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Equity in Action: Exploring Nine Case Examples in California

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March 18, 2024

At a Glance

JFF provides nine examples of high-impact efforts in California that are undertaking the work of advancing equity, offering lessons for state leaders looking to maximize impact of their investments. 

Alison Schmitt Director
Molly Dow Senior Program Manager
Cesilia Acevedo Program Manager

Across the United States, various investments seek to catalyze regional quality job creation, training, educational pathways, equity, and climate resiliency in our communities. In California, we have seen both the launch and expansion of state and federal opportunities like California Jobs First (formerly the Community Economic Resilience Fund), High Road Training Partnerships, K-16 Regional Education Collaboratives Grant Program, Regional Climate Collaboratives, the Good Jobs Challenge, and the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, in addition to existing recurring funding like the Strong Workforce Program and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. For these investments to translate into better long-term economic outcomes for the most vulnerable Californians, we must also keenly focus on how change is implemented with these resources. The actionable strategies will drive us to a more equitable future.    

In this report, each slide includes information on:

• Region: The place in California where each strategy is deployed
• Change agents: The partner organizations involved in designing and implementing each strategy
• Context: The geographic or social backdrop relevant to how the partners engage in this work
• Theory of change: An explanation of how and why a desired change is expected to occur
• What are we learning from this effort?: Key takeaways to keep in mind when applying these strategies in your own community or designing programs at the state level for others to implement
• Featured resources: Where to look for additional information
Each example represents just a snapshot of a much richer story. Please read the highlights of what we’re learning, engage with the associated resources, and contact the featured organizations directly to learn more and explore opportunities to collaborate.

Throughout 2023, Jobs for the Future (JFF) met with members of its inaugural Future Ready California Advisory Committee, a group of trusted partners representing regions across California, with expertise including education, workforce, economic development, and community development. Our collective vision is to grow our economy differently, prioritizing asset-based, cross-sector approaches to build community resilience and close equity gaps. Together, we grappled with examples of what works (and what doesn’t) across California’s diverse geographies when trying to use external investments to close equity gaps.   

Today’s funding opportunities have evolved in many ways, incorporating a broad range of requirements to facilitate this goal. They may include community engagement, population-specific strategies, employer leadership, and cross-sector collaboration. While these changes have made strides toward systemic transformation at the local and regional levels, state-level decision-makers who design programs across California’s diverse regions often need support to implement these objectives and promote coherence across initiatives. It is also important to lay the foundation for sustainability early and often, which may require new accountability structures, changes in ways of working, leadership development, and even culture change.   

Here, we provide nine examples designed to give policymakers, funders, and other state leaders a snapshot of high-impact regional efforts throughout the state that are undertaking the real, messy, painful, and courageous work of advancing equity every day. These regional examples will offer lessons for state leaders looking to maximize the equity impact of their investments. 


Thank you to our Future Ready California Advisory Committee members for the candid conversations informing these examples and their dedicated service to our state.

Nasser Albaqqal, undergraduate student at San José State University
Stephen Bediako, cofounder at Path Group, founder at Turning Basin Labs
Michelle Decker, president and CEO at Inland Empire Community Foundation
Ana Luz Gonzalez-Vasquez, project director at UCLA Labor Center
Rob Hope, director at ReWork the Bay at the San Francisco Foundation
Kate Mahar, associate vice president of innovation and strategic initiatives at Shasta College
Kim McNulty, vice president of regional strategy at OneFuture Coachella Valley
Yolanda Meraz, chief strategy officer at Stanislaus Equity Partners
Deborah J. Nankivell, CEO at Fresno Business Council
Jeffery T.D. Wallace, president and CEO at LeadersUp

This report was made possible through the generous support of the James Irvine Foundation.

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