Thanks to the affordable housing community for being a great home!

In the new year, I’ll be bound for new horizons, returning to consulting in strategic communications and community engagement for clients in workforce, housing, and public policy.

It’s been an honor to work with the Non-Profit Housing Association, and I look forward to a continued consulting role. Here are three lessons I learned, and shared at the recent member meeting (thanks, board chair Jacquie Hoffman!)

First, affordable housing is simple. No, not easy! Affordable housing is the simple proposition that everyone deserves a place to call home, and that by working together, mission-driven, non-profit developers, our advocates, policymakers and residents can make the vision a reality.

Second, NPH has a great young team, scrappy, energetic, innovative. They play the game a new way, put big numbers up on the board and deliver wins (just like our beloved Oakland Warriors.)

Third, the changes that we have seen in advocacy and politics over the past decade are hitting housing, will continue to hit, hit harder and faster. We need to embrace technology, change, and new ways of doing the work — because everyone in the Bay Area is counting on this team, so we all have a place to call home.

These are the stories we tell about the region we love

Once upon a time, we came to find opportunity and una vida mejor. We brought the railroad west. We built homes, saw them burn and then rebuilt them in San Francisco. We grew our communities to the East, South and North and it became our Bay Area.

Those who came before birthed financial institutions on the West coast, sailed East across the Pacific with science and industry, came North for freedom and West for justice. We struggled against redlining, discriminatory financial practices, and segregation to create some of the most diverse and inclusive zipcodes in the nation.

Our region has changed the world more than once.


Click here to download “On Track Together: Housing and Transporting the Bay Area’s Vibrant, Sustainable and Affordable Future.”

We give thanks to the mothers who Saved the Bay and the Rosies who launched Liberty Ships, the Apples that grew in new orchards and the fruit of technology bringing the world closer together while creating new digital divides. We give thanks to the railroads, ports, aqueducts, highways, and the men and women who gave their lives to transportation infrastructure. Thanks to the leaders who led and the innovators who invented more than you could ever have predicted, value expanded exponentially. Vintage communities grafted new growth on to old vines, and catapulted an American industry to the forefront of an ancient craft. World class institutions of higher learning brought new medicine to doctors, and new doctors into underserved communities.


Once upon this time, communities grew around natural resources and great beauty, but not always with planning foresight. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, innovation, and growth, our region grew. We grew together, and we grew apart. We put technology in the hands of billions, yet left billions behind. In all these changes, one of the world’s most beautiful, dynamic and productive regions struggled with a problem rooted deeply in both success and failure. Success is an economic engine that launched Liberty ships and silicon chips. Failure is our abject inability to house and care for the most vulnerable among us, our grandparents, homecoming veterans, people differently abled, and the hard-working, low-wage-earning families that are the foundation of every industry and every economic success.

Our Bay Area housing history reveals our success and opens opportunities to improve. When too many families are displaced from neighborhoods they helped to build and sustain, commutes lengthen beyond reason and land use planner jobs remain unfilled because the skilled worker can’t afford to live in the community they would plan, now it’s time to act. It’s time to put housing at the forefront of our planning.

The Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California has just released On Track Together: Housing and Transporting the Bay Area’s Vibrant, Sustainable and Affordable Future.” This report, by our regional policy manager Pedro Galvao, looks at our beloved region’s housing crisis and the jumbled history of how we got here, then challenges us to look to the future. It says we can seize opportunities with a consolidated regional planning organization that puts housing and people in its top priorities along with transportation, job creation, and preserving our environment. It shows success stories and outcomes we can achieve with important and timely adjustments in our approach. It says housing is a critical part of our infrastructure, and we need to plan for an inclusive future where everyone has a place to call home.

Future generations are watching. Our children and grandchildren will look at the inheritance we leave them, and gauge our commitment to be good stewards of the land, the Bay, and their future. The stories we tell can include the courage and innovation to change the rules of the game and set our region on the right track, together.

