Catalyst California advocates for racial justice by building power and transforming public systems. We partner with communities of color, conduct innovative research, develop policies for actionable change, and shift money and power back into our communities.
From Our President & CEO, John Kim
2022 was a monumental year for our organization. It was the year we leveraged all that we learned and built in our nearly 25 years as Advancement Project California to initiate a new chapter as an independent organization: Catalyst California. This major transition marked our renewed commitment to dismantling structural racism and redesigning systems for equity and access.
We’ve all felt the acute toll these past few years have taken on our state – and in today’s landscape, we know we aren’t out of the woods yet. We are deep in the throes of a housing crisis, a substance abuse crisis, a public safety and corruption crisis, a massive inequality crisis, and a roiling mental health crisis. Those things are out in the open and very real – and they’re all the result of exploitative policies laid down in past generations.
Yet, we at Catalyst California remain steadfast and hopeful in this fight. Because time and again, California’s grassroots progressive movement has demonstrated unrelenting resilience and perseverance through adversity. Because while the state we inherited was designed to work for the few, our devoted community of organizers and advocates understands that, together, we can redesign it to work for everyone.
We believe a new California is waiting to be born. One that aspires to justice and trusts in the strength of our racial diversity; one that lives and breathes equity and enables all its people to thrive. Catalyst California exists to power us toward that aspirational state – and we made enormous advances in 2022, in partnership with community-based organizations. We tackled climate justice issues in communities of color, shaped an action plan for the LA Office of Racial Equity, launched a new program area focused on criminal justice reform, and secured an additional $1.1B in state funding for community schools. We’re excited to share more about these wins, and so many others, in this – our 2022 Annual Impact Report.
The impact we make in this fight is possible because of YOU: Our partners driving and galvanizing the movement; our donors and funders investing in critical equity initiatives; our supporters cheering us on and spreading the word about our campaigns. Together, we are the founders of the new California – and we are just getting started.
Our community – our movement – is ready to put in the hard work to ensure the California we pass to future generations is fairer and stronger than the one we were handed. Thank you for standing with us through another momentous year. I can’t wait to see what we continue building together in 2023 and beyond.
See what brought us to this new chapter and what's ahead
Our Impact in 2022
Strengthening community power to transform neighborhoods
- Released a first-of-its-kind report detailing the results of our year-long climate justice research project in the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley. Low-income and Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities are most vulnerable to encountering climate-change-related disasters – and have the fewest resources to withstand their impacts. Our findings provide key insights and recommendations for advocates, organizers, and policymakers to better understand and support the needs of those most affected by the climate crisis.
- Partnered with community organizations to implement major updates to our Justice Equity Need Index (JENI)– a first-of-its-kind geographic mapping tool that identifies Los Angeles County communities impacted by the criminal justice system. Used in conjunction with the Justice Equity Service Index (JESI), a tool we released in 2021 examining the county’s existing system of justice-related care, the new JENI data, methodology, and interactive features make it easier for advocates and policymakers to see where criminal justice-oriented services and resources are needed most.
- Became part of the Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles (ACT-LA)– a cross-sector coalition working to improve affordable housing, public transit, and community safety – advocated for and won $122M for a landmark pilot program that will establish a new Transit Ambassador role to provide a welcoming presence to public transit riders. These ambassadors will also serve as a safety intermediary, shifting the Metro away from its over-reliance on law enforcement and toward a care-based, holistic approach to traffic safety.
Creating a racially just birth to 12th grade system
- Co-sponsored the Whole Child Equity Bill and successfully advocated for it to be signed into state law. This new law requires the development and implementation of a Whole Child Equity Framework, which recognizes that a child’s well-being is rooted in the holistic functioning of their family and community. This bold approach places racial and economic equity at the forefront of California’s early childhood system and will make sure our children enter school healthy, feel safe in their learning environment, have access to adequate nutrition and stable housing, and more.
- Released a powerful report elevating the voices of Californians most impacted by inequitable access to high-quality Early Learning and Care (ELC) services: families of color and/or low-income. Alongside our partners, we surveyed nearly 4,000 families and facilitated 14 focus groups across the state to obtain crucial insights into the lived experiences of these historically underserved families. Our findings will allow state leaders to make informed, equity-centered reform decisions that ensure the ELC system is fully accessible and resourced.
- Collaborated with partners to fight for and secure an additional $1.1B in funding for community schools – schools that unite families, educators, and community partners to create and lead equity-based support systems that promote educational excellence for every child – and $100M to expand a statewide initiative that’s building the capacity of school districts to authentically engage one another. Our efforts also ensured community school funds could not be used for law enforcement or punitive practices.
