2018 Summit Preview: Elevating the CA Dream. Ensuring Resiliency in Every Community.

580 200 Justin Ewers

(Photo: Violeta Vaqueiro/CAFwd)

California’s economy may be among the world’s most productive—with innovative companies in almost every industry defining global trends and creating enormous wealth. But with each passing year, it has become clear this unprecedented engine of growth, the source of the “California Dream” for generations, is not working for far too many Californians.

What will it take to make California’s economy benefit everyone? That is the question nearly 500 public, private, and civic sector leaders from across the state will seek to answer at the 2018 California Economic Summit in Santa Rosa. Over two days on November 15-16, participants will review and refine a prosperity agenda that aims to harness California’s strengths—and address the rising costs, growing economic inequality, and expanding impacts of climate change that are making it harder for millions of Californians to prosper.

This strategy is outlined in the 2018 Summit Playbook, which highlights four major new initiatives introduced by the Summit this year. (Stay tuned tomorrow for more information on the Summit’s other ongoing efforts: The One Million Challenges.) After the discussion in Santa Rosa, the Playbook’s draft action plan will be updated and launched in January as the Summit’s 2019 Roadmap to Shared Prosperity.


The governor-elect, Gavin Newsom, has called it “the greatest challenge of our time:” How can California retool its economy to reduce income inequality, promote economic security, and restore upward mobility for everyone? The Playbook offers a range of ideas for getting there, including a proposal to push the new administration to make these goals an explicit priority—as the state has done successfully in the arena of climate change—and to measure progress in a new “California Dream Index.” At the Summit, participants will review this new index, along with a proposed new Partnership to End Poverty that could be tasked with transforming the safety net to meet these new goals. After progress was made this year on legislation that sought to formalize some of these approaches, the Summit will also feature a discussion about incorporating upward mobility strategies in a statewide economic strategy focused on the triple bottom line—simultaneously advancing economic growth, ensuring environmental quality, and providing opportunity for all in every region.


Californians are facing two types of disruptions in their daily lives so all-encompassing they’re now just referred to as the “new normal:” the social and economic dislocations caused by rising costs and changes in the workplace—and a wide range of more frequent, increasingly devastating natural disasters associated with climate change. At the Summit, participants will review a new model for building more sustainable, more resilient communities that can withstand both emerging challenges. Using lessons learned from the North Bay’s response to the 2017 wildfires, participants at the Summit will discuss a new model for building more collaborative, more resilient governance systems—highlighting roles, responsibilities, and opportunities for both the public and private sectors.


Rural California is the supermarket to the world and the source of 75 percent of the water used statewide—with forests that clean the air and open spaces that provide room to breathe. Yet, California’s rural areas also face deep challenges: Poverty and unemployment run disproportionately high, well-paying jobs and highly-educated workers can be hard to find, access to adequate health care services is often limited, and basic infrastructure needs go unmet too often. In 2018, the Summit has documented previous statewide strategies for rural economic development—and highlighted three promising new initiatives where targeted community, workforce and economic development activities can lift up rural areas, connect them to the state’s urban regions, and benefit the state as a whole.


Each year, the Summit determines the right next steps to ensure all Californians— regardless of age, geography, or personal history—can pursue the California Dream. Two new initiatives will be reviewed and refined at the 2018 Summit, including a discussion about expanding the Summit’s workforce development efforts to promote early childhood learning and a new effort, “This is Us,” that aims to promote a California that works for everyone, no matter where they live or how they got here.

For more information about each of these initiatives, download the Playbook here.


Justin Ewers

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