Bay Rising is a burgeoning network of high-impact community-led organizations that are building collaborative infrastructure to advance equity at the regional level through coordinated civic engagement and public policy change efforts. Bay Rising represents a regional expansion of a model that has been successfully piloted at the local level by Oakland Rising and San Francisco Rising. Working Partnerships USA who is focusing their work in the San Jose area is an additional steering committee member.
The cornerstones of Bay Rising’s work include:
1) Advancing equity: Investing in community leadership at scale
Broad, authentic and strategic community leadership is essential to advancing equity. Bay Rising’s leading partner organizations collectively represent over one hundred thousand working families and voters of color from Oakland to San Francisco to San Jose. Each of these organizations is working to build leadership and expand the number of impacted community members and organizations that are actively involved in the day-to-day work of advancing equity. This long-term, large-scale base of engaged community members is central to the effectiveness of BR’s collaborative civic engagement and policy reform model. By coordinating and increasing civic engagement at the regional level, BR will become the largest coordinated field campaign in the Bay Area, making between 20,000 and 80,000 contacts with voters in low-income communities and communities of color in 2016 alone.
2) Advancing structural solutions
Socioeconomic inequality is by definition a structural and systemic problem that requires holistic structural solutions. By advancing structural and systemic solutions, BR’s work will ultimately benefit hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents. This can include wide- ranging policy and administrative reforms that will advance equity in the realms of economic opportunity and labor policy, education, housing, immigration, criminal justice, environment, and electoral reform.
3) Building long-term infrastructure for collaborative civic engagement and policy change
Effective civic engagement work requires sophisticated infrastructure that builds the broader social justice movement and enables the collaborative to reach tens of thousands of voters in a sustained way. Linking voter engagement with authentic long-term community organizing and leadership development leads to greater impact. Bay Rising enables affiliate organizations to align strategies, share civic engagement best practices and amplify their reach far beyond what they could achieve independently.
The organizations that anchor Bay Rising share a vision of a healthier, more equitable society that requires grassroots organizing and social movements led by those most impacted - working class people of color. Collectively, BR represents tens of thousands of grassroots leaders of color in the neighborhoods most impacted by structural racism, economic inequality, and health inequities. Guided by a movement building framework, these organizations created local alliances to build power that advances truly progressive policy solutions that support healthy, equitable, and inclusive communities for all.
The political and economic shifts of the last decade, through the global recession and partial recovery, have led to greater awareness of the chronic problems of poverty and inequality. The latest analysis of household wealth shows that wealth inequality in the U.S. is higher now than at any other point in our nation’s history and that the racial wealth gap has continued to get worse, even through the economic recovery.
These are critical challenges for the Bay Area; where in spite of a booming economy, poverty rates remain near record levels and two of the three largest cities, San Francisco and Oakland, rank among the top ten cities with the greatest income inequality in the nation. With a combined population of 7.1 million people speaking some 112 languages, the Bay Area has an annual Gross Domestic Product of $535 billion – ranking our economy 19th among all countries in the world. The region is home to the two wealthiest metro areas per capita in the country: San Jose/Santa Clara at $100,115 and San Francisco/Oakland at $78,844.
The combination of economic stagnation for low-income workers and the rapidly rising cost of living in the Bay Area is also leading to the displacement of working families at an alarming rate, with Black families being hit the hardest. According to the latest decade of census data, the Black population in San Francisco has dropped by nearly 20%, and Oakland’s Black population has decreased by more than 25%.
The Bay Area is a strategic region. While the Bay Area has long been considered a leading region in addressing issues of equity and social justice, the rapid displacement of low-income families of color from the Bay Area’s largest cities is putting that reputation at risk. The Bay Area has both the opportunity and the responsibility to play a much greater leadership role in advancing equity regionally, for the state of California as a whole and for the nation.
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