Acclaimed writer Gabby Rivera on our recent Educational Equity Win
Advancing justice and Safety for low-income communities of color
- Leveraged our deep knowledge and expertise in criminal legal system reform to launch a new program area: Reimagine Justice and Safety. Decades of “tough-on-crime” policies have devastated communities of color and failed to achieve public safety. Our Reimagine Justice and Safety team aims to transform our approach to safety by reducing the role of law enforcement and creating a comprehensive ecosystem of care-centered safety solutions. As part of the Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles (ACT-LA), we and our colleagues in Catalyst California’s Equity in Community Investments team have already achieved tangible victories like the Metro Transit Ambassador Program (detailed in a previous section).
- Released a groundbreaking report revealing how California sheriff’s departments engage in racially biased patrol activities that undermine community safety and waste tremendous amounts of public dollars. Examining data made available by the Racial & Identity Profiling Act, we found that these activities inflict devastating harms on communities of color across the state, including dehumanization, degraded public health, economic extraction, and physical violence. Our report also outlines actionable recommendations for how we can better protect communities of color from these harms and ensure public funds are allocated more resourcefully.
Making State and local government more responsive, participatory, and representative
- Secured the establishment of a Racial Equity Commission in Governor Newsom’s new Executive Order on Equity after two years of community engagement, advocacy, and negotiations alongside our allies. This commission will work with private and public stakeholders to develop resources, best practices, and tools to address systemic racism that has resulted in disparities and poorer outcomes for people of color. This hard-won victory is a landmark step toward expanding opportunity and justice for all Californians.
- Released an in-depth brief detailing the success of California’s 2021 redistricting process. Alongside coalition partners, we played a leading role in facilitating community engagement in the process to ensure the input of residents was heeded and racial equity was a key factor in determining how our new congressional and state legislative district lines were drawn. These efforts ultimately resulted in fairer, more representative district maps and strengthened opportunities for communities of color to elect candidates of choice.
Civil Rights Icon Dolores Huerta on our Redistricting Work
Advancing Racial Justice
- After going virtual for two years, we hosted our very first “hybrid” Champions for Equity Awards at a stunning rooftop venue in Downtown LA, with the program livestreamed for folks viewing remotely. Hundreds of advocates joined us to celebrate the evolution of the racial justice movement – and of our organization, following our rebranding – and to honor three remarkable movement leaders: labor rights activist Dolores Huerta, former Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, and acclaimed author Gabby Rivera. The event was a tremendous success, raising over $210,000 to fuel our racial and economic justice initiatives.
- Our RACE COUNTS initiative launched its latest update that allows users to filter critical data by race. This new feature highlights the stark racial disparities that have harmed communities of color across California for decades. RACE COUNTS is the trusted, authoritative source for putting hard, factual data behind the stories we hear from folks most impacted by racial disparities. This latest update gives advocates and policymakers the critical information and recommendations they need to push for reimagined public systems that create a more equitable California.
“We should all do our part to prop up the community we call home – whenever and however we can.” That’s why Catalyst California supporter James Kimura-Green donates toward causes close to his heart – and racial justice ranks highly among those. Born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother and Jewish-American father, James grew up in Japan and moved to the United States in 2003 for college. Having then jumped from Connecticut to Massachusetts and even Louisiana before his career brought him to California in 2016, he’s experienced firsthand what it means to be a biracial immigrant in America.
Today, James lives in Los Angeles with his partner, Courtney, and their two dogs. He owns and runs Goldrush Stardust – a small fabric and garment manufacturing business – while Courtney works in pediatric healthcare administration. He first came across our organization in 2020. “When the world turned upside down with COVID and the racial justice uprisings that year, I took a hard look at myself and knew it was time to step up,” James recalled. Determined to make a difference in their local community, he and Courtney started researching social justice institutions working in and around Los Angeles.
That day, James became part of a special group of Catalyst California donors we call our Proactive Advocates – folks who give on a recurring basis. He’s now been generously donating $25 every month for over two and a half years. “It’s my pleasure to help,” James shared, adding that as his company continues to do better, he’ll be bumping up his monthly gift amount. “When you get to a point in life where you want to – and actually can – give back, it feels really good to do it.”
James is especially moved by our work in educational equity, equitable public investments, and community power-building. “We’ve got to make sure things get better for future generations”, he mused, “and while not everybody has the platform and expertise to dismantle systemic injustices directly, we can support the organizations that do.” Looking ahead, James and Courtney are excited to see their ongoing contributions to Catalyst California and other nonprofits help improve and transform their community over the decades to come.
Public health policy expert Mayra E. Alvarez holds her family close to her heart every day in the work she does. The proud daughter of Mexican immigrants, she grew up in El Cajon, CA, where socioeconomic barriers were ever-present. “My parents worked hard Monday through Sunday, yet they never owned a house; never had a 401k,” she recalled, “There were no systems in place to help them understand how to obtain them.” This is a story that plays out all too often for low-income families and people of color – and Mayra has dedicated her life to changing that. “Public programs that actually work for the people who need it most – that’s a key part of my mission,” she avowed.
