BIG Initiative | Past Initiative

The Insight Center for Community Economic Development is launching an important new initiative intended to help organizations BuyInvest and Hire, and Give locally within Alameda and Contra Costa counties, which together anchor Northern California’s East Bay economy. The campaign is intended to harness and align local reinvestment, new employment opportunities, and under-tapped community capital with an eye to bolstering local small business expansion, job quality, and employment equity.

In partnership with Oakland-based Urban Strategies Council and the Sustainable Business Alliance, and with generous planning support from the New York-based Surdna Foundation, the Insight Center is compiling and analyzing field research, engaging stakeholders, and assessing public opinion on allied issues and opportunities. If successful, this work will establish a framework and action plan for a multi-year BIG campaign in Alameda and Contra Costa during 2016-2018.

Join the BIG Initiative!

HealthWorks East Bay | Past Initiative

Connecting Men of Color to Careers in Healthcare

HealthWorks East Bay: Connecting Men of Color to Careers in Healthcare (HealthWorks) seeks to increase employers’ competitive edge in California’s East Bay while reducing economic disparities affecting young and working age men of color, ultimately creating vibrant, economically healthy communities with opportunities for all. The project aligns with work at the national level by President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to reduce persistent inequalities affecting boys and men of color.

Men of color face deep and long-standing disparities in employment. These disparities harm their economic security, their communities’ economic health, and the businesses that could benefit by employing them. Their under-representation in the workforce makes employers less successful in broadening their customer base and meeting its needs effectively. As a result, these disparities undermine the East Bay’s equity and economic competitiveness.

With funding from The California Endowment, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development is leading an initiative to connect young and working age men of color in the East Oakland and Richmond communities of California with careers in the healthcare and allied sectors.

Why Increase Employment of Men of Color in Healthcare?

An Opportunity for Young and Working Age Men of Color

  • Young and working age men of color experience much higher unemployment rates than other populations.
  • They are also significantly underrepresented in the healthcare sector.
  • The contribution of young and working age men of color to the healthcare workforce can be greatly expanded by combining skill-development with the support and involvement of visionary employers.

An Opportunity for Healthcare Employers

  • In an increasingly diverse East Bay, employers need an equally diverse workforce to effectively serve their customers and expand their businesses.
  • As the worker population ages and companies anticipate skill shortages, a robust pipeline of young workers is vital to a company’s bottom line.
  • Cultivating a pipeline of young workers of color will provide employers greater choice in hiring the quality candidates they need.

An Opportunity for the East Bay

  • Community economic vitality depends on equitable and gainful employment of all its members.
  • Economic vitality is proven to improve health and security outcomes.
  • Young and working age men of color represent an underutilized talent pool that, if developed and employed, can contribute significantly to the East Bay economy and tax base.

How We Can Increase Employment of Men of Color in Healthcare

Effective models and best practices exist to accomplish this work. Sector partnerships, for example, pair a thorough knowledge of employers’ needs in an industry sector such as health care with a deep understanding of the needs of job seekers and workers, and meet both sets of needs. They are a proven approach. The East Bay has many effective examples.

Public and private sector policy changes can also have a major impact. For instance, Johns Hopkins Health System changed its employment practices to increase hiring of individuals with criminal records and has had a decade of success. In the East Bay, the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency has established contractual provisions that emergency medical service providers employ young men of color who graduate from a training program developed specifically for that purpose.

Mayors’ Letter to Employers

In a joint letter to employers, The Mayor of Oakland, the Mayor of Richmond, and the Insight Center’s CEO introduced HealthWorks to East Bay organizations in the health care and related sectors and requested their participation in efforts to increase employment in healthcare for boys and men of color.

Advisory Committee Members

HealthWorks relies upon the multiple stakeholders on the project’s Advisory Committee to inform and guide our efforts and to explore opportunities to align strategies and resources. Responsibilities of Advisory Committee members include supporting the initiative and providing informed feedback reflecting the perspectives of healthcare employers, organizations preparing boys and men of color for healthcare careers, and boys and men of color themselves.


Insight Center staff presented a Review of Process and Discovery Work to Date at the HealthWorks Advisory Committee’s June 3, 2016 meeting. Staff also presented information about the initiative at the Diversity in Health Training Institute Policy Forum and at the East Bay Healthcare Workforce Partnership Executive Roundtable.