5 things I heard Secretary Carson say at the NLIHC Housing Policy Forum

Originally published by National Low Income Housing Coalition, On The Home Front

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson spoke at the National Low Income Housing Coalition conference in Washington, DC on April 3 as part of his listening tour. Here are five things he said and actions housing advocates can take to ensure that everyone has a place to call home.

  1. “Home is a place where you can feel secure. Housing is an integral part of well-being mentally and physically. There are three to four times as many people who need affordable housing as we can provide. Millions are paying 50% of their income for housing.”
    • That’s absolutely right – why, it reads almost like housing advocates’ talking points.
  1. “Healthcare is important. The emergency room costs three times as much as the clinic and doesn’t do preventive care. Exposure to lead hurts kids permanently.”
    • Again, we agree, and that’s why so many people worked hard for health care reform and especially the expansion of Medicaid to America’s lowest income families. We see the connection to housing as so many medical experts do, and we’re glad Secretary Carson supports this view. Unfortunately, he is part of an administration that may try again to take healthcare away from 24 million people.
  1. He proposed “Housing Savings Accounts” for unit-by-unit maintenance of public housing, where the individual resident is incentivized not to report common structural conditions or simple repair needs.
    • This is bad policy and disastrous property management. A spate of fires – and related deaths — in my community in Oakland, CA recently has reminded all of us that code compliance and regular maintenance protects human life.
  1. “The Low Income Housing Tax Credit is effective.”
    • We agree, and that’s why we are working at the state level to expand it, and at the federal level to preserve it. We encourage Secretary Carson to share this non-alternative fact with his administration and to join housing advocates in supporting affordable homes for everyone.
  1. “People are concerned about this new budget like it’s a crisis and the end of the world.”
    • We hope you are, too! According to NLIHC, the budget “proposes to zero out HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods grants, cut the Community Development Block Grant in half, and eliminate the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program and NeighborWorks grants.” The budget has its values upside down and redirects investment to the wealthiest 1%.

He closed with, “As Jesus said, a house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Actually, Dr. Carson, that was a man named Abraham Lincoln.)

During the Q&A portion, NLIHC’s President & CEO Diane Yentel pushed back with the diplomatic skills Washington has forgotten. She pressed, “These budget cuts are real and immediate. People will be losing their homes. What assurances are you offering?” Carson answered that only waste and inefficiency will be cut – fueling the fears of people like me, who feel he is one of the cabinet officials dedicated to closing the Department whose critical mission he was entrusted to serve.

HUD programs have great consequences for millions of Americans in cities, suburbs and rural communities across the country. The essential investments offer families, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities the security and opportunity of stable housing and a place to call home.

To learn more about why we need serious talk and legislative action to support housing, visit the Non-Profit Housing Association website for California issues and NLIHC for federal. You’ll find urgent and important actions to take to defend our communities and support affordable housing.

Join us on calling on Secretary Dr. Carson to first, do no harm.

Yes, You Told Me So. You Were Right. I Hear You.

Friends, it’s been a wonderful four years with Opportunity Partners. I am grateful to the friends, allies and clients who have made the work possible and rewarding.

But old habits die hard and the campaign trail calls. I’ll be joining the Non-Profit Housing Association as its inaugural political director in February, and working hard to bring sustainable, community-based solutions to the Bay Area’s housing crisis.

You may be one of my friends who predicted I would return to political organizing (nearly everyone did), and thank you – you were right. I’ve had a great growth opportunity, stretching my wings with research, teaching, and new horizons. It’s been an honor to learn from you.

But now it’s time to get to work, so we can produce and preserve affordable homes for all of us at risk of displacement across the Bay Area. As Opportunity Partners completes projects and I transition, please know that I am grateful for your advice and support now, and in the future.

sc-sig-full name




Sharon Cornu
Founder & Chief Strategy Officer



News from Opportunity Partners

Wishing you the best in the New Year

Happy 2016 from Opportunity Partners

The coming break offers an opportunity to thank our partners and friends as we prepare for 2016. It’s been a busy year at Opportunity Partners. While we look forward to all that comes next, we wanted to share a little work and a little fun from 2015.

