What's the James Irvine Foundation Looking for in a California Leader?

For the ninth year in a row, The James Irvine Foundation has invested in a hand-picked group of California leaders. The foundation recently announced the 2014 recipients of its Leadership Awards, which are granted to Californians who are successfully tackling the state's most critical problems. Each recipient received $125,000—$100,000 of which is devoted to core program support and $25,000 to professional and organizational development.

Public, private, and nonprofit leaders working to advance the fields of education, environment, health, housing, and economic development are selected from cities and rural areas across the state each year. For 2014, nine California leaders were selected for the award. "These leaders have found effective solutions to some of California's most difficult problems," said Don Howard, Interim President and CEO of The James Irvine Foundation. "They do this by listening to the people they serve, working with the community, maximizing every dollar they use, and then sharing what they learn."

Howard could have added that Irvine is also looking for people who are working in an innovative fashion and have reached a point in their careers when an award and a bunch of cash could be super helpful. 

Still, I'll bet there are a whole lot of leaders who might fit this bill in California. So it's helpful to take a closer look at who actually gets tapped for The James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award. 

This year's winners include: 

  • Charisse Bremond Weaver and George Weaver work for Brotherhood Crusade in Los Angeles, where they host mentoring, hands-on science and technology training, and sports programs for at-risk youth.
  • Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and Suzy Loftus, who work for the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco, where they develop tools to minimize the impact that adverse childhood experiences have upon long-term health conditions. 
  • Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who works at Long Beach City College, and established a program to use high school performance data to improve the accuracy of student placement and increase transfer-level course completion rates.

All of these local leaders have a few things in common: innovative strategies, program inclusivity, prior recognition in the community, and a track record of success. The foundation also gravitates toward leaders who are well-connected in their fields and have already approached relevant policymakers with possible solutions. Award winners mainly work on issues in Irvine funding regions, but that's not a litmus test here. 

If you'd like to nominate a California leader for the 2015 year, you'd better hurry, because nomination forms are due Friday, April 4th. The foundation expects to choose four to six award recipients for next year, who will be announced in February 2015.