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New Strategies for Civic Engagement in the Central Valley

Thursday, February 28, 2019 -
10:00am to 11:00am PST
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The changing demographics and political attitudes of the Central Valley - a traditionally conservative region of California - demand new strategies for community and civic engagement. To understand the shift in the region and how it is becoming more purple, look no further than the recent mid-term elections. In the race for the 10th congressional district, covering Stanislaus and portions of San Joaquin County, the election was undecided for a week and, at its closest margin, only 1,300 votes separated incumbent Republican Jeff Denham and eventual winner Democrat Josh Harder. 

A huge opportunity for civic engagement lies in the 2020 Census. As a guide to many important government functions, such as redistricting and funding for programs, it is crucial for as many households as possible to complete the Census in order to provide an accurate picture of the region and build political power.

However, there is widespread alarm surrounding the Administration’s decision to add a citizenship question, creating an additional barrier for historically hard-to-reach communities. To help funders and community organizations understand the challenges presented by the citizenship question, a Central Valley community-based research project is examining the impact of the question on census accuracy and immigrant civic engagement.  

Join us for a conversation with researchers, community leaders, and funders to understand how philanthropy can support census investments and broader civic engagement strategies in this rural, ethnic and politically diverse region.


Ellen Braff-Guajardo, Senior Program Officer, Sierra Health Foundation

Ellen Braff-Guajardo is a Senior Program Officer with Sierra Health Foundation and The Center, supporting social justice and racial equity work to combat disparities in California’sSan Joaquin Valley and across the state, with a focus on efforts through The Center’s San Joaquin Valley Health Fund.

Prior to joining Sierra Health Foundation in January 2018, Ellen served as a national program officer for W.K. Kellogg Foundation on the Healthy Kids Team, where she developed and led a national strategic grantmaking portfolio in support of healthy community and health equity with a focus on policy and systems change. Previously, she served as a senior nutrition policy advocate with California Food Policy Advocates, was a program officer with The California Endowment in the San Joaquin Valley, and was the statewide Agricultural Worker Health Project director and attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. 

Ed Kissam, Trustee, WKF Fund

Ed Kissam is a trustee of the WKF Fund which supports a broad range of pro-immigrant integration initiatives. He is also part of the Funders’ Census Initiative (FCI) working group, a national network of funders working toward a fair and accurate census. The WKF Fund in partnership with the Sierra Health Foundation, the Grove Foundation, and other funders, is supporting fast-track research in support of advocacy against inclusion of a citizenship question on Census 2020.

Ed has led research on farmworker and immigrant life for many years. After extensive post-IRCA research on farmworkers for the Department of Labor, he directed the USDA-funded “New Pluralism” study of immigrant settlement in rural U.S. communities. He has published studies of migrant/seasonal farmworker undercount in the 1990, 2000, and 2010 censuses and, more recently (2017) a broader analysis of the causes of undercount of Mexican immigrants in past decennial censuses.

Jesus Martinez, Executive Director, Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative (CVIIC)

Jesus Martinez is Executive Director of the Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative (CVIIC), a regional network of immigrant serving organizations created in Fresno in 2014. As a coordinator of regional efforts, CVIIC and partner organizations serve immigrants in the Central California region encompassed by Kern County in the south and San Joaquin County in the north. Before heading CVIIC, he was Coordinator of the Central Valley DACA Project for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (2012-2015) and, previously, worked as a consultant (2008-2013) in a variety of projects commissioned by nonprofit and federal government agencies. Martinez served in the Michoacan (Mexico) State Congress from 2005-2007 before being appointed Director General at the Institute for Michoacanos Abroad, the state immigration affairs agency. In the academic world he taught Political Science at Santa Clara University (1991-1998), completed a postdoctoral stay at the Instituto de Investigaciones Dr. Jose Maria Luis Mora in Mexico City (1999-2000) and taught Latin American and Chicano Studies at CSU Fresno (2000-2004). He obtained a B.S. in Political Science at Santa Clara University, an M.A. in Latin American Studies and a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. His areas of expertise include international migration, U.S.-Mexican relations and public policy.

Linda Shak, MSW., Program Officer, Sunlight Giving

Linda Shak brings a passion for building strong and resilient communities to her work as program officer at Sunlight Giving. Linda leads the foundation’s  food security efforts and its 2020 Census initiative. She also conducts grantmaking for the health care access and safe spaces portfolios.

Linda joined Sunlight Giving in 2017 after serving as associate program officer for the Children, Families, and Communities program at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. There she developed and implemented the program’s early childhood nutrition initiative and supported national grantmaking efforts to improve health care coverage for children and families. Before her career in philanthropy, Linda worked for Prevention Institute, the national center for developing and advancing the practice of primary prevention. Linda received her MSW and BA in psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and is a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs.

When she’s not working, Linda loves adventuring outdoors—skiing, biking, rock climbing, and whitewater kayaking. She is also a passionate volunteer for several organizations serving young people and children impacted by illness.


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