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Building a California where low-income workers and their families can influence lasting change

In March 2022, Irvine’s Board of Directors approved our foundation’s fourth and newest initiative, Just Prosperity, along with $107 million in grantmaking dollars for the first four years of this initiative’s work. The board’s vote of approval affirms Irvine’s long-term commitment to ensuring low-income workers across California have the power to influence the decisions and policies that impact their daily lives.

As the inaugural Initiative Director, I am honored and eager to lead the team in making grants focused on organizing and advocacy, research and storytelling, and partnerships across sectors to spark new ideas. This work is especially pressing when I reflect on the experiences of low-income workers of color and their families.

Three out of four low-income workers in California are people of color, and a majority are immigrants, women, or affected by the justice system.  With a commitment to racial equity, our Just Prosperity team will focus on seeding and supporting the organizations, partnerships, and new ideas that seek to build worker power, amplify worker voices, and spark dialogue and action across the state. We will support community leaders who work to bring about change in our political and economic systems and address the barriers to economic inclusion and advancement rooted in structural racism.

Whether in philanthropy or policymaking, my work has always been focused on advancing power-building at the community level and creating the conditions that expand access to political systems for people who have been historically excluded.

Growing up in the eastern part of the Coachella Valley, a region composed of small, disadvantaged farming communities, I was raised in a mixed-immigration-status family with parents who worked in agriculture, hospitality, and domestic care. My family didn’t let their immigration status stand in the way of their strong work ethic and aspirations, and it motivated and inspired my own professional journey.

I believe the values of fairness and inclusion lie at the heart of justice and collaboration, and that the most effective solutions happen when you put people who are most impacted by issues at the center of driving change. I also believe that we, as people, are all interconnected and that prosperity for low-income workers benefits all Californians.

We developed Just Prosperity with these principles in mind and worked closely with nine Irvine grantees to design the core strategies and solutions our team will invest in over the course of this initiative. This collaborative process not only gave us new perspectives but also pushed us to adopt a broader grantmaking approach aimed at meeting the needs of low-income workers and their families.

While Just Prosperity is informed by new perspectives, the initiative is also the evolution of nearly 20 years of Irvine’s relationship-building, grantmaking, and learning. This new initiative is an incredible opportunity to build on Irvine’s history of supporting statewide civic engagement, media and journalism, policy research, and advocacy.

We’ve learned the value of being responsive in a shifting policy landscape and that helping organizations stay nimble is vital to their success. We’ve also learned that, while the needs and issues facing low-income workers and their families will change, their knowledge of how to exercise their own power can endure.

Our Just Prosperity team will be on a journey with our grantees to support the long-term power and prosperity of low-income workers and their families across our state, and we look forward to sharing updates along the way.