October 12 2018

Click to read in Spanish, Khmer, Hmong, Somali, Vietnamese 


Dear Partners and Friends,

As many of you are aware, the Board and staff at The California Endowment have spent the last year in discussion and conversation with community, grantees, colleagues and experts to explore what’s next, after the decade-long Building Healthy Communities (BHC) initiative. It is an exciting time, filled with appreciation for all that has been accomplished and reflection about how to build on the successes we have achieved together to ensure health for all Californians.

This letter is the first in a series to our partners that describes our planning process and the path forward. We know that open and regular communications are essential, and we are committed to creating opportunities for you to offer guidance to develop the most successful transition possible.

This letter also shares several important decisions made by our Board of Directors at its most recent meeting.

It is organized in six parts: 1) What We Have Achieved, 2) What We Have Learned, 3) What We Have Planned, 4) What’s Different for the Future 5) Where We Need Help, and 6) Our Timeline. In our next communication, you can expect a survey that seeks input from you as we move forward together.

What We Have Achieved

The California Endowment’s Board of Directors is very proud of what we have accomplished together during the past nine years and considers BHC to be a great success.  A detailed list of BHC accomplishments can be found here, and a few highlights are listed below.

  1. Statewide policy and systems improvements
    • Expanded health coverage to uninsured and undocumented Californians.
    • School climate and discipline reforms that led to dramatic reductions in school suspensions statewide.
    • Improved policy focus on juvenile justice reform.
    • Statewide attention to racial bias and the challenges affecting boys and young men of color.
    • A Program-Related Investments (PRI) strategy that amplified and leveraged our grantmaking by increasing access to affordable fresh food, health coverage, and supportive housing across California.
  2. Hundreds of local policy and system improvements at the county, school district, and city level.
    • Across the 14 BHC sites, more than 780 policy and systems wins and tangible improvements were documented in health access, land use, school discipline reform, democratic representation, and youth development and leadership.
  3. The civic participation, activism, engagement, and leadership of young people across our state.
  4. A powerful new narrative about community, place, health and inclusion of all Californians.

What We Have Learned

Through BHC, we learned that activism, advocacy, community organizing, and civic participation to build people power has a significant and meaningful impact on the community and environmental conditions that affect health.  The scientific evidence also affirms that agency, belonging, and civic engagement in a vibrant, inclusive democracy contribute to individual health and well-being. The converse is also true: stigmatization, oppression, marginalization, and racism all have trauma-based, detrimental health impacts.  A full discussion of the lessons we have learned through BHC can be found here:

What We Have Planned

Our goal, over the next decade and across the foundation, is to help create a healthy, inclusive and equitable California, building on the lessons we have learned and assets we have developed together. To guide this aspiration, our Board of Directors has adopted this vision and commitment statement based on our conviction and belief that this is the right course for us:


The California Endowment’s Vision Statement

We envision a California that leads the nation as a powerful and conscientious voice for wellness, inclusion, and shared prosperity.

Where the talent and genius of all young people are no longer left on the sidelines, but are central to the state’s future;

Where California invests in the wellness of all and assures meaningful opportunities for all, particularly the next generations, and those who have been excluded from opportunity because of discrimination, marginalization and stigmatization;

Where there is racial truth and reconciliation, justice and healing;

Where public institutions are responsive to, and reflective of, the will of all the people;

Where all have voice, and are empowered to participate in a robust democracy;

Where health destiny is not determined by a person’s ZIP code;

ultimately making California the nation’s healthiest state, and a model that fulfills America’s true promise of equality and justice for all people.

Together we will work toward a California for All in the 21st Century.


Our Commitment

In support of this vision, The California Endowment will invest in three bold ideas in the decade to come.  These ideas have been shaped by our last decade of listening to and engaging with young people and grassroots communities across our state.  These three ideas are:

  1. People Power: developing young and adult leaders to work intergenerationally to raise up the voice of marginalized communities and promote greater civic activism as essential building blocks for an inclusive, healthier, more equitably prosperous state;
  2. Reimagining Our Institutions:  transforming our public institutions to become significant investors in, and champions of, racial and social equity, and in the healthy development and success of young people for generations to come;
  3. A 21st century “Health for All” system: ensuring prevention, community wellness, and access to quality health care for ALL Californians.

These three bold ideas reflect our belief that California will be a healthier place to live and a model for the nation when it is free from social inequality and racial injustice.

What’s Different for the Future

We’ve learned and accomplished a great deal over the last nine years of BHC.  So why bother changing anything now? The answer lies in the matters of scale, spread, and reach.  We want to see the impact of the last decade of work achieve greater statewide and regional scale.

Our mission, core values, and commitment to health equity will not be changed by our new strategic direction and will deepen to reflect what we have learned with you. Some of the most important shifts include:

  • Prioritizing power-building and youth-adult leadership development as core statewide goals. As part of this work, we will more assertively fund the development of statewide and regional infrastructure to support networking, alliance-building, and coalition development.
  • Emphasizing change for systems that significantly impact the lives of young people. We will continue to support policy change, but recognize that systems change is equally important to ensure sustainability and durable investments in prevention and youth development.
  • Building further on BHC’s track record, taking the health equity focus into new geographies, regions and communities beyond the original 14 BHC sites, with a stronger emphasis on working with rural and Native American communities.  BHC’s successes have demonstrated clear value beyond the boundaries of the 14 sites with regional impacts, and we hope to build on this.
  • Lastly, the Board of Directors has adopted a more explicit commitment to racial equity and racial healing in the decade to come.  The Board agreed that confronting matters of race and structural racism are central to advancing health equity across our state.

Where We Need Help

The Board and staff are committed to a participatory process as our strategies are finalized, and we hope you will engage. Shortly, we will survey our partners and ask for your reactions to the three bold ideas. In addition, our plan is to continue to seek input from our partners about strategies that build people power and transform the systems that are most essential to improving health and raising youth voice.

We would be grateful if you would give thought to the vision statement and the three ideas, and participate in our survey when it is ready in the next few weeks. We appreciate your partnership and will use the feedback we receive from you to inform this next phase of our strategy development over the next year.

Our Timeline

We expect a participatory design process to continue during the next nine months, and commit to including a broad array of stakeholders key to achieving the vision of a healthier California.

Over the next year, we will provide regular updates about our progress through staff, our website and social media channels and highlight opportunities to engage in strategic discussions.

We do not anticipate making any significant changes to Building Healthy Communities in the coming year, and we expect to announce any strategic decisions that may affect our funding priorities by early 2020. We will do our best to provide grantees whose funding may be affected with at least a full year’s notice before changes are made.  In whatever decisions we make, we pledge to be better listeners and engagers, be transparent and timely with our communications, and keep our eyes on the goals of wellness, equity, and justice for all residents in our state.

Thank you for being part of and supporting this journey. We have made great strides to advance our shared vision of healthier communities and racial and health equity. We remain committed to this goal and to building upon the successes we have achieved together.


Zac Guevara

Chair, Board of Directors

Shawn Ginwright, Ph.D.

Vice Chair, Board of Directors

Robert K. Ross, M.D.

President and Chief Executive

The California Endowment Board of Directors

Stephen Bennett

Walter Buster, Ed.D.

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño

Shan Cretin, Ph.D.

Adrienne Crowe

Hector Flores, M.D.

Jane Garcia

Leslie Kautz

Christina Kazhe

Kate Kendell, Esq.

Marta McKenzie, M.P.H., R.D.

Steve PonTell

Karthick Ramakrishnan, Ph.D.

Winston F. Wong, M.D., M.S.

Comments are closed.