This dynamic crew of discussion facilitators rocked the City of Richmond’s Bermuda Room, sharing information about the role of anchor institutions in community development and shared prosperity. Our client, the Healthy Richmond Initiative, hosted a business breakfast for Richmond employers to learn about procurement opportunities. The Insight Center for Community Economic Development commissioned a later case study on changes in Richmond, Richmond Opens the Door, about how a community can prepare for opportunity so it benefits people and neighborhoods fighting decades of disinvestment. Photo: Katherine Rife, Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

With exceptional support from the talented team at Intechional Web and Mobile Development, we’ve helped the Central Labor Council of Contra Costa County, AFL-CIO demonstrate broad-based support for community benefits at the Concord Naval Weapons Station as well as its own flair for organizing. Congratulations to its outstanding team, including Margaret Hanlon-Gradie, Joe Summers, and Steve Older who are building power for working families and communities.

More than 5,000 Non-Profit Housing Association voters participated in this November’s San Francisco election, contributing to the overwhelming passage of a $310 million housing bond. We’re working with NPH to support communities across the region, as they grapple with our housing crisis and seek new resources to create homes for everyone.

What a thrill to learn from Mills College Public Policy graduate students — in the classroom, then in meeting rooms and coalitions across the East Bay, since these young women hit the books and get around town, too. We studied strategy, organizational design, performance management, collective impact plus practical tips about demonstrating leadership and raising children. Much gratitude to Ignatius Bau, Henry A.J. Ramos, Olis Simmons and Brightstar Ohlson for guest speaker contributions and to retired professor Carol Chetkovich, shown here with her study of women entering service in Oakland’s Fire Department.

We close the year in gratitude and hopeful anticipation of work with you, your organizations and communities to create a more just and equitable world for all. Best wishes for the New Year and success in all endeavors.

Sharon Cornu
Founder & Chief Strategy Officer

Organizational Efficacy

Organizational Efficacy

Grand words for what we do every day!

I’m excited to share that the Mills College Public Policy Program has appointed me Professor of Practice for Fall 2015, and I’ll be leading a graduate seminar on Organizational Efficacy — the theory, art, and sheer willpower of getting things done in our world. Deep gratitude to mentor Carol Chetkovich for her trust and the extensive reading list. I look forward to meeting this year’s Mills cohort, and learning from our journey together. Do you have a case study to recommend? Please share!

Important work moves forward with our clients and friends. Best wishes to you and yours for a glorious summer!

OAKLAND WORKFORCE INVESTMENT BOARD 2015 Stakeholder Engagement Report. We just presented the results of an engagement effort that reached more than 500 employers, workers, job-seekers and community leaders to share ideas about accessing training services and local employees. Insights will guide a planning team drafting new RFPs for services.

Insight Center for Community Economic Development was invited to hold the wrap meeting for the BIG Initiative planning project at Richmond City Hall. Our team developed an innovative rubric for increasing local employment, procurement, investment and philanthropy.

Great to join the team at East Oakland Building Healthy Communities for the annual power analysis and a deeper dive into coordinated campaigns.

We’re on the road with Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, talking with Peninsula advocates, and the Emerging Leaders Peer Network’s Advocacy Bootcamp.

Guest commentary: Two cases highlight the success of workforce training

Storm_White_CroppedSu Dung and Kyaw Naing cropped

By Agnes Ubalde and Elena Anaya

Storm White completed training in digital graphic design and secured a competitive internship with a national advertising agency. Training at Youth Radio, funded by the Oakland Workforce Investment Board, helped her put what she visualized in her head on the screen, as well as developing professional and organizational skills for success. White was recently the lead in a team that won My Brother’s Keeper hack-a-thon with the MyStudyBuddy app to assist Peralta students.

