The San Joaquin Valley is the fastest growing region in the state, and faces a wide range of challenges across its large expanse, from a drinking and groundwater crisis, destruction of working lands by sprawling developments, severe air pollution and extreme poverty alongside the ever-growing challenges faced by a high percentage of undocumented workers. Yet many opportunities are at hand that could set the Valley on a better path for the people who live and work there, including new state funding and policies as well as efforts to build community power and voice.
Smart Growth California has been working with funders in the San Joaquin Valley since 2012 by organizing convenings, briefings, and learning tours, as well as by providing technical assistance. The formal working group was launched in May 2016 at a Smart Growth California convening attended by 31 funders in Fresno with the purpose of supporting funder learning and collaboration to promote healthy, equitable communities and sustainable natural systems in the San Joaquin Valley.
In 2019, our San Joaquin Valley Funders’ Collaborative began exploring a pooled fund to partner philanthropies with power-building efforts across the San Joaquin Valley to integrate a time-sensitive and targeted issue campaign with long-term, multi-issue power building goals for progressive governance in the San Joaquin Valley. Engaging both grasstops and grassroots organizations, the coalition of funders and partners is developing a plan to ensure equitable implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund (SB200). The tools and power-building infrastructure that is developed will ultimately bear progress for other land use and livability policy goals in the San Joaquin Valley. Read more about the $4 million Power, Equity and Clean Water Collective.
The group is also actively working to address the digital divide that has become more exposed through the COVID crisis. Thousands of rural and low-income households are left without access to broadband, hardware, or the training necessary to keep their kids in school, to work from home, or to continue their community organizing for change in the Valley. While these issues were present long before COVID, the pandemic has highlighted how critical access is to ensure families have opportunity. The SJVFC is moving towards a collaborative project to address this issue; to learn more, contact Kerry Hastings.
These as well as other challenges and opportunities are why grantmakers in our network are working together to share knowledge, act strategically, and better support the nonprofit partners that are working on-the-ground on a range of interconnected issues in the San Joaquin Valley.
The San Joaquin Valley Funders’ Collaborative brings together funders from across the state that are investing in the San Joaquin Valley. The steering committee includes representatives from: The California Endowment, Common Counsel Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Central Valley Community Foundation, Ceres Trust, Enterprise Community Partners, the Latino Community Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation, Regenerative Agriculture Foundation, the Sierra Health Foundation, Stanislaus Community Foundation, the Water Foundation, the 11th Hour Project, and an anonymous funder.
Smart Growth California would also like to acknowledge The S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation for their active engagement and leadership on the SJV Funders’ Collaborative Steering Committee (at the end of 2020, they completed a 12-year spend down of their grantmaking)
If you are a funder working to create healthy, equitable communities and/or sustainable natural systems in the San Joaquin Valley and are interested in participating in this funder working group, please contact Kerry Hastings, Program Manager at Smart Growth California.