State of Civic Engagement in the Inland Empire
State of Civic Engagement in the Inland Empire Report
A community’s strength depends on its level of civic engagement, which includes voting, volunteerism, and other forms of civic and political participation. This is particularly true in the Inland Empire, a rapidly growing region of 4.6 million residents that is poised to add another 2 million in the next 40 years. It is also a racially diverse region where Latinos are a majority of the resident population, yet lag significantly behind in their level of civic engagement. This report provides a mix of historical, quantitative, and qualitative data with respect to civic engagement in the region.
Our examination of civic engagement in the Inland Empire shows a region on the rise. There have been tremendous gains in voter registration and voter turnout since 2012, particularly among youth, women, and communities of color. Many of these gains might be attributed to campaign-related factors, such as the competitive presidential primaries in 2016 and the “blue wave” election in 2018.
At the same time, the Inland Empire has also benefited from state policies that have made it easier for residents to register to vote and participate in elections, including local elections. The region has also benefited from years of consistent investments in integrated voter engagement, with several community organizations working in a coordinated manner to mobilize and empower residents who had previously been disengaged or shut out of the decision-making process.
Italia first got involved with CCAEJ, The Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, three years ago when she was hired to develop a campaign focused on civic engagement. Today, in her role as Political Director, Italia focuses on sustaining a robust and year-round civic engagement program that includes forming strategic partnerships with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and key stakeholders. Through the Civic Engagement program, Italia and CCAEJ empower people so they can have a stronger voice in different levels of government and help their communities lead a better life.
Inland Empowerment is a collective table which seeks to increase voter engagement in the region, and particularly among communities of color, through coordinated outreach. Inland Empowerment coordinates joint outreach of the table, develops technological solutions, provides training and engages partners through capacity building projects to increase the efficacy of voter outreach. Michael has been involved with Inland Empowerment since its creation in 2012, when he was in charge of data management. In his current capacity as Executive Director, Michael is in charge of facilitating and implementing engagement strategy for partner organizations.
The Inland Empire Labor Council (IELC) aims to improve the lives of working families in Riverside and San Bernardino county through organizing, policy, and advocacy. Celene first got involved with unions as a UC Riverside student, when she was introduced to the region’s labor movement. In her role as political director, Celene seeks to build relationships with other local advocacy groups across a range of issues. She mentions that they try to understand the areas where they can agree and work together in order to better serve the community, Celene notes that “if we are talking about transforming our region for what’s better and best for our communities environmental wise, job wise, and their quality of life, then we really have to work together.”
Training Occupational Development Educating Communities (TODEC) is a grassroots, immigrant-centered, immigrant-powered, base-building organization working to build power in the immigrant community to become socially, economically, educationally, and civically self sufficient. Luz has been involved in TODEC since its founding in 1984 and formal incorporation in 1996. Her parents founded TODEC, and the organization continues the tradition of inter-generational empowerment through its youth civic engagement program, Monarcas Luchadoras-Jovenes Comprometidos.
Vonya Quarles is Co-Founder and Executive Director for Starting Over Inc, an organization that aims to provide transitional housing and reentry services for individuals, while also addressing disparities and inequity in the region. In terms of civic engagement, the organization implements the “All of Us or None” program, which helps people impacted by the criminal justice system develop their communities and get involved in civic life. Vonya first got involved with the organization in 2002 with the idea of providing sober housing to people. She had gone through the criminal justice system and experienced homelessness, and “wanted to see if we could help other people like ourselves.”
Warehouse Workers Resource Center (WWRC) is a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the lives of warehouse workers and their families in Southern California through education, advocacy and action. Sheheryar notes that through the civic engagement side of WWRC, the organization trains canvassers to not only be knowledgeable about voter engagement but also about the mission and work of the organization. He says that “civic engagement is a core part of our work, we do direct policy advocacy in Sacramento and we’ve been able to push four or five bills in the last eight years”.
Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC) is an organization that develops grassroots leadership in congregations across the Inland Empire. Tom notes that one of the organization’s goals is to teach community organizing to new organizations and congregations. ICUC provides about 25 different trainings that revolve around the issues organizations face in their respective communities. The goal of ICUC is to train organizations to better understand the issues and assets available to themselves and their communities. At ICUC, individuals are not referred to as volunteers but as “leaders.”
Najayra is the Youth Engagement Coordinator at the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective (IEIYC), a nonprofit organization that aims to achieve equal access to higher education and justice for the immigrant community in the Inland Empire. As the Youth Engagement Coordinator, Najayra’s responsibilities include engaging the youth, coordinating with partners to bring in youth and educate them on issues they face, and host numerous workshops. Najayra is very proud of their Undocumented Mentorship Academy (UMA). UMA aims to give undocumented youth the opportunity to learn about civic activism and legislative issues.
Alianza Coachella Valley is a grassroots alliance bringing together community members, nonprofits, and government to promote sustainable and thriving conditions for the region since 2010. Their mission is to transform the socio-economic conditions of the Coachella Valley so that people in all communities have opportunities to excel. Currently, Alianza champions Census 2020 efforts by serving as the regional coordinator with the Riverside Community Foundation, the designated Administrative Community Based Organization for the Inland Empire. With well over 100,000 people living in the Coachella Valley’s hard-to-count communities, Alianza plays a critical role to ensure a complete and accurate count of the region. As a trusted messenger, Alianza and local non-profit partners will be canvassing and communicating the importance of a complete count in neighborhoods across the Eastern Riverside sub-region.