We value democracy by all people, for all people, because we know:

» The best leaders are those who share life experiences with the people they lead.


» Communities prosper when decisions are made by leaders who share life experiences with the people they serve.



Evolve our systems of choosing decision-makers to give people from all communities in San Diego the opportunity to have a seat at the table.



Empower leaders in underrepresented communities to overcome the barriers that have prevented those in their community from becoming decision-makers.



An unending challenge of democracy is the unequal distribution of representation, influence, and power. Communities of color, women, and LGBT populations have historically been underrepresented in elective office and appointed positions. Demographic shifts in San Diego, including increasing numbers and diversity of refugee communities, have added other population groups to the patchwork of underrepresented communities. Therefore, the region’s leadership does not keep pace with the change in demographics. A report from the Center on Policy Initiatives  illustrates these discrepancies as they affect communities of color:

“San Diego’s demographic shift has not only been rapid, but has included a patchwork of historically underrepresented communities and groups (Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, LGBT, women, and ‘new Americans,’ including San Diego’s increasing refugee communities). Nonetheless, changes to San Diego’s leaders have remained, more or less, the same, with a few exceptions [...] People of color are largely underrepresented in elective office despite being a majority of the population in San Diego County.

An assessment conducted in early 2012 found that, although 52% of the County’s population was comprised of people of color, only around 23% of elected officials were people of color. In order for San Diego to be responsive to and reflective of this new generation of San Diegans, the profile of San Diego’s elected and appointed leaders must change, as well.”

Leadership at All Levels

San Diego Leaders looks at leadership across all points in the pipeline, from informal leadership through political office. Examples of the kinds of leadership we support includes the following: PTAs, neighborhood associations, planning groups, neighborhoods, faith organizations, and cause-based leadership.

History of San Diego Leaders

After reading the July 2013 CPI report mentioned above, funders convened a small group of organizations to discuss and identify a possible project. Several meetings later, the Leadership Development Project was created and housed at San Diego Grantmakers (now Catalyst of San Diego and Imperial Counties), with funders raising approximately $300K for three years of support. The project was in a planning phase for the first year where key project goals were developed. In its second year, coalition organizations began executing the goals set, including changing the name to San Diego Leaders and distributing over $344,000 through a Collaboration Action Project grant process.

Meet the coalition members