The goal of the California Democracy program is to advance effective public policy decision making that is reflective of and responsive to all Californians.
Californians face some of the most complex issues of any society. Tackling our challenges on the economy, education, health care, the environment, public safety, infrastructure and more requires effective public policy decision making. Yet our governing system is frequently hampered by partisan quagmires, short-term thinking and limited information about the public’s views and needs.
At the same time, California has one of the most diverse populations imaginable. Yet critical decision making about the state’s future often does not include the diversity of residents’ perspectives necessary for informed problem-solving. Successfully integrating this diversity into the state’s governance and civic process is one of the major challenges facing California.
Envisioning a Vibrant, Successful Democracy
Irvine believes that an effective, accountable governing system and broad civic engagement are critical, interrelated aspects of a healthy democracy. We envision a California democracy that is truly reflective of and responsive to all Californians. Such a democracy serves as the basis of a well-functioning government that can steward public resources effectively and efficiently.
We envision a representative governing system in which:
- The public is well-informed about current issues and implications of ballot box decisions
- Voter participation is high among all demographic groups.
- The Legislature is well-informed about current issues, population needs, public program performance and the implications of their decisions.
- Powerful interests do not exert disproportionate influence on legislative and executive decisions.
- Public expenditures reflect the needs and priorities of the population.
- Public programs operate efficiently and are guided by best practices for optimal outcomes.
To reach our goal, we believe two kinds of change are needed. First, the governing system must be reformed to better ensure that policy decisions are made fairly, with a long term view and based on sound information. We hope to promote this change through our Governance Reform grantmaking. Second, a more representative set of Californians must actively participate in decision-making processes. We hope to promote this change through our Civic Engagement grantmaking. Throughout our work, we emphasize a nonpartisan, problem-solving approach and engagement with a diverse array of populations.
- Governance Reform — We make grants to improve state and local governance. Currently, we give priority to projects in three areas: election policies and practices, ballot initiative reform, and budget and fiscal systems. We also welcome ideas for projects in other areas that can significantly improve state and local governance. Through our grantmaking, we support policy development, strategic communications, outreach, coalition building and other activities.
- Civic Engagement — We make grants to strengthen capacity among civic organizations and public officials to foster inclusive public decision making. This includes projects to support public officials in creating and implementing inclusive public decision-making practices. We also fund organizations working at a significant scale to involve residents in shaping public policies that affect their lives. Finally, we support research, analyses and surveys that improve understanding of public involvement in decision making.
While we accept unsolicited inquiries from grantseekers, we are able to fund very few of them. Learn more about submitting a letter of inquiry. Full proposals are accepted by invitation only.