When Kyaw Naing came to Lao Family Community Development, he had just lost a $15-an-hour job as a forklift operator due to a plant closure. Concerned about saving for his daughter’s education, he enrolled in a training program that helped him communicate more effectively in job interviews and with co-workers. His new employer, a specialty food manufacturer, paid a bonus that they spent on their daughter, because, “She’s a teenager now and they want things.” As a certified forklift driver, he works nights while his wife works days, so that their daughter has a parent nearby.

White and Naing are just two of thousands of workers making the most of the Oakland Workforce Investment Board’s unique partnerships.

The OWIB’s strategic plan will fund targeted sectors such as trade and logistics, health care, advanced manufacturing, and information and communications technology which offer employment at a variety of levels. New funding will come into Oakland for health care training, thanks in part to support provided by the Oakland WIB. The Bay Area Workforce Funding Collaborative is providing a $150,000 seed grant to develop partnerships between Merritt College, Oakland Unified School District, the Unity Council, Alameda County Health Pipeline Partnership, Urban Strategies Council and our Board in the Bridge to Healthcare Careers Program.

The Bridge program will familiarize participants with the health care industry, high-demand occupations, and the foundational skills necessary for success on the job. A contextualized training curriculum will help students strengthen English and math skills while acquiring college credit on an allied health career pathway, opening the door to postsecondary education and employment in the region’s vibrant health care sector. Enrollment begins this fall for 30 unemployed residents, ages 18 to 24. Academic and employment counseling services will support program participants in work-based learning. Financial incentives and matching funds will support employers in the costly process of training new employees.

During the 2015 program year, the Oakland WIB will conduct a transparent and accountable process to contract with local training organizations. The new federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act mandates more regional planning, attention to youth disconnected from school or employment, and services to young workers with disabilities.

These efforts are all part of Oakland’s expanding initiative to assist residents in securing new jobs and fruitful careers in a changing economy. Working together, our community can use best-in-class strategies and proven methodologies to ensure workers for growing companies and careers for our future. To add your voice as an employer, worker or job seeker, take the Oakland WIB’s new online survey at

Agnes Ubalde is chair of the Oakland Workforce Investment Board and serves as vice president and community development officer for Wells Fargo Bank. Elena Anaya is vice chair and serves as community affairs director, Northern California for Turner Construction.

Oakland Tribune My Word © 2015 Bay Area News Group

Updated: 04/09/2015 05:39:56 AM PDT

News from Opportunity Partners – March 2015

New Leaders

Talking power with the New Leaders Council

We came to teach but we learned as well, conducting a power analysis training for the New Leaders Council Oakland Chapter, established by Dannette Lambert and Ecaterina Burton. With thanks to SCOPE in LA for the framework, Opportunity Partners has built out a workshop with visuals, action research, and reflection. This session focused on the Ella Baker Center campaign for Jobs not Jails, and highlighted the importance of researching targets and organizing on the ground. Opportunity Partners has conducted this training for East Oakland Building Healthy Communities, Urban Habitat’s Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute, labor unions, and college classes – let us know if you’d like a training outline.

Welcome, Non-Profit Housing Association

It’s an honor to be selected by the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California to provide leadership coaching and collective impact facilitation (aka coalition building) as residents and advocates fight for community-based solutions to the Bay Area housing crisis.

BIG Initiative grows

Opportunity Partners serves as senior consultant to the BIG Initiative, a project of Insight Center for Community Economic Development with Urban Strategies Council. An all-star team will inventory hiring, procurement, social investment programs, policies and metrics to increase economic security and local economic development, with a focus on boys and men of color.

