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Reflections on 2018

Reflecting on 2018, it’s easy to feel uneasy. Californians experienced another year of destructive wildfires; immigrants continued to live in fear; refugee and asylum-seeking families were separated at the border; and nearly half of California workers struggled with poverty.

Yet looking back I also see progress and reason for optimism.

Californians once again responded to adversity with compassion, generosity, and action. Residents opened their homes and wallets for neighbors affected by the fires. A loud outcry about the separation of migrant families changed the federal practice. And the midterm elections saw a groundswell of civic engagement, with voters turning out at levels not seen for decades.

I also am encouraged by the growing conversation about shared prosperity, the dignity of work, and both rebuilding and expanding pathways to the middle class.

We’re excited to be a part of that conversation and to join many others who share Irvine’s singular goal: a California where all low-income workers have the power to advance economically. To help achieve this vision, Irvine works to bring people with a variety of perspectives together, foster partnerships, and, ultimately, invest in the leaders and organizations who work tirelessly to strengthen individuals, communities, and our state overall.

We are proud of what our grantees and partners accomplished in 2018, and here are some highlights of our efforts in 2018 to listen to those we serve, act on what we learned, and respond to urgent needs:

Listening took the shape of:

  • new approach to our support in Priority Regions, as we work with local partners to strengthen communities vital to the future of California. As part of that, our board met in and toured Fresno in June to better understand, through local residents and leaders, the city’s challenges and promise
  • Continued listening to low-wage workers and sharing those findings to provide a snapshot of their shared experiences and perspectives
  • Six community events in Northern and Southern California for experts and participants to discuss how to identify and combat extremism, racism, and other forms of bigotry

Implementation included:

  • $95.9 million in grants in 2018 to organizations expanding opportunity in California
  • $29.6 million of that went to 22 grantees added in 2018 to our Better Careers and Fair Work initiatives – large, multiyear efforts to help protect and propel low-wage workers

Rapid response efforts included:

California’s success will be determined by the success of low-wage workers. So, while it’s easy in these times to take a side, we pursue progress by finding pragmatic solutions with anyone and everyone concerned about California’s low-wage workers.

As we step fully into the next phase of our work, we seek partnerships with not only nonprofits but also those in the public and private sector who believe they have a responsibility to create an economy that works for everyone.

I’m inspired by the work our grantees and growing list of new partners do to improve the lives of working Californians, am hopeful for what’s to come in 2019 – and I encourage you to read more about Irvine’s efforts in 2018 below. Thank you.

Don Howard

Read the full Year in Review here.