Elder Index for CA | Past Initiative

The Elder Economic Security Index (Elder Index) is the only county-specific measure of the minimum income necessary to cover all of an older adult’s basic expenses—housing, food, health care, and transportation. The California Elder Index is available for all 58 counties across the state and the City of Los Angeles.

Click here for the Elder Index methodology and Elder Index data prior to 2011.

The new Elder Index Dashboard for 2013 and 2011 is now available, courtesy of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

Long-Term Care Data

The Elder Index does not include the cost of home-based long term care assistance. In-home long term care costs can double a senior’s overall expenses. Click here for more information. Click here for more information on the Elder Index.

Interested in economic security for those under 65 years?

Click here to learn more about the Self-Sufficiency Standard, the county-and-family-specific measure of the minimum income needed for individuals and families under 65 years old.

Self Sufficiency Standard for California | Past Initiative

Please note that is a past initiative, for the most recent data please click here.

Community groups, foundations, job training organizations and public agencies in California are using a tool that has enabled them to better help their clients and members move from poverty to economic independence: the Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard (Self-Sufficiency Standard). This measures how much income is needed for families of various compositions living in different counties to adequately meet their minimal basic needs. It is based on the costs families face on a daily basis – housing, food, child care, out-of-pocket medical expenses, transportation and other necessary spending. The Self-Sufficiency Standard provides a more complete picture of what it takes for families to make ends meet in contrast to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). By using the Self-Sufficiency Standard, we can see that the number of families struggling to make ends meet is actually larger than commonly recognized. As a result, those families’ needs are rarely recognized by public agencies that use traditional measures of poverty.
Select the County: Number of Adults: Number of Children:
Compare 2014 to data from year:

Centro del Pueblo | Past Initiative


Insight Center attorneys assisted a group of community-based organizations in the San Francisco Mission District to plan for and carry out the acquisition of a building that would house their programs and provide quality, affordable space for other community nonprofits. The building was named Centro del Pueblo, center of the people.

The project presented three major issues: identifying and acquiring a suitable building, securing financing, and developing a legal structure that would implement the group’s concept of shared ownership and occupancy.


Insight Center attorneys worked with the group to establish a nonprofit organization that would own and operate the property, receive grants, and obtain a property-tax exemption. The new nonprofit, also called Centro del Pueblo, was structured as a membership organization, with board representation from each of the founding organizations. The Insight Center also assisted Centro del Pueblo in developing lease documents, entering into agreements with a variety of financing sources, acquiring a site, and subdividing the site to sell excess land to a nonprofit housing-development organization.

The Centro del Pueblo organizations completed rehabilitation and moved into the building in April 1993, and smaller nonprofit tenants followed. Almost 15 years later, the building remains an important resource for the Mission community and Mission-based nonprofit organizations.

People’s Grocery | Past Initiative


People’s Grocery is a West Oakland-based nonprofit organization that provides access to healthy, affordable food and education about nutrition and health-related topics. The West Oakland community has high rates of poverty and a lack of basic resources such as grocery stores. As a result, West Oakland residents have limited access to fresh and healthy foods and suffer high rates of diabetes, heart disease, and other health conditions linked to diet.

People’s Grocery engaged the Insight Center to file its tax-exemption application after an Insight Center attorney reviewed a draft developed by a non-attorney and found that it required extensive revision. The tax-exemption application required extensive detail and citation to precedent because many of the organization’s activities risked IRS classification as business operations. The application was further complicated by the fact that it was being filed late. People’s Grocery had received inconsistent support in preparing its tax-exemption application and more than 27 months had passed since its incorporation, creating the risk that it would be subject to back taxes if it was not able to obtain a retroactive exemption at IRS discretion.


Insight Center attorneys worked closely with People’s Grocery staff to complete and file the application before a filing-fee increase went into effect. The application was filed on time and People’s Grocery received its tax exemption retroactive to its date of incorporation, enabling the organization to move forward with its programmatic and fund-raising efforts.

Mission Asset Fund | Past Initiative


The Insight Center provided legal support for the selection and formation of legal and governance structures for the Mission Asset Fund (MAF). MAF was established to help low-income, mostly immigrant residents of the San Francisco Mission District build a more secure economic future for themselves and their families through asset building—access to financial services, savings, and investment opportunities.

MAF grew out of Levi Strauss & Company’s decision to earmark a $1 million contribution for a Mission economic-development fund. The contribution represented a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the company’s former garment factory located in the Mission. A volunteer steering committee, comprised of six community leaders and a Levi Strauss Foundation representative, was formed to develop the fund, and it identified meaningful community participation in the fund’s design and operation as an important value. The committee undertook an extensive community-engagement process to explore residents’ visions of the fund and priorities in building their economic futures. Over 300 residents participated in individual conversations and community forums.


It was determined that a nonprofit membership corporation was the entity best suited to incorporating community participation while achieving the fund’s other objectives. The new corporation’s governing documents institutionalize community participation by providing that the majority of its board members be residents of the Mission.

Support to California Legal-Services Programs | Past Initiatives


The Insight Center serves as a California’s statewide support center that provides short-term advice and counsel, specialized technical assistance, publications, and training in CED to eligible legal-services programs, their client community-based organizations, and attorneys in private practice who provide pro bono legal services to eligible client organizations.


Each year, the Insight Center responds to over 150 requests for technical assistance from legal-services projects and pro bono attorneys. These requests cover a broad range of economic-development projects. Examples include assistance with the formation and operation of charitable organizations, advice on organizational governance and tax-exemption issues, entity development for real-estate projects, and review and revision of legal documents. These services are provided free of charge through support from the California State Bar Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts and Equal Access Fund programs.


Our legal publications include sample organizing documents, sample agreements, and checklists and training outlines, each covering matters that arise in nonprofit corporation formation and operation.

Latino Young Men and Boys (LMB) | Past Initiatives

Welcome to our new interactive space for encouraging constructive exchange by and about Latino Men and Boys (LMB). Our goal in supporting this jointly-hosted electronic forum is to advance first-voice, creative exchanges on issues and opportunities that especially affect Latino males ages 16-30, read more…

For decades, California’s social, economic and political landscape has produced large numbers of Latino young men and boys whose normal and healthy development has been stifled, if not suspended. Beginning with their early experiences in families that often are under severe economic (and, owing in many instances to non-citizenship status, political) hardship, most of these young Americans face great disadvantages before they even have the opportunity to reach adulthood, read more…

To advance this work, we urge you to participate and engage! We will provide periodic updates and expert commentaries, interviews, and documentary content to build on and complement your own inputs, read more…

Why Focus on Young Men and Boys? 

We are concerned about ensuring the success of all young Latinos in American society, male and female. We are aware that Latina Americans face their own formidable and unique challenges in American culture and economy. And we intend to direct focus to those important issues in downline aspects of our planned future work. However, we begin our survey of minority youth issues with this focus on Latino Young Men and Boys for certain key reasons, read more…

Knowing Our History to Know Who We Are

This webspace is additionally intended to ground current discussion about the Latino male identity and pathways forward in American society in a broader understanding and appreciation of Latino history, read more…

Overcoming Disparity: Latino Young Men and Boys – Book Series

The Overcoming Disparity Project is rooted in a three book series outlining the social and economic disparities faced by Latino young men of color and provides strategies to increase their ability to lead healthy and successful lives. Based on the culturally grounded model called La Cultura Cura, the practices outlined in these volumes emphasize Chicano/Latino history and use of cultural expression to heal, educate, create self-awareness, and inform the development of comprehensive community strategies, systems change, and public/private alignment to advance socially-focused ventures that encourage youth and community development.

The book series includes: Latino Young Men and Boys in Search of Justice and Overcoming Disparity. The team of Author/Editor, Frank de Jesús Acosta and Co-Editor, Henry A.J. Ramos also offer a related Arte Público Press publication, The History of Barrios Unidos.

Click on each cover below to learn more about the three book series.

Latino Young Men and Boys, In Search of Justice, Testimonies (December 2015) Overcoming Disparities, Profiles in Best Practice (March 2016) The History of Barrios Unidos, Healing Community Violence, Cultura Es Cura (originally published in May 2007)

Building Economic Security for All (BESA) | Past Initiative

Quick Links Strategies to Build Economic Security Shortcomings of the Official Federal Poverty Measures Better Tools to Measure Economic Need Improving Lives Using Better Measures ,What Our Partners Are Saying Our History

Millions of people across America are working hard to take care of themselves and their families, but still struggling to get by. However, the official federal poverty measure captures only about a third of the people who really need assistance. The other two-thirds fall through the cracks of our support systems, unable to qualify for many programs that would strengthen their efforts to gain economic stability. Building Economic Security for All’s (BESA) mission is to help all people achieve a basic level of economic security in the U.S., so they have enough money to not only cover the expenses of everyday life like rent, food, child care, health care, transportation, and taxes, but also enough to begin to develop and/or draw on savings and assets. Savings and assets are what enable people to cover the costs of emergencies, build an economically secure future, and leave poverty behind, for good.

Strategies to Build Economic Security

Having been a leader on this issue since 1997, the Insight Center uses a combination of strategies to build economic security for all. We:

  • Research to inform decision-makers about what it truly costs to make ends meet and which populations are struggling the most in which regions of the country
  • Organize statewide education and mobilization campaigns to develop systems which support, rather than hinder, families in their own efforts towards economic stability
  • Advocate to transform the way we measure and combat poverty in America through legislative  and administrative reforms, and  by developing best practices on the ground
  • Educate policymakers, foundations, businesses, and the media about proven practices to support and
  • Build Capacity of local organizations to design and advocate for effective policies and programs to move families toward economic security through training and one-on-one technical assistance

Using these strategies, the Insight Center leads California’s efforts to build family economic stability through our coalition, Californians for Economic Security (CFES). We have expanded this effort nationally, advocating for improvements at the federal level, and building the capacity of other state leaders to design new programs and policies for working families. For example, we are currently working with local organizations in Mississippi to create a diverse, statewide coalition of stakeholders dedicated to the economic stability of all Mississippians, called Building Economic Security in Mississippi . With the launch of the Elder Economic Security Initiative™ in 2008, we have also expanded the impact of this work to help retired older adults age with economic well-being. (Back to the top)

Shortcomings of the Official Federal Poverty Measures

Poverty reduction programs in the U.S. use outdated measures, the Federal Poverty Thresholds and Federal Poverty Guidelines, to determine who needs and receives assistance for many programs. The Federal Poverty Guidelines are “frozen” at the level of a basket of goods and services adequate for families in the 1950s, and updated only for inflation. They do not reflect rapidly increasing costs, such as health care (of particular concern to elders) and taxes or “new” costs such as child care; nor do they reflect local differences in the cost of basic goods and services. As a result, millions of working Americans who are not making ends meet do not receive the support they need: the official poverty measure captures only about a third of those who need assistance. (Back to the top)

Better Tools to Measure Economic Need

Our organizing and advocacy work focuses on what it actually costs to make ends meet in communities across America, as defined by the Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard (Self-Sufficiency Standard) and the Elder Economic Security Standard Index (Elder Index), county-and family-specific measures of the income needed to cover basic needs. Unlike the official federal poverty measures, the Self-Sufficiency Standard, developed by Dr. Diana Pearce of the Center for Women’s Welfare at the University of Washington, uses publicly available data sources to quantify the actual costs of meeting the basic needs for working families by county – without public or private assistance. The Elder Index uses similar data sources to quantify the actual costs of meeting basic needs for retired adults age 65+ by county, and is the only elder-specific financial measure of its kind. The Elder Index methodology was developed by Wider Opportunities for Women and the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and is analyzed and applied in California by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.(Back to the top)

Improving Lives Using Better Measures

Over the past decade, policymakers, service providers, advocates, labor unions, foundations, businesses, working families, and retired elders have used the Self-Sufficiency Standard and Elder Index to improve lives. They use these tools to:

  • Evaluate the impact of programs and policies
  • Advocate to reform the official poverty measure
  • Adjust eligibility thresholds for certain public benefits
  • Inform wage levels in union contracts
  • Measure the return on investment in grantmaking
  • Evaluate budget proposals at the national, state, and local levels
  • Provide career counseling to educate students and workers on how much income they will need to cover their costs
  • Fundraise to expand programmatic capacity

What Our Partners Are Saying

    • “The Elder Index information provides a reality-based way to plan, and enable older adults to age in place; the Federal Poverty Line is the ‘bury your head in the sand’ way”. – Paul Downey, Senior Community Centers
    • “We revamped our grantmaking and advocacy work to focus on the overall goal of economic self