California Democracy
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The goal of the California Democracy program is to advance effective public policy decision making that is reflective of and responsive to all Californians.

California’s Challenges and Opportunities

Californians face some of the most complex issues of any society. Tackling our challenges in education, healthcare, the environment, the economy, public safety and other issues requires an effective system of public decision making. In a well-functioning democracy:

  • All residents are well informed and able to effectively share their views;
  • State and local policymaking reflects accurate information and public preferences; and
  • Public programs operate effectively and are guided by best practices for optimal outcomes.

Over the past several years, a range of organizations have advanced important changes to our state’s governing system. Such changes include: an independent redistricting process, an open primary system, revised legislative term limits and changes to the state budget process. Many leaders across sectors are optimistic that additional improvements can be made that foster effective public decision making reflective of and accountable to all Californians.

With input from numerous leading Californians, Irvine has identified a set of opportunities for near-term progress and we are prioritizing grantmaking at this time in these four areas:

Elections Policies and Practices – To achieve a California electorate more representative of the state’s population and help election systems statewide operate effectively and based on best practices.

Voter and Civic Engagement – To achieve a California electorate more representative of the state’s population and public decision-making informed by a broad cross-section of Californians.

Ballot Initiative Reform – To improve voter information about ballot measures and enhance the system’s responsiveness to the public’s interests.

Immigrant Integration – To achieve full access for immigrants and their families to educational, economic and civic participation opportunities.

We also remain open to ideas on other issues that should be addressed to improve California’s democracy. In determining issues to prioritize, we consider:

  • The issue’s significance for California’s democracy;
  • How the issue can expand opportunity for democratic participation, particularly among traditionally under-represented populations including low-income, ethnic and immigrant communities;
  • Opportunity for progress, given the political environment, momentum in the field and other factors;
  • How our grantmaking could foster new relationships and networks among groups working to build a healthy democracy;
  • Approaches informed by a cross-section of perspectives, across boundaries of demographics, regions, political affiliations, and sectors.

Former Strategic Framework

To learn about our past priorities, Governance Reform and Civic Engagement, and related major initiatives, click here.

Grant Inquiries

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.