For many months now, the San Francisco Foundation has focused its energy on developing its new strategy to address the problem of racial and economic inequity in the Bay Area. In a community that has seen nothing short of an economic explosion, it’s obvious that the rising tide is not lifting all boats.
At the same time, the news of the past few weeks has reminded us how deep racial divides and divisions are felt across our country. We have seen and heard and experienced the profound pain of injustice and the enduring, unimaginable senselessness of violence.
Our communities are at a crossroads. In the face of injustice and of economic and social dislocation, which way should we turn? What can any of us do to make things better? Moreover, what can we do together?
At the San Francisco Foundation, these are questions that seem especially important to answer now. We know that we must act, and we know that the time is now. We believe that every person and every institution has its part to play, and we’ve already gotten started.
We recently announced that the foundation will focus its activities on an agenda to bring transformative change to advance greater racial and economic equity across the region. Will we heal the pain of a nation with a round of grants? Will we solve the problem of inequality in our region overnight? Certainly not. But we can, and we must, get started, and we truly believe that we can begin to make a difference.
Today, we’re announcing $5,265,000 in grants – the first of many announcements that we will make under our new grantmaking strategy. While we have had a regional footprint for many decades, this marks the first time we have had a regional agenda.
The grants are organized by three mutually reinforcing areas – people, place, and power. Our goal is to ensure that people have a job that pays a living wage, that they can live in a home in a vibrant neighborhood that they can afford, and that we anchor our communities through strong social and political engagement.
Our grantmaking that focuses on People is designed to help expand access to opportunity by removing barriers to meaningful employment. Here, we made grants to organizations such as the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Californians for Safety and Justice to work on criminal justice reforms to remove barriers to employment; and to REDF to help provide jobs and training for those who traditionally have a difficult time securing and keeping jobs. These are just a few of the twenty grants that we made in this first phase that focus on a range of strategies to try to expand access to opportunity.
Our focus on Place will focus on ensuring that Bay Area residents can find and stay in an affordable home in the community of their choice that reflects their values, their race, and their culture. In this area, we funded more than a dozen organizations, including the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, Oakland Citizens Committee for Urban Renewal, and the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation – all of whom are working to address the housing crisis in Alameda County.
Finally, our grantmaking strategy that looks at Power understands that we will need to strengthen voter engagement across the region in order for the voices of our most vulnerable communities to be heard. Grants to Self-Help for the Elderly in San Francisco, as well to Mobilize the Immigrant Vote (for work across the region), and to the East Bay Asian Youth Center, among others, are designed to increase power and influence by swelling the number of immigrants who are citizens, who vote, and who can fully participate in the political process. The grants will also help diverse neighborhood residents come together around a shared vision for their future.
This is just a start. We will be making many, many more grants as this strategy develops. And we know this has to be about much more than just our grantmaking – it has to be about how we are all-in for racial and economic equity across the Bay Area. We know that we have a lot to learn as we walk down this road. It is a path that will lead us to healing, and it is a path that will lead to justice. We look forward to hearing from our donors, our grantee partners, and from the many people who have so much at stake in our region’s success. This is, above all, a partnership. Please let us know how we’re doing and how we can work together.
It is our hope that we will look back on these difficult days and remember the challenges that we faced, and be able to see how we came together to begin the hard, hopeful work to move to healing and greater justice. Our goal is to do what has to be done to make the region a better place so that all residents can thrive.