Equity. It is a term heard a lot these days. And yet, if you ask 10 people what it means, you might get 10 different answers. On the last day of our 2020 Summit, “Equity in Action: Stories of Innovation & Collaboration” we are pleased to share with you another insight into how different members of our community understand, and most importantly, put into practice, equity. Together, we can move Orange County forward, implementing and aligning with the 10 +1 next steps as recommended in the OC Equity Profile.
Our sixth blog post comes from Cathleen Otero with the Orange County Community Foundation. Cathleen is on the 2020 Summit Committee. Below, she shares how embracing our diverse immigrant community is key to ensuring equity in Orange County. This topic will be discussed in more detail during one of our morning breakout sessions during the summit today!
Embracing our Diverse Immigrant Community
By Cathleen Otero, OCCF Vice President of Donor Relations and Programs
Equity in Orange County means embracing and supporting the integration of our growing and increasingly diverse immigrant communities.
Right now, with nearly 945,000 foreign-born residents, Orange County is home to the nation’s fourth-largest international population, according to the most recent OC Community Indicators Report. We are already home to 8.9 percent of the state’s international population, and our demographics will only become more diverse in the years ahead.
These friends and neighbors have deep roots in our community, and are firmly established within the social and economic fabric of Orange County. In fact, foreign-born individuals have lived in the county for an average of 22 years and account for 38.4% of our workforce.
And yet, over half are either undocumented or have not been able to become fully naturalized due to lack of coordinated education, services and resources across the region. Approximately 20% of permanent residents are eligible for full citizenship but have not yet been able to naturalize due to these barriers.
As framed in the 2019 OC Equity Profile, “Encouraging naturalization among those who are eligible is also an important way to garner greater security for immigrant families—in addition to broader economic and civic benefits to society.”
This is why the Orange County Opportunity Initiative (OCOI) was first launched in December 2015 with 23 funding partners. Using a collective impact approach, OCOI is designed to ensure Orange County embraces and integrates its immigrant communities in order to build a stronger future for the region.
The formation of OCOI has supported breaking down barriers and building relationships among nonprofit organizations and service providers, and as a result, grantee partner organizations have strengthened their capacity to serve immigrants and refugees. To date, OCOI has granted $2 million to 23 nonprofit partners to provide outreach, education and legal services.
But we know there is more to do. Looking ahead, OCOI will continue to refine strategies that will drive systems change. We’re tackling important questions, including: how we can bring partners together to develop shared goals, how we can clarify roles and expectations of grantees and funders and how we can build time for rapid learning that promotes collaboration.
The new strategic planning process began in July 2020 with the goal of articulating OCOI’s “macro-level change strategies,” such as narrative change, infrastructure development and systems-change advocacy. We’ll be sharing an overview of the proposed strategies during one of the Equity in Action Summit sessions. I hope you’ll join us on October 20th to learn more about this important work!