CA FWD is committed to creating inclusive and sustainable economic growth. We do this by supporting interrelated policy action areas that help all Californians across the state’s regions prosper and claim their California Dream. 

Foundational to the California Dream, these diverse areas are inextricably linked. One is not independent of the other. These areas include:

We move these areas forward with the strength of our collaborative approach – including the California Stewardship Network, the California Economic Summit network and work groups, and our Young Leaders Advisory Council – and we measure our progress with the California Dream Index.

The Young Leaders Advisory Council’s purpose is to advance access to greater economic prosperity for all Californians, specifically marginalized youth and young adults. With members representing different regions, races, ethnicities and communities throughout the state, the Young Leaders Advisory Council is poised to address both local and statewide issues that greatly impact next-generation voices through advocacy, civic engagement, coalition building, and policy development.

To stay up-to-date on the Action Areas below and receive our weekly CA FWD Newsletter, sign up today!

Priority Actions

For 2021, California Forward has identified the following priority actions.

    Housing for All

Housing has become the primary obstacle to livability in almost every region. High costs are pushing millions of people below the poverty line and many into homelessness. Compounding existing housing challenges, longer commutes negatively impact air quality and worker’s health, while more and more employers struggle to attract and retain skilled workers.

California Forward, together with partners in the Summit, has risen to this challenge with ambitious policy initiatives and strategic alliances with triple-bottom-line economic development organizations.

“The triple bottom line for housing — equity, environment, economics — requires attainable homeownership for California’s working families.”
-Jennifer Hernandez, CA FWD Leadership Council


Creating wealth through racial and geographic equity in affordable homeownership

Homeownership has traditionally been the primary vehicle for middle class prosperity, an investment that creates opportunity for future generations. In California, however, homeownership is increasingly out of reach for all but the highest earners in the state. A history of systemically racist policies coupled with a present day housing shortage has driven up the cost of housing overall and put homeownership out of reach for far too many.


  Issue data-driven recommendations to inform state and local agencies, and other stakeholders to meet production targets as required by the Regional Housing Needs Assessments process. The analysis will include price points and housing typologies that are affordable to moderate income households in each region, as well as recommendations on increasing the supply of housing that is affordable by design.

  Support legislation allowing for commercially zoned sites to be redeveloped for housing. The changing nature of retail has been accelerated by the pandemic, and allowing housing to be developed on underutilized commercial spaces will help spur production and reduce California’s housing shortage by unlocking much needed land, oftentimes in prime locations.


Addressing Housing Needs in Rural California in the Wake of Natural Disasters
1024 576 Amber Bolden

Seana O’Shaughnessy advocates for affordable housing options that reflect realities and needs of rural communities

Coachella Valley Rental Assistance Program Continues Lifting Up Residents in Need
1024 576 Nadine Ono

With physical and economic recovery turning into a slow process for many, Lift to Rise program helping people get back on track

Increasing Homeownership to Equalize Economic Opportunity
1024 575 Amber Bolden

New CEO of California Community Builders charts path to close racial wealth gap through homeownership

    Equitable Communities

Sunset jump shot at the beach

More than ever, it is important to reduce the significant racial and geographic inequalities within our state. The events we have seen unfold are decades in the making. They are chronic symptoms of the inequities reflected in policies that maintain the status quo and create barriers that deny opportunities for some – but not for others. We must be deliberate about changing the power and economic imbalances in society.


Creating equitable economies through inclusive development

Regions-based strategies for inclusive, sustainable and equitable economic growth remain a core priority for 2021. The need to confront the disparate impacts of COVID-19 has never been more urgent. Building on the Regions Rise Together initiative and the legislative framework originally introduced through AB 3205 (Assemblymember Salas), which sought to create the Regions Rise Grant Program, we will continue to advance a state framework that supports local planning and community engagement processes centered in equity, collaboration and inclusivity.


 Sponsor the legislative reintroduction of the Regions Rise Together Grant Program, AB 106 (Salas), emphasizing interconnectivity, collaboration and equity to help regions create economic recovery strategies in the wake of COVID-19.

  Support regional planning processes centered in equity and inclusivity including advancing initiatives and programming in Bakersfield, Fresno, Greater Sacramento, Inland Empire, Northern San Joaquin Valley, Salinas Valley and San Diego.

