2020 will be a year for the books. We have experienced deep heartbreak as the COVID-19 pandemic created a global health and economic crisis, upending routines and impacting our communities in ways unimaginable less than one year ago. Cracks in California’s economic and social façade have widened under the pressures of the disease, bringing to light the inequities of our processes and systems while crippling communities and disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable and underrepresented Californians.
While the tragedies of this pandemic are indisputable, COVID-19 has also ushered forth tremendous acts of heroism and hope. Medical professionals put their lives on the line every day to save others. Retail workers kept the lights on and stores open for their communities. Teachers continually found innovative ways to educate in a challenging virtual environment. Californians have volunteered, delivering food to our most vulnerable, donating blood, and making facemasks for our communities. As the year draws to a close, we must celebrate shining examples of our resilient community, humanity, and interconnectedness. We are not alone, and by working together, we can support one another, identify solutions and drive collective action to meet the challenges California is facing.
A year ago, I reached out to you and said that 2020 would be an enormously consequential year in the public life of America and California. This ended up being more prescient than I would have hoped. And while the worst health crisis in 100 years became an unexpected catalyst in our work, it did not change our focus. Even more than other states, California is comprised of diverse regions with distinctive economies, cultures, and ecosystems. Therefore, regional leadership and collaboration are the cornerstones of the state’s ability to address its formidable challenges and redress the racial and economic inequities magnified by COVID-19.
The Regions Rise Together convenings, conducted in partnership with the Governor’s Administration and state legislative leaders in 2019, showcased the value of regional expertise acting in concert with the state to help meet the needs of all Californians. These efforts, and the work accomplished regionally through 2019 and 2020, have created a new template for more equitable regional economic development – The Equitable Economies Project.
Anchoring the transformative work unfolding in regions across the state, the Equitable Economies Project begins with racial, gender, and economic equity as its foundation – which requires that the community be genuinely embraced and empowered as decision-makers. The project brings business, nonprofit, philanthropic, academic, and public sectors together, informed by data-driven, economic development strategies, to create equitable and sustainable growth focused on action areas directly linked to the California Dream including:
- Housing for All
- Equitable Communities
- Ecosystems & Climate Resiliency
- Thriving Economies
- Education Cradle to Career
- Connecting California
- Health & Wellbeing
- Government Performance & Accountability
As we continue to work together through this pandemic, we must take a fundamentally different approach to our economic recovery, dismantling what we know does not work and is not sustainable and rebuilding through the lens of equity and inclusion. The Equitable Economies Project allows us to do just that.
With your partnership and financial support, this project will continue to build on the efforts California Forward, the California Stewardship Network, and our many partners have advanced for over a decade – bringing cross-sector community leaders together to work collaboratively and use regional expertise to implement policy and solve complex challenges. Moving forward, we will ensure underrepresented and marginalized communities continue to not only have a seat at the table but are equipped and empowered to set tables alongside others. Their voices must be heard as we engage solutions-oriented partners from all parties and communities in crucial conversations to identify triple-bottom-line policies and outcomes that are equitable, environmentally aligned, and economically sound.
The holidays are often a time for reflection and reengagement in what matters most. With the start of a new year – and new decade – only days away, I am asking you to fully engage by making an investment in a project that is not only critical to our economic recovery but is also a vital opportunity to create a more inclusive, vibrant, and resilient California. Now is the time to come together across parties, interests, and geographies to make a difference in your community, your region, and our state.
Together we will build a better tomorrow for all Californians.
With gratitude and hope,
Dr. Micah Weinberg
CEO, California Forward