There is tremendous opportunity – and urgency – right now to address the unsustainable divide in economic opportunity in California. We feel that at Irvine and are grateful to hear many public officials feel the same way.
California has a booming economy and a new governor with a bold agenda. The opportunity is ripe to address income inequality and expand opportunity for all of California’s workers.
But energy and commitment will not change conditions by themselves; we also need new approaches and new partners to create a California where all workers have the power to advance economically.
Recently my colleague, Amy Saxton, wrote about one such partner: employers. Irvine is also pursuing partnerships with other funders, organized labor, and, importantly the public sector.
Last October we held our board meeting in Sacramento, since that is where grassroots advocacy and policymaking combine in ways that can have profound impacts on workers and work. We heard from public officials (state legislators and members of the governor’s staff), researchers, advocates, and other leaders about policy and politics related to workforce, housing, and regional economic development. (Here’s an excellent summary of the state of the state by CALmatters, a nonprofit news organization.)
All speakers, regardless of topic, echoed similar themes: California’s economic disparities are serious, but we have the resources and talent to overcome them – if we’re innovative, collaborative, and willing to push past the politics and self-interests that often impede progress.
The Irvine Foundation has made a commitment in recent months to find new ways to support public sector priorities that benefit low-income workers (in addition to our initiative grantees who may work with the public sector). Some examples include supporting:
This is just a start. No one sector can, alone, solve California’s problems or leverage all its assets. We’re eager to continue to partner with public officials, and leaders in every sector, who share our commitment to advancing economic opportunity for California’s low-income workers.