  Lead the 2021 Regions Rise Together initiative and support emerging regional developments in various regions throughout the state. Regions Rise Together is an initiative of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), the Office of Planning and Research, California Forward and our California Stewardship Network, and a number of local and regional leaders to ultimately achieve inclusive and sustainable economic growth across all of California.


An Action Plan for Equitable Economic Revitalization
800 300 John Guenther

Rethinking California’s infrastructure programs to balance growth with real, immediate investments in communities in need.

Addressing racial inequities in the spotlight as regions plan for recovery
800 300 Nadine Ono

How economic planning can build more equity featured during Regions Recover Together workshop

Creating an investment strategy for California’s economic recovery
800 300 Micah Weinberg and Fred Silva

Four ways to use the state budget to get Californians back to work and upwardly mobile

Broad coalition calls for inclusive regional economic planning in state’s recovery
800 400 John Guenther

Legislation would create path for more collaboration between local, nonprofit, business, and philanthropy leaders in California’s regions

    Ecosystems & Climate Resiliency


Water and land are the most foundational and critical resources on the planet. Consecutive years of drought, flooding, and destructive wildfires demonstrate the varied impacts of climate change and the urgent need for deliberate, impactful action.


Meeting climate goals by reducing wildfire risk and supporting rural communities

Building on the principles of California’s Wildfire Crisis: A Call to Action, we must work to shift the state’s primary focus from reactive fire suppression and recovery to the proactive reduction of risks and restoration of resilient forests, watersheds, working landscapes, and ecosystems. The opportunity to build new and innovative wood product industries to enhance forest and environmental health will also be critical in creating resilient rural communities.


  Support the immediate scaling of state investment over the next two years in wildfire reduction and forest restoration. Reducing wildfires and restoring forest health can help safeguard more than 11 million Californians who live in harm’s way and improve public health and safety.

  Support legislation and policies to drive long-term funding and action-oriented solutions, including enhancing forest and watershed resilience, building new and innovative wood products industries and strengthening rural economies.

  Identify on-the-ground projects with potential for landscape-scale resilience building, expansion of innovative wood product industries, and development of diversified economic stacking models to champion through legislative, policy and coalition-building channels.


Disparities in California’s Water Management Add to Challenges of Drought and Contamination
1024 576 Ed Coghlan

Building a modern, resilient water system is made much more difficult with 1,889 water systems that have under 500 rate payers

Governor Newsom Acts on Legislation Championed by CA FWD Action Fund
1024 576 CA FWD

Key bills represent historic and meaningful investments in broadband, wildfires and more

Preparing for Wildfires Pays Off in South Lake Tahoe
1024 576 Deb Kollars

Collaborative preventative efforts done since a 2007 wildfire were key to saving homes and structures

    Thriving Economies

welder working

By bringing government, business, and civic leaders together to identify regional priorities, share innovations and align with state investments and other policies we can target the root causes of economic insecurity and unsustainable resource management. The result of this unified effort will be the establishment of a functioning system of “California Capitalism” that will be a model for the rest of the nation and the world.


Redressing racial inequity through access to capital

As California rebuilds its economy, it is critical to create recovery pathways for small businesses owned by people of color (POC) in order to achieve an inclusive economy across our regions. POC start businesses at higher rates than other demographics, yet they often face barriers and lack connection to needed resources and affordable capital to achieve their full growth potential.


  Issue recommendations to guide Community Development Financial Institutions, governments, financial institutions, and other capital providers to help strengthen businesses by transforming pathways to capital and addressing social, racial, and institutional systemic issues. The recommendations encompass changes needed at both the financial system and provider levels, recognizing that affecting meaningful change and expanding outreach to POC-owned small businesses will require bringing all stakeholders to the table.


Empowering California manufacturing to create sustainable quality jobs

If the United States is to thrive in the 21st century and create a more equitable economy, California must lead the way. With more people employed in the manufacturing sector than any other state, California must upskill its manufacturing workforce to thrive and capitalize on existing opportunities to create better products and processes. At the same time efforts must be pursued that lower GHG emissions and pollutants to improve California’s climate and environmental health.