As a first-generation college student, Mayra relied on guidance from her sisters, peers, and mentors to navigate through the higher education system. She poignantly stated, “No one gets to where they’re going alone; there’s no power without community.” After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare/Chicano Studies and Master’s in Health Administration, her career began with a fellowship in the office of then-Senator Barack Obama, and quickly accelerated from there. She held an impressive array of high-ranking positions at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services before switching gears and joining The Children’s Partnership (TCP) – a nonprofit organization advancing children’s health equity – as President in late 2015.
In 2019, Catalyst California (then Advancement Project California) launched the Whole Child Equity Partnership (WCEP). Given our strong partnership with TCP and their leadership in the field, they joined as the coalition’s co-chair in 2021. The WCEP advocates for holistic policies and programs that center the needs of young children and their families facing systemic inequities. Reflecting on our collaboration, Mayra shared, “You want to surround yourself with people who make you better; model yourself after organizations you admire and are doing good work – that’s Catalyst California.”
Looking ahead, the WCEP hopes to open its doors to a broader movement of organizations and advocates. “I’m so excited to expand the coalition to include more folks who want to build a better system of support for California’s youngest Black and Brown kids and their families,” Mayra enthused, “all the while, making sure we stick to our values and stay grounded in the communities we’re fighting for.”
“It’s hard work and it takes sustained energy to undo white supremacy and racism,” says Fred Ali, “But California is blessed with a power-building infrastructure of community-based organizations that know how to make change happen.”
No one is better positioned to understand that infrastructure than Fred, who has more than 40 years in the nonprofit sector as an executive, both as a funder and running organizations. Now a management consultant and executive coach, Fred previously served 21 years as President & CEO of The Weingart Foundation. After partnering with Catalyst California for nearly 20 years, he is the founding chair of our new Board of Directors.
There are concerns about the racial justice movement losing some momentum following the Uprising in 2020 in response to police killings of several unarmed Black men and women. But Fred has optimism because of the wide diversity of effective leaders ensuring that racial equity is part of state, local, and school district policymaking in this state. “We’ll know we have succeeded when we see public systems making policy decisions based on a commitment to racial justice,” says Fred, continuing, “AND we see evidence of an equitable distribution of resources to our most marginalized communities.”
Fred joined our new board and agreed to serve as Chair because “...the opportunity to become part of Catalyst California as it transitions into this new phase was too exciting to pass up.” He feels that we occupy a unique niche in the broader racial justice movement because we combine policy advocacy and data and research, with power-building in partnership with communities of color. Fred states, “My time is very important to me, and this was an opportunity to have real impact in racial justice and movement spaces.”
Unprompted, Fred talked about the executive leadership and staff as, “A strong team of committed people that is very impressive.” We feel the same way about Fred and look forward to tapping into his expertise as he leads this new Board and our organization into the future.
“We’ll know we’ve achieved equity when all people and communities in this state are – in their own unique ways – healthy, safe, stable, have access to the resources they need to keep themselves and their families well, free from harm, able to thrive, to create and celebrate culture, and to have an active role in decisions made by and for their communities and the state as a whole.” This is the vision of Richard Vezina, Senior Program Officer of Align Systems in Community Priorities, at the Blue Shield of California Foundation.
Richard admits that his vision will only exist partially, as there is no end to the quest to ensure equity for our communities. But, he says, “We have already seen success in many ways. And by working toward the next short-term objective while still dreaming of the future, we will get there.”
He cautions those gains are in peril – the economic tightening we’re seeing means racial justice advocates will need to be even more creative. Tighter government budgets can reduce the appetite for innovative policymaking.
According to Richard, the antidote to that concern is the amazing ecosystem of community-based organizations (CBOs) we have in California. He explains, “The pandemic was brutal, but one positive outcome is that CBOs are much more connected and understand their work doesn’t happen in isolation.” He notes that local leaders now viscerally understand how much their communities rely on local, state, and federal government resources. “The time has never been better to capitalize on these partnerships, to build bigger coalitions, and to figure out how to grow our power together.”
The Foundation recently invested in the Budget Power Project (BPP), a coalition of three groups, including Catalyst California. BPP will dramatically expand the power of low-income communities of color to engage in – and win – policy battles that center racial justice in the equitable distribution of public resources. Given the Foundation’s focus on promoting community influence on government to address the root causes of health inequities and domestic violence, “BPP aligned perfectly with Blue Shield’s interest in promoting active participation by Californians so that they have a say in how the government works for them,” says Richard.
According to Richard, BPP exemplifies Catalyst California’s strength: “Blending a justice orientation with the technical expertise to advance advocacy campaigns that truly transform public systems to serve communities better.”
2021 FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
Thank you to all our partners, donors, funders, and supporters who made all this critical racial and economic justice work possible in 2022.