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Priority Communities Learning Brief

In March 2020, when the Board of the James Irvine Foundation approved $135 million to support the seven-year Priority Communities initiative, there was no way to anticipate the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local economies and the economic development efforts of community partners in Fresno, Salinas, San Bernardino, and Stockton. The nationwide protests and calls for racial justice also marked a critical turning point. What started as a year to build and expand inclusive economic planning efforts, quickly devolved into a period of crisis and uncertainty. Despite the ongoing challenges and setbacks, it has been a period of reflection and learning about what it will take to implement the Priority Communities’ strategy and create inclusive regional economies that work for everyone. In November 2020, Engage R+D, facilitated a reflection discussion with members of the Foundation’s Priority Communities’ team to capture insights and learnings from this tumultuous year. This brief seeks to lift up key takeaways and insights from this discussion and is organized around the thematic questions noted above.

The James Irvine Foundation is committed to helping under-resourced regions of California so that all low-income workers have the power to advance economically. Specifically, the Priority Communities initiative supports communities to expand economic opportunities by partnering with local intermediaries and community to strengthen community capacity building, leadership, and innovations that promote quality job creation and planning for equitable and inclusive economies.