  Work with the Newsom Administration to establish a California Sustainable Manufacturing Council led by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) to create a consistent and beneficial policy for a thriving California manufacturing ecosystem.

Support the training and upskilling of workers within a strategic plan tied with the Commission on the Future of Work and efforts to increase worker engagement and empowerment.


Redressing Racial Inequity Through Access to Capital
1024 576 Nadine Ono

Summit workgroup aims to reframe lending to support more California small businesses owned by people of color

How to Build a Better Manufacturing Ecosystem in California
1024 576 Jennifer Lovett

Recommendations for sustaining and growing the job-rich sector

Newsom Budget Points to a Regional, Inclusive Way Forward
800 241 John Guenther

Funds supporting a regions-up approach to solving problems aligns with CA Fwd and Summit priorities

    Education Cradle to Career

Graduation hats in the air

California’s learning ecosystem must prepare workers to earn a livable wage.

While educational institutions have the largest role to play, an effective lifelong learning ecosystem requires alignment of strategies and tactics among multiple institutions – from early childhood development and preschool until retirement. To be successful, this approach requires the involvement of stakeholders, political leaders, faith leaders, civic leaders and others. An explicit focus on equity requires identification and dismantling of all obstacles to opportunity.


Creating an integrated and equitable education system from cradle to career

The California Cradle to Career (C2C) coalition was formed to build on the coordinated services and collective impact work of California’s Promise Neighborhoods and StriveTogether Networks. From prenatal care through college or career, the C2C Coalition works to build and expand coordinated and integrated education, social service, workforce development and neighborhood development programs and services in neighborhoods and regions. Through a process of shared community vision, evidence-based decision making, collaborative action, investment and sustainability, the C2C model has also proven to be crucial to helping families and communities recover from the pandemic recession.


 Advocate for funding and support the expansion of the Cradle to Career data-driven integrated service delivery model throughout California.


Connecting the next generation to work-based learning opportunities

Work-based learning opportunities are critical to the future of students and their ability to secure good paying jobs. Instituting the regional employer engagement prototype that compliments and modernizes the education and training systems to support the rapidly changing needs of California’s students and businesses while meeting the distinct needs of regional economies is an ongoing process that requires continued engagement from a diverse group of stakeholders.


 Advance the implementation of a regional, scalable, data-driven prototype for employer engagement with community colleges meant to address systemic barriers students face in accessing work-based learning and job placement opportunities, while strengthening relationships between colleges, employers, industry associations and regional business intermediaries like local economic development corporations. With a focus on data-driven regional industry, occupational needs, and place-based student needs, the prototype will help evaluate student success and enable these systems to move more quickly and at scale to unlock the potential of Californians served by the community college system.


Recovering with Equity Requires Opening More Doors to Higher Education
1024 576 Nadine Ono

California Economic Summit work group aims to blaze more pathways to meaningful careers

Governor Newsom Acts on Legislation Championed by CA FWD Action Fund
1024 576 CA FWD

Key bills represent historic and meaningful investments in broadband, wildfires and more

New model of industry-education partnership paying dividends in Los Angeles
1024 576 Jessica Ku Kim

Reskilling in partnership with employers to fill better paying, middle-skill jobs must be a post-pandemic priority

Teacher inspires students through real-world projects and cutting-edge tech
1024 576 Ed Coghlan

Ventura County teacher uses 3D printers, lasers and other tools to reach students in his STEM classes

    Connecting California

California Highway

1 in 8 homes in California still lacks access to high-speed broadband through a computing device or smartphone. The public health pandemic has displayed and even added to the current digital divide, disproportionately affecting our most vulnerable communities.

CA FWD believes that investments in infrastructure are vital to providing the access our communities need to stay connected and to thrive.


Bridging the digital divide

California’s digital crisis has been exacerbated by the pandemic, as witnessed by the vast, unmet broadband needs of people of all ages seeking to engage in online learning, work at home, tele-healthcare, and remote access to employment, economic and human services. California Forward, the Summit network, and a broad coalition of partners have developed priority principles to increase statewide broadband access and adoption in both rural and urban areas.


  Support the development and implementation of the State Broadband Action Plan.