California’s top-two primary and
the challenge of making real change

Imagine you are reading an article online – maybe this one – and you come to the end. Immediately below flash alarming photos and headlines about belly fat, mortgage rates, and cat videos. They call that clickbait. It’s how I feel about the top two primary: it’s not going to improve your health, your finances or your productivity. The top-two primary is reform of our political system in the same way that clickbait ads are reform of your lifestyle.

read more in the California Journal of Politics and Policy. Gratitude to Ethan Rarick and all presenters at the IGS annual conference for including community voices.

…And now a few words to our sponsors: Thank You!

“Her service with the Land Use work group showed what the work could be, how strong the potential for collaboration and leadership is, when carefully cultivated.”
Sandra Davis, Program Manager
The California Endowment

“Opportunity Partners is not only knowledgeable of the issue areas critical to our work, but they possess the necessary connections, networks and skills to manage complex organizational demands. OP is highly recommended because of their principled leadership and genuine interest in winnable strategies.”
Nehanda Imara
Chair, East Oakland BHC-Land Use Group

“One of Sharon’s great strengths is her knowledge of the range of communities across the Bay Area. Her ability to work with diverse organizations to come up with appropriate and winning strategies is unmatched.”
Cheryl Brown, Political and Legislative Director
AFSCME Council 57

A public affairs and strategy firm serving social enterprise, philanthropic and community organizations with communications, campaign, and coalition-building services.

California’s top-two primary and the challenge of making real change

cjpp_logoPublished in the Journal of Politics and Policy, UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.

Imagine you are reading an article online – maybe this one – and you come to the end. Immediately below flash alarming photos and headlines about belly fat, mortgage rates, and cat videos.

They call that clickbait.

It’s how I feel about the top two primary: it’s not going to improve your health, your finances or your productivity. The top-two primary is reform of our political system in the same way that clickbait ads are reform of your lifestyle.

We’re talking about California’s “jungle” primary, which sends the top two vote-getters in a primary regardless of party registration to the November general election. It’s just as bad as everyone predicted for three reasons. First, it allows reporters to use the word “jungle” in political coverage, which is disturbing. Second, it often requires candidates to double their fundraising, increasing the influence of money in politics.

Third, arguing about the top-two primary takes up time and resources that could be spent actually fixing our political system. Like many other proposed and implemented reforms, it fails to address the real cause of our political problems and points us down a rabbit hole – like a clickbait ad leading to an unending series of cat videos.

You’ve noticed that I ignored proponents’ main argument: bridging our political divide by electing moderates. Supporters of the top-two system argued it would elect more moderate candidates, and more moderate candidates would solve our current crises. They would act nice, socialize together, and compromise. They would usher in the Shangri-La era of legislative accomplishment.

Hogwash. The crisis in Washington and Sacramento is caused not by equivalent polarization, e.g., by two political parties moving equally to their respective corners. It’s caused by the Republican Party falling off a far-right cliff and too many (not all, but too many) Democrats trying to balance them by moving right themselves.

Paddle a little on the left, paddle a little on the right may work in calm waters, but it’s dangerous when the water is rough. Turbulent waters demand bold strokes, which historically come from the people, not politicians. The movie Selma, today’s #BlackLivesMatter movement, Fight for $15 and Our WalMart campaigns remind us that it’s street heat by people that leads leaders to change.

We need change: we’re scared, and righteously so, that extreme wealth has overcome democratic ideals. We’re scared that corporate interests budget for buying legislation like acquiring property. After Obama, we’re scared about the world’s greatest democracy having the world’s lowest voter turnout.

We pay for a diseased political culture every time our kids’ schools lay off teachers, every time late-night bus service is cancelled, every time a library closes or a well-connected contractor gets the bid to privatize now-downgraded services you depend on. Who is fighting these attacks? It’s not moderate political candidates – it’s parents, workers, advocates and activists. Let’s stop putting excess faith and expectations in political leadership, and reclaim the popular role in making policy.

