are where funders come together to address critical statewide issues and to develop joint strategies and take action.
Working groups are funder-initiated and supported by Smart Growth California staff. Some exist for only a few months around a particularly time-sensitive policy opportunity; others with a broader scope, like the Strategic Action Fund, existed for a number of years.
Explore our current working groups below or consider initiating a new one. Contact Ron Milam, Director of Smart Growth California, to learn more and get involved.
The Community Foundation Water Initiative launched in 2015 to support participants as they work individually and collectively to advance sustainable water management in California regions. The Community Foundation Water Initiative cohort includes 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. See this 2020 Inside Philanthropy article on CFWI’s impact.
Each partner approaches water through its own lens; while some conduct programs that focus on climate, others address water issues as part of their interest in equity, agriculture, land use, or housing. All recognize the impact water has on their respective communities. Group members connect regularly to share progress and lessons learned from their individual efforts, examine and better understand challenges that are 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 serving funders who want to help build environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, and economically prosperous regions and communities in California. Learn more.
Housing and Displacement
In cities throughout California, housing prices and rents are rising rapidly, and many low-income communities and communities of color are experiencing rapid gentrification and displacement. Low- and middle-income residents are being driven out of their communities to places that are often far from jobs and other opportunities, and some are even being driven out of the state.
Smart Growth California is helping funders align their efforts at local, regional, and state levels for greater impact around the critical issues of affordable housing, displacement, and gentrification. Part of these efforts includes building the power and voice of low-income communities and communities of color on these issues to influence local, regional, and state policies and programs, through a statewide network of advocates working to promote more equitable development and prevent displacement.
Climate and Equity
The 2015-2016 California legislative session resulted in important victories for social and environmental justice, including a suite of bills focused on addressing climate change and meeting the needs of low-income communities, such as SB 32, AB 1550, AB 2722, and SB 1000. These bills will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, will direct more climate investments to benefit disadvantaged communities, and will alleviate the disproportionate pollution burdens that low-income communities of color live with.
The Climate and Equity working group brings together funders to support the successful implementation of these landmark laws.
Building the Capacity of Social Justice Organizations
This working group, focused on building the capacity of community-based organizations and nonprofits to advance social justice through the implementation of SB 375 and related policies, and helped support the creation of the Miyako Network. The Miyako Network is a statewide learning network of social justice organizations working to build healthy, just, and sustainable communities in California. The group also helped support the creation of the Investment Without Displacement Network, a network of over 40 community based groups and nonprofits working to link local organizing to state policy advocacy to prevent displacement.
Strategic Action Fund
From 2010 to 2014, a small group of funders worked together to create and finance a pooled grant fund, known as the Strategic Action Fund. The funders identified and supported a range of strategies to ensure nonprofit partners could advocate for strong Sustainable Communities Strategies that included social equity and health goals, and ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets in California’s five major regions. Over five years, the fund distributed over $5 million in grants.