  Support bi-cameral action to close the digital divide, including SB 4 (Senator Gonzalez), AB 14 (Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry) and related efforts to secure funding streams, prioritize access for unserved and underserved communities, and remove barriers for accelerating deployment and adoption.

  Support innovative new models for deployment and strategies that leverage federal and private funding. Working in partnership with broadband consortia, regional and local governments, anchor institutions, providers and others, the Summit will host a webinar series to explore new solutions.


Immediate economic stimulus by funding housing and infrastructure

The fiscal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit local government budgets particularly hard. An equitable recovery for all Californians will require the use of new governance structures and financial tools that can provide the fiscal resources and coordination necessary to support resilient economic growth throughout the Golden State.


  Advocate for economic development tools that accelerate investments in the built environment and talent development pipeline as laid out in “The Need for Equitable Economic Revitalization” white paper, including the creation of Public Investment Authorities to facilitate the bundling of state and local revenues for investment.

“To help close the digital divide that exists in communities across California, the Governor announced at the 2019 California Economic Summit in Fresno that he will convene stakeholders, the private sector, education institutions, and government agencies with a goal of developing an inclusive “Broadband for All” plan for the state.”


California in Good Position to Secure Federal Infrastructure Funds for Broadband
1024 576 Nadine Ono

U.S. Senator Padilla with federal, state and broadband experts tout work done on broadband needs on recent CA FWD and CETF webinar

California Moves Swiftly to Advance Broadband Solutions
1024 576 Deb Kollars

18 initial projects identified to jumpstart state’s $6 billion broadband investment

Governor Newsom Acts on Legislation Championed by CA FWD Action Fund
1024 576 CA FWD

Key bills represent historic and meaningful investments in broadband, wildfires and more

    Health & Well-being

Venice beach sunset

When people think about maintaining their health, the medical world of doctors, prescriptions, clinics and hospitals often comes to mind. But health professionals, policy experts and community advocates are increasingly embracing a more comprehensive view – one that takes into account the many significant inputs that surround and shape our home and work lives, our health, and our well-being.

Social and environmental factors have a powerful influence on the quality of people’s health. Known as the “Social Determinants of Health,” these conditions shape not only the health of individuals, but the well-being and prosperity of their families, communities, and the state as a whole. When people lack adequate education, income, and economic security and face economic conditions including systemic racism and discrimination, everybody pays.


  Priority Action 1

  Priority Action 2


Central Valley leader champions early investments to transform healthcare for Black communities
1024 576 Amber Bolden

Healthcare administrator promotes sustainable community-based models to address health disparities in the Black community

Creating Equal Access to Oral Health Care
800 300 Jade Magaña and Amber Bolden

Four-year college graduate goes back to school to upskill and contribute to community health

Inland Empire Community Organizations Combat Health Disparities
750 300 Amber Bolden

Free doula services provided to Riverside residents to address significant disparities in maternal wellness

    Government Performance & Accountability

Dome of California State capitol

Since our launch in 2008, CA FWD has been committed to improving government performance and accountability. We believe all Californians regardless deserve state, county and local governments that works for them. 

We have had a successful track record of proposing, endorsing and promoting a variety of reforms that have positively impacted the residents of California. Learn more here.

   Justice System Change Initiative (JSCI)

In 2014, CA FWD launched the Justice System Change Initiative (JSCI) to help counties transform their incarceration practices to better advocate for public safety and equity while making government more efficient and accountable. JSCI has conducted Jail Utilization Studies (JUS) in five counties – Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Cruz, El Dorado and Merced. Each county’s goal was to address the issue of lowering their jail populations while at the same time not compromising public safety.


How data can drive real justice system change
1024 576 John Guenther

CA FWD’s jail utilization studies showed counties why people were incarcerated and incentivized smarter interventions

Roundtable Presents Discussion on Proposed Accountability Model for Law Enforcement
800 300 John Guenther

Conversation centered on idea to “price out” misconduct in public safety agencies

Reading to their children helps incarcerated parents maintain a powerful connection
610 200 Nadine Ono

Program allows parents in San Bernardino jails to record themselves reading books and sharing personal messages

Want to get more involved lending your time and talent to creating solutions and policies that move the state forward? Let us know by emailing or via our contact form.