Democracy, Civic Engagement, and Leadership Development

The work of the Bay Area Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) flows directly from democratic values. We develop organizational relationships that grow the voices of families and communities that normally have little power over decisions that impact their own lives.

In seeking to embody these democratic values, the Bay Area IAF identifies and trains leaders, who are everyday people from our member institutions. We connect across racial, religious, and socio-economic divisions, develop capacities and skills in public life, and organize power so regular people impact the decisions affecting them, their families, and their communities.

Working together to build sustainable, relational power, our leaders create imaginative responses to local problems, and win immediate, concrete victories that change their communities for the better.

Issues and Victories

Our leaders work in teams to choose issues based on countless conversations within our communities, as well as research on policy and best practices. The following are a few examples of the issues we have worked on and what we have achieved.

  • Homelessness In Marin County, what started as an effort to get more emergency shelter beds in 2008 has grown into a fight for a comprehensive, one-stop system of care focused on getting people into housing starting with the most vulnerable among us. We have organized thousands of volunteers into a constituency that has changed the way people experiencing homelessness are perceived, and that has resulted in the County of Marin leveraging and investing millions of dollars over the past 10 years into improving and streamlining access and services for people experiencing homelessness.What-We-Do-page-body-3.png.png


  • Neighborhood Safety and Infrastructure In both Solano and Marin Counties leaders have organized for neighborhood safety and improvements including fighting for installation of signage, lights, and repainting dangerous crosswalks particularly near schools. Leaders have also worked to identify vacant lots in Vallejo that attract illegal dumping in order to organize for better policies to impede dumping and curb illegal activity. Work is ongoing in many cities and counties to develop a good working relationship between local law enforcement and communities of color where trust has eroded.


  • Immigration When the leaders at St. Raphael’s, a parish with a large immigrant population in San Rafael, heard stories of hardship suffered when their parishioners’ cars were towed and impounded for a minimum of thirty days, they organized a meeting where over 600 people shared their stories with other non-immigrant leaders. This began a two year organizing campaign that changed the policies of the City of San Rafael Police Department. In cities and towns throughout the Bay Area, we have organized similar changes in policing policy, better working relationships between law enforcement and the immigrant community, and advocated for better access to services and treatment of immigrants regardless of legal status. Leaders have developed bilingual Know Your Rights workshops, organized in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), worked with foreign consulates to provide mobile services in remote areas, and engaged hundreds of immigrants in the work of citizenship.


  • Healthcare In 2006, BAOC worked to secure passage of the San Francisco Health Care Accountability Ordinance that mandated health coverage for city workers and contract employees, and then organized to help pass the Healthy San Francisco health access plan, benefiting 82,000 low-income residents and workers. Following passage of the Affordable Care Act which further expanded access to healthcare nationally, leaders in Marin became concerned by the lack of planning for local implementation and successfully pressured the County of Marin to hire an additional 20 eligibility workers.  After identifying the key players responsible for the implementation, we then created a monthly roundtable check-in for all of the major players to meet and coordinate their implementation plans, resulting in Marin County having one of the highest enrollment rates in the state.


  • Housing and Protections for Renters Recognizing that to address the housing crisis in the Bay Area requires multiple strategies, work is taking place in multiple municipalities to both fight for and support increased protections for renters as well as advocate for more affordable and accessible housing. In Marin we were successful in pushing the Board of Supervisors to approve a Mandatory Mediation ordinance, giving renters in the unincorporated parts of Marin the legal right to ask for mediation if a landlord raises rents over 5% a year. We are now fighting for a Just Cause Eviction ordinance to protect renters against retaliatory evictions as well as enhanced code enforcement. We have also been working in Santa Clara County with the City of Sunnyvale to address issues of renter protections and are actively organizing to expand this work in other areas. We also organized to get the zoning and additional funding approved for a low-income senior housing project which is currently moving forward in Fairfax and have supported similar projects throughout the North and South Bay.