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Californians for Justice

youth holding signs

SVCF invests in Californians for Justice because “They are building a future where every voice matters,” according to Civic Participation Program Officer Jack Mahoney. CFJ’s commitment to California's youth inspires civic leadership.

CalSavers

We see the life-changing potential CalSavers can have for low income workers, says Financial Stability Program Officer Alexandra Bastien. SVCF believes CalSavers will reduce poverty and have generational impact through proper education and outreach.

Silicon Valley Pro Bono Immigration Network

SVCF has recently provided a grant to support the Silicon Valley Pro Bono Immigration Network (SVPBIN), a project housed within the Tahirih Justice Center that aims to increase access to no-cost, culturally competent, linguistically appropriate immigration legal services in Silicon Valley.

Matching Grants

We're working differently with partners, starting with awarding matching grants of $20,000 to four local community foundations. Each of the foundations has had the opportunity to utilize their grants in different approaches to meet the varying needs of the communities they serve.

Morans

Responsible, informed, and effective philanthropy is not easy, as Lydia and Tom Moran have learned over the last seven years of giving. “There are so many needs,” said Lydia. “Figuring out where best to give is hard work.”

Building Support for Community Planning in the San Francisco Bay Area

Silicon Valley Community Foundation is in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area, close to the campuses of companies like Google, Facebook and Apple. Companies like these have made the region a leader in the global economy and a hub of innovation. The Bay Area is home to a diverse population of more than 7 million people, a number expected to grow by 2 million by 2040. Where will these people live and work? What impact will they have on our air, water, open space, traffic and climate?

These were among the questions SVCF grappled with during an extensive community input process that began in 2007. We learned that while land-use planning is geared toward improving communities’ quality of life, local residents – particularly those who are low-income, immigrants or people of color – are often disengaged from the planning process. We realized we had a unique opportunity to help shape local and regional planning efforts and to get residents involved in making choices about the design of their future communities. These choices required understanding, dialogue and ownership based on accurate information, education and engagement.

This was the impetus for Envision Bay Area. In this two-year initiative, SVCF partnered with area nonprofits and government agencies to engage residents and community leaders in conversations about growth.

At a series of 10 public forums, more than 800 participants came together, including those who were fully on board with walkable communities near transit, those for whom high-density urban centers hold zero appeal, and everyone in between. About one-fifth of the participants had never attended a regional planning meeting. Meetings were sometimes very contentious, with some residents’ goal of disrupting the proceedings providing a real learning experience for us. Typically we lament the fact that our convenings attract like-minded people – but these sessions were truly representative of multiple and sometimes diametrically opposed voices. Real democracy in action.

SVCF also developed an interactive web-based simulation tool to provide graphic illustrations of the various ways in which a city or community can grow, from a continuation of suburban sprawl to high-density, inner-city growth.

You can read the full brief about Envision Bay Area and try the web tool out. 

Through Envision Bay Area, SVCF took advantage of a sophisticated new online tool, substantial knowledge of the issues, and experience facilitating community-wide dialogue to expand its leadership. We brought new voices into the regional planning process, and many have remained involved. The effort brought government and nonprofit stakeholders together to agree on a common direction for public input on policy decisions about future growth. Our government partners decided to use these sessions as the official community input for Plan Bay Area, a long-range transportation and land-use strategy for our region.

Envision Bay Area also affirms the powerful roles that community foundations can play beyond that of funder. As the capacity of government and other public institutions to address critical issues diminishes, community foundations can step in to mobilize diverse citizens in discussions to solve challenging problems. This is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

Five Questions to Ask Your Child's Teacher About Common Core

For many of us, back to school means back to making lunches, driving to soccer practice and beginning the routine of daily homework. But there’s a lot that will be different this year. Not only does your child have a new teacher, but likely a new curriculum and new expectations.

This year marks the first time all students in California’s classrooms will be receiving instruction under the state’s new core learning standards (also known as the California Common Core State Standards). The new standards represent an exciting shift to deeper learning and skill-building that will prepare our kids for career and college in the 21st Century.

Though the standards have been around since 2010, many teachers were still learning how to implement them and creating new lesson plans that span subject matter and skill sets. This is the first year that all K-12 English and math classrooms across the state will be implementing and testing to the new standards.

So how can you prepare to support your child through the changes? Communicate with your child’s teacher.

Here are a few questions to ask:

What should my child have learned by the end of the year? Every year of learning between Kindergarten and 12th grade has a set of standards. There are specific things that all children at that grade level are expected to learn. Ask your teacher what those things are for your child’s stage.

What are the most effective ways for me to support my child’s learning at home? A lot of learning happens outside the classroom, and the new core standards are aimed at helping students make the connection between their education and real life. That’s why having parents support kids at home is key. Teachers can suggest projects or games you can work on with your kids to bring the lesson plan home.

What is the school doing to prepare my child for the end-of-year tests? Several California schools administered pilot versions of the new Smarter Balanced tests last year. Find out what worked for your school, what teachers learned from the process and how they’re planning to improve on the experience this year.

Will my child score lower on the tests? In states from New York to Kentucky, test scores were significantly lower in the first year of the new standards than previous state test results. This is largely because the first year of any new testing is used to establish a benchmark. Understand why this might happen for your child, and what that will mean for him or her at the end of the year. In California, for example, state universities are currently working on aligning their expectations for incoming students with the more rigorous K-12 standards and tests.

How will I be updated on my child’s progress throughout the year? Find out what you can expect to see from the teacher, how to interpret it and when to check back in with her or him. Keep the lines of communication open to make sure you understand what’s happening in your child’s classroom.

Want to learn more about Common Core? Take a look at SVCF’s Common Core resource page.

Community Foundations Can Help Families Through Policy Efforts

Low income families typically have few options for emergency cash, forcing many to rely on high-cost payday loans for unexpected financial needs. But these loans, which are disproportionately marketed to low-income and minority communities, lead to repeated cash shortages that drive consumers to take out successive payday loans, trapping them in vicious cycles of debt.

A new study by the California Department of Business Oversight spells out the stark statistics in California: The typical payday borrower takes out six payday loans per year, with annualized interest rates of 400 percent or more. On average, they pay $800 for every $300 borrowed.

The state’s 1.8 million unique payday customers borrowed more than $3 billion in 2013 – a 20 percent increase in volume since 2006. That growth came largely on the backs of repeat payday borrowers, who make up nearly 80 percent of payday lenders’ business. Nearly a third of repeat borrowers took out 10 or more payday loans in 2013, often using a subsequent loan to help cover the shortfall created by a previous one.

Combating Payday Lending through Policy and Advocacy

While attempts to rein in payday lending at the state level have been stymied by a powerful payday lobby, efforts at the city and county level in Silicon Valley – many supported by Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s economic security grantmaking program -- have been paying off.

Since 2009, SVCF has made more than $2 million in anti-payday lending policy advocacy grants to strengthen consumer protections across the region and the state. By educating communities and elected officials about the ills of predatory payday loans, grantees have secured passage of 12 local ordinances to limit the wide availability and overconcentration of payday lending in poor communities.

The most recent victories occurred last summer in Daly City – which has the most payday lenders of any city in San Mateo County – and in South San Francisco and Menlo Park.

Thanks to the work of the Youth Leadership Institute (YLI), the California Reinvestment Coalitionand the Center for Responsible Lending, Daly City recently adopted an ordinance that capped the number of payday lenders in a way that made it virtually impossible for new lenders to open for business. 

In Menlo Park, SVCF grantee Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto (CLSEPA)worked closely with Police Commander Dave Bertini to ban payday lenders through the city’s nuisance ordinance, a creative approach that acknowledges the detrimental effect of payday lenders on communities from a public safety perspective.

Policy Efforts Can Succeed, but Dedicated Philanthropic Commitments are Needed

These successes highlight the power of grassroots approaches. But repeating and scaling these successes beyond Silicon Valley is a challenge. SVCF grantees are working to combat the well-financed payday lobby by connecting with other organizations and potential supporters in areas of need such as Southern California, the Central Valley and the Inland Empire.

But as we celebrate 100 years of community foundations and the impact of our work, let’s not forget that change begins at home and there’s still much work to be done. We must continue to empower our communities to take a stand against the forces that would harm them, and together create a more just and equitable world.

Beyond the Check

A new grantmaking strategy is engaging nonprofit organizations in communities of learning to maximize impact. Read more from Julie Lata's post in Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Math Misplacement: Tech should support legislation to stop it

Silicon Valley's largest technology companies were criticized last year after releasing data that showed African-Americans and Latinos make up only 3 percent to 4 percent of their tech workforce. In response, tech companies are now investing millions of dollars in initiatives they hope will help diversify the industry. But SVCF is working to ensure that a diverse workforce begins with fair treatment for all students in Silicon Valley schools. Read more about our efforts to pass legislation to end “math misplacement” in this op-ed published in the San Jose Mercury News.