West Networks

West Networks

The foundation’s support of grantee networks in California has allowed the organic development of new movement building strategies across demographic categories and across regional differences and issues. Two Equal Voice networks continue to flourish – Bay Area Equal Voice Coalition (BAEVC) and Equal Voice for Southern California Families Alliance (EVSCFA).

In the Central Valley, a de facto network exists among the three foundation grantees. Two grantees based in Fresno, Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño and Fresno Center for New Americans, participated in a 2013 foundation pilot grant to survey and identify the interests of their unique indigenous and Southeast Asian constituencies and coordinate efforts to prioritize communities that are underrepresented in mainstream national membership organizations. Grantee experiences and practices are valuable in testing new approaches to integrating the interests and needs of diverse constituencies by utilizing a membership-based platform. The foundation is surveying grantees to determine the feasibility of organizing Equal Voice networks in the Central Valley and San Diego, as well as merging grantees in the Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino counties) with the Equal Voice for Southern California Families Alliance.

The passage of Proposition 30 (Prop 30) in November 2012 is an example of the scale of movement building activities across the state and its distinct regions. The statewide ballot initiative to raise income taxes on the wealthy and the sales tax has continued to reverberate through the state’s economy and was passed again in 2013. Prop 30 is noteworthy because the tax increases prevented cuts to the education budget, teacher layoffs and a 30-day reduction in the school year. The networks worked together to help raise voter awareness of the proposition, particularly among communities of color.

Another statewide initiative, Proposition 47 emerged as a perfect example of how networks and grantees increased the scale and effectiveness of their work. The voter initiative (passed in November 2014) that changes sentencing for low-level nonviolent crimes such as simple drug possession and petty theft from felonies to misdemeanors and directs financial savings from that change to K-12 schools, mental health treatment and victim services. The Bay Area and Southern California Equal Voice networks, as noted, had worked on earlier statewide initiatives, and as a follow-up item from the West Regional Caucus at the foundation’s 2014 national convening in Atlanta, the two networks coordinated outreach and communication efforts to raise awareness of Proposition 47.