What would fix our politics? Let’s stop pretending that disclosure works – knowing how bad corporate spending is just makes it hurt more, but doesn’t even slow expenditures. The announcement that two Koch brothers plan to spend $900 million in 2016 shows that the financial 1% and the political 1% have merged, and wealth has too much influence. Don’t tell me sunlight is a disinfectant, when we need a cure for cancer.

What it takes to cure our political cancer is serious surgery: cutting out corporate contributions. Same day registration. Rolling back the attacks on the Voting Rights Act to expand access to the ballot. Dropping the voting age to 16. Enthusiastically registering formerly incarcerated persons. Encouraging undocumented immigrant families to participate in school elections.

Whether we have a top-two primary matters less than whether you engage in the issues you care about and that impact your neighborhood. Change starts one on one, when neighbors talk to each other, and we share our hopes and aspirations. There are few things more energizing or inspiring than ringing doorbells, and asking people what they care about. It’s good exercise and good democracy.

So skip that clickbait. Support public financing, organize your neighbors and — hell – run for office yourself. You’ll learn and accomplish more than you ever could with those cat videos.


Sharon Cornu runs Opportunity Partners, a communications and collective impact consulting firm in Oakland, CA, where she served as deputy mayor, union leader and mom to two fine organizers.


Project Equity: worker coops as economic security strategy

After a long dry spell, we seem to be living in a flood of wage increase discussions, whether they’re through executive order to federal contractors, legislative action, or grassroots organizing and initiatives. In the Bay Area, labor-community coalitions are moving increases in Oakland, San Francisco and Richmond, following a thunderous win in San Jose and a small increase at the state level.

Workers who have waited many years welcome these increases, as will their landlords, grocers, and school districts, but we should all take note of the long road necessary to secure them. One contributor is the living wage movement, which started in Baltimore in the early 1990s as a way to hold public contractors accountable for poverty wages. In Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro, small groups of workers won increases and educated a generation of elected officials about the connection between corporate responsibility, above-poverty wages and thriving local economies.

What will be the next innovation to improve economic security for workers? An Oakland-based non-profit says it may be worker cooperatives. Hilary Abell, co-founder of Project Equity, has written Worker Cooperatives: Pathways to Scale, a detailed analysis of worker cooperatives, their divergent models and structures, in the context of a wealth building strategy for working families.

“The cooperative movement has a lot of momentum and opportunity right now, spurred in part by growing support from important allies like unions, community organizing groups, non-profits, progressive businesses and local governments…Project Equity’s goal is to bring the benefits of worker coops to more workers who are currently working poor by developing larger-scale worker-owned businesses and catalyzing this ecosystem of support,” she says.

Abell finds a vibrant, growing sector of 30,000 U.S. cooperatives, with $3 trillion in assets, $652 billion in revenue, and more than 1 million employees. You’re familiar with producer and consumer cooperatives like Ocean Spray, Mutual of Omaha, Associated Press, and REI. Worker coops are less common, but impressive in their staying power and room for growth. 31% have been in existence over 20 years. Of the 55% that started after 2000, the most common industries are cleaning, food service and processing, and tech.

In the Bay Area, Arizmendi operates six local bakeries, employs 160 people, and manages a support organization for other coops. WAGES, which Abell led for eight years, developed cleaning services that increased members’ incomes by 150%. Nationally, worker coops deliver home health care (Cooperative Home Care Association, Bronx, NY, 2,300 employees); install solar panels (Namaste Solar, Colorado’s largest installer, 85 employees); and supply commercial laundry (Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, Cleveland, OH, part of Evergreen Coops, 77 employees.) In addition to developing talent and entrepreneurial skills, worker coops offer better pay, benefits, and wealth building opportunities.

Worker coops re-invest in communities underserved by big banks and private capital. They can support resilient, self-sufficient sectors that create quality employment, offer job training, and bridge the racial wealth gap at a time when traditional employment fails to offer more than part-time hours and poverty wages.

Abell’s analysis finds that worker coops with access to management training, operational support and networks of peer organizations scale faster and grow stronger – much like other start-ups. Some worker cooperatives are self-managed collectives, but many are hiring professional management. Coops need access to capital and improved legal structures, like those proposed by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown, and by state and local governments in California, Massachusetts, and New York.

We’ll be watching to see how this movement grows and connects with initiatives to improve economic security. Learn more about this community development strategy at with Project Equity.


“Thanks for letting me tell my story. I read it and I like it”

Opportunity Partners creates messaging that wows both our client and the SSI grantee who spoke out

To re-frame debate around SSI grants for aged, blind and disabled Californians, Opportunity Partners interviewed Mr. Jerry Higgs, a leader in Hunger Action LA about his experience with SSI benefits after a construction accident. Insight Center for Community Economic Development loved the piece when it appeared in the Huffington Post, but more importantly, Mr. Higgs felt it accurately represented his experience and his leadership in fighting for change. His email was a great endorsement.

As part of a multi-year campaign to improve economic security for elder Californians, Opportunity Partners has supported the Insight Center in expanding the reach of the Elder Index, an alternative measurement of poverty that incorporates regional housing, transportation, medical, food and daily living costs. We developed 58 county-level fact sheets in English, Spanish and Cantonese to educate policymakers about the gap between SSI benefits and the actual cost of making ends meet.

It meant a lot to hear, “Opportunity Partners is simply the best in the business at providing full service, highly informed and actionable technical assistance that advances social justice and economic opportunity in and around Northern California,” from Insight CEO Henry A.J. Ramos. But it meant even more to hear from Mr. Higgs that we had captured his story with respect and impact. We are committed to effective advocacy for economic security and justice in California.

East Oakland Builds Healthy Communities

Opportunity Partners recently renewed a relationship with The California Endowment and 14 community organizations working on affordable housing, transit and food justice. Exciting plans for healthy development, policymaker accountability, and Coliseum City are underway. We salute the organizers, policy wonks and urban farmers who are making this initiative successful.

Fall planning

Now is the time to plan Fall and 2015 campaigns, organizational development projects, and new partnerships. You can meet up with Opportunity Partners at Impact Hub Oakland. We specialize in collective impact, strategic communications, and successful project and campaign management. Call now to arrange a consultation. Let’s talk!

Opportunity Partners is a certified small local business enterprise in Oakland and Alameda County, CA. We are a signatory contractor with the Pacific Media Workers Guild.

Best wishes, Sheila!

Sheila Blandon leaves Oakland for wide open spaces in Texas and a bright future. Sheila worked at Youth Radio, studied at Berkeley City College, and helped Opportunity Partners protect voting rights and advocate for affordable housing. She quite literally moved Opportunity Partners to a new level and was always the best dressed employee at client meetings!  She pushed for more attention to this website, so Sheila…a quick blog post in your honor! Enjoy Texas but come back and run for office in Oakland some time soon.

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Reinvest in CA seniors to boost local economies

Check out an important piece by Henry Ramos in Huffington Post about California’s budget, and the needs of our aged, blind and disabled neighbors.

Jerry Higgs suffered a career-ending back injury on a construction job. Two surgeries later, he’s facing a lifetime of pain killers and making ends meet on California’s below-poverty level SSI payments for the aged, blind and disabled. He joined Hunger Action Los Angeles because, as he says, “I was tired of not having a voice.”

“How are we supposed to live? Rent is high in LA, we have to choose whether to buy groceries or medicine. I’ve been going to Sacramento since 2007. This year, we talked to my Assemblyman, and he was all for us,” says Higgs. “He said he knows people on SSI really need it, with what’s going on in the streets, people going hungry today in Los Angeles. Says he’s trying to help.”

This month, California legislators will finalize the state’s first sunny-day budget since the Great Recession officially ended and voters approved Proposition 30 to stabilize the state budget. At the Insight Center, we’ll be hoping that they focus on the 1.3 million Californians like Jerry Higgs, and the local economies these SSI recipients live in (source). Our Elder Index measures poverty more accurately than federal poverty levels, but also points toward a more sustainable future economy if we lift people out of poverty.



Housing Advance, Avance de Vivienda

Fighting rising rents, foreclosures, and gentrification, our Land Use Work Group held a Housing Advance in January with Oakland’s new city administrator, Fred Blackwell.

Thirty-five residents and staffers shared concerns and posed sharp questions about conditions in neighborhoods, major developments in the pipeline and policies that can improve housing quality and affordability. Blackwell gave in-depth reviews of major projects underway in East Oakland, including some not on our radar.

Questions ranged from the closure of a supermarket, to jobs policy, re-entry, international bankers, and the allocation of post-redevelopment “boomerang” funds.

Resident Mayme Lincoln chastised the administrator for saying that Oakland “did not have the luxury” of demanding higher quality grocery stores. Blackwell agreed to continue the dialogue and collaborate on solutions in housing, transit and food access.

The group’s follow-up letter to Blackwell says, “We write today to affirm to you that the success of Oakland’s major development projects is not possible without success in our neighborhoods.”

Later in the day, we debriefed this dialogue and charted ongoing campaigns for tenants and homeowners. We conducted a power analysis of the Oakland City Council, and assessed our capacity to impact policy changes. Participants believe we have a strong network but need to do more in organizing, communications and joint strategizing.

Work group leaders facilitated sections with strong participation by resident leaders from organizations and our 2013 Leadership Academy. We’ll meet again, as early as June, and incorporate this work into upcoming city accountability and policy work.

View the Prezi summarizing the day.



Avance de Vivienda

En la Lucha contra el aumento de la renta, los embargos hipotecarios y el aburguesamiento; nuestro Grupo de Trabajo de Uso de la Tierra realizó un Avance de Vivienda en enero con el nuevo administrador de la ciudad de Oakland, Fred Blackwell.
Treinta y cinco residentes y empleados compartieron sus preocupaciones y plantearon preguntas astutas sobre las condiciones de los barrios, los principales desarrollos en los canales y las políticas que puedan mejorar la calidad de y la accesibilidad a la vivienda. Blackwell hizo una revisión profunda de los principales proyectos que están en marcha en el Este de Oakland, incluyendo algunos que no conocíamos.

Las preguntas iban desde el cierre de un súper mercado, a la política de empleo, el re-ingreso a la vida laboral, los banqueros internacionales y la asignación de fondos post-reurbanización “búmeran”.

La residente Mayme Lincoln regañó al administrador por decir que Oakland “no tiene el lujo” de exigirle mayor calidad a las tiendas de comestibles. Blackwell acordó continuar el diálogo y colaborar en las soluciones en el tema de vivienda, transporte y acceso a los alimentos.

La carta de seguimiento del grupo para Blackwell dice, “Hoy le escribimos para reafirmarle que el éxito de los grandes proyectos de desarrollo de Oakland no es posible sin el éxito en nuestros barrios”.

Más tarde ese día, reflexionamos sobre ese diálogo y trazamos las campañas permanentes por las y los inquilinos y las /los propietarios de casas. Se hizo un análisis del poder del Consejo de la ciudad de Oakland y se evaluó nuestra capacidad de impacto en las políticas de cambio. Las y los participantes creen que tenemos una red fuerte, pero tenemos que hacer más en la organización, la comunicación y la elaboración de estrategias conjuntas.

Las y los líderes del Grupo de trabajo facilitaron secciones con una fuerte participación de las y los residentes líderes de organizaciones y nuestra Academia de Liderazgo 2,013. Nos volveremos a reunir en junio e integrar este trabajo en el próximo informe de la ciudad y la política de trabajo.

Ver el Prezi que resume el día.

Thanks to Alameda County Public Health Dept. for translation.