Big Ideas, Bigger Impact

Catch California's Next Wave of Innovation

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Last week New America CA announced its inaugural class of California-based fellows whose bold ideas and fresh approaches are inspiring decision makers to make local, state, and national progress in policy and practice. These innovative entrepreneurs come from diverse backgrounds and industries, all working to tackle issues that resonate in California and beyond. From police data to the sharing economy, from education to diversity in tech, these fellows are solving real issues that affect real Californians, right now.

Over the next year, we will be supporting these visionary leaders and helping to tell their stories so that we might engage and inspire new audiences to participate in developing creative solutions to problems they experience at home and in their own communities. As we launched the program, we asked our fellows to tell us how they are working to address a critical issue in California. Here are their responses:


Laura Weidman Powers, Code2040

The average tech worker makes more than the median household income of a Black family and a Latino family combined. The median net worth of a White family is about 20 times that of a Black or Latino family. The tech industry is overwhelmingly White. Plugging Black and Latino communities into the tech industry has the opportunity to change the economic trajectory for individuals, families, and communities, and to have long term impact on economic inequality in California and the country as a whole.

Mario Koran, Voice of San Diego

We know that parent involvement matters. It’s likely the most important predictor of a child’s success in school, and thereafter. Parents need to make informed decisions about how to support their children’s educational needs, or which schools they should choose. But parents are still falling through the cracks. Poverty, cultural differences, and language -- often all together -- create barriers that keep parents out of the conversation. Through targeted outreach and weekly columns focused on high-poverty schools, Voice of San Diego will serve as an important conduit for parents of English learners.

Mia Birdsong, Family Story

At the heart of almost every domestic policy issue we care about is the condition of the family. The explosion in family structures that has taken place over the last 50 years has created a new set of challenges and opportunities, but we’re not yet addressing these changes in ways that truly support all families as they are. This requires shifting the national conversation about families today from one of judgment and victim-blaming to one that allows us to paint a beautiful new vision of families and family life. To do that, we must listen to and amplify the voices from Black, queer, and many immigrant communities, who have been trailblazing in the family space for centuries. We must hold up models of family that exist outside of the nuclear family model. From them we can learn how to make policies, practices, and structures that work for families. As a powerful economic and cultural leader, California is positioned to be on the cutting edge of smart thinking and action about changing families.

Eric Liu, Bayes Impact

There is almost no data about police use of force in the US – only 3% of the 18,000 police departments report use of force data. Without data, we cannot begin to drive constructive debate and develop informed policies. California is the first state to pass a mandatory use of force data collection law called Assembly Bill 71. However, most police departments lack the technology to collect and report high quality, digital data – almost two-third of departments submit data in paper forms. Recognizing this challenge, we partnered with the CA Attorney General and Department of Justice to launch an open source web application, at no cost, to help police departments eliminate the current patchwork of paper documents. streamline reporting, and glean actionable insights. Through our work, California to be a model for the nation as the first state to make ubiquitous police use of force data available to the public.

Marci Harris, POPVOX

With the launch of POPVOX California, we are creating a way for people to easily find information about pending state bills, better understand the state lawmaking process, and engage with lawmakers. We will measure our success based on: (1) Lawmakers viewing POPVOX as a helpful source of input from constituents; (2) Constituents finding information and engaging more easily and more often than before; (3) Engaging people and organizations who did not previously interact with state government -- either due to lack of resources, information, or familiarity with the process; (4) Providing resources to journalists to better understand the concerns of Californians, identify policy concerns and patterns within the public discourse, and engage their audience in meaningful action on topics covered.

Natalie Foster, Institute for the Future

California is the home to innovation that is dramatically changing the way we work. From platforms that match labor to wages in real time like Lyft and TaskRabbit, to the rise of Artificial Intelligence that will have an unprecedented impact on what work is done by humans and what work is done by robots. New ways of working may force the same kind of societal shift as moving from the farms to factories did in the industrial revolution. And as they do, we need to build new social policy to protect people who work in new ways. California is leading on the innovation around work, and California is the right state to lead on new social policies like portable benefits to the universal basic income.

New America CA is a nonprofit civic startup working to amplify the reach of California change agents whose innovations solve public problems in bold new ways.


Author:

Leila Pedersen is the Associate Director New America California, where she runs a fellowship for social entrepreneurs using storytelling and communication as tools to create culture and policy change.