California represents the hopes and successes that people have pursued for generations, yet too many Californians find themselves working harder and harder for less and less. In 2013, 40 percent of Californians lived in poverty or near the poverty line. Nearly 1.5 million working families in California are living in poverty, as well as nearly two out of every five young adults.
Our work focuses on Californians who are working but struggling with poverty, specifically expanding economic and political opportunity for families and young adults. This includes exploring ways to remove the systemic barriers that prevent too many Californians from achieving financial stability and political influence.
Economic opportunity and political opportunity go hand in hand and reinforce each other. California workers who live in poverty are less likely to engage in political and civic activities, but without a stronger political voice, low-income Californians won’t have the opportunities to build a better life. That is why we will seek ways to expand both economic and political opportunity for working California families and young adults who are in or on the brink of poverty.
All Californians should have the chance to achieve economic self-sufficiency.
There is also overwhelming evidence of the need for greater economic opportunities in California: In 2014, almost five million working Californians made less than $14 an hour. That’s one out of every three workers in the state. These Californians are mostly people of color, and only one in five has a college degree. Their average pay was less than $10 an hour.
In other words, millions of Californians are working hard to get ahead, but they’re living on the brink. Our grantmaking will focus on expanding economic opportunity so that more of California’s poor working families and young adults are able to cover basic needs in a state with an increasingly high cost of living.
Our society is strongest when everyone has the chance to lend their voice.
Millions of Californians, especially those with low incomes, are not engaging in the political system, and their voices are not being heard. They don’t feel their vote counts, are cynical about the effectiveness of government, and don’t see how the political system matters in their daily lives. Our state has the leadership and the know-how to bring all Californians’ voices to the table.
We deeply believe that expanding political opportunity for communities largely left out of the political system can transform the lives of millions of Californians. Our grantmaking will support efforts to give voice and influence to all Californians, encourage leadership that is representative and responsive to communities, and expand political opportunity so that more low-wage Californians are engaged and have influence in the decisions that impact their jobs, communities, and lives.
As part of our focus on expanding economic and political opportunity, we partnered with local nonprofits to speak directly with young people and families who are working but struggling with poverty. In Community Listening Sessions held across the state, we heard firsthand the hopes, fears, challenges, and dreams of Californians. Hear from the people we spoke with and the insights we gained on irvine.org/cavoices or by downloading a summary of what we heard.
Our grantmaking focuses on expanding economic and political opportunity for California families and young adults who are working but struggling with poverty, including exploring ways to remove the systemic barriers that prevent too many Californians from achieving financial stability and political influence. Our goal is not to go find something new; it is to build on what’s working and find ways to do it even better.