Irvine Foundation Launches $135 Million Priority Communities Effort

Irvine Foundation Launches $135 Million Priority Communities Effort

The James Irvine Foundation has announced the launch of a seven-year, $135 million initiative to help five California cities build economies that work for all residents.

The Priority Communities initiative will work to strengthen local grassroots organizations, support policy makers and local leaders, and increase the number of jobs that offer family-sustaining wages, benefits, and opportunities to advance economically; ensure that more low-wage workers obtain good jobs and the training needed to obtain those jobs; and leverage foundation funding to secure more public, private, and philanthropic investments in the target communities. Building on two years of pilot grantmaking in Fresno and Salinas, the initiative will be expanded to Riverside and San Bernardino in 2020 and Stockton in 2021. Participating cities were selected in part due to their size (a population greater than a hundred thousand) and capacity to serve as economic hubs for up-and-coming regions in the state.

Key partners in the initiative include the Central Valley Community Foundation, the Inland Empire Community Foundation, the Community Foundation of Monterey County, and the Latino Community Foundation.

"Partnership is central to our work in priority communities," said the initiative's director, Jessica Kaczmarek. "Local leaders and organizations know their challenges, opportunities, and residents best, making them invaluable partners in deciding how to best support community efforts to create a strong economy that works for all."

"We are grateful to be able to expand our grantmaking in these communities that are vital to California's success but too often overlooked," said Irvine Foundation president and CEO Don Howard. "These communities have too few good jobs, and the COVID-19 pandemic is going to hit their residents especially hard. We look forward to partnering with community leaders, elected officials, employers, and worker organizers as they rebuild their local economies to work for all residents."

(Photo credit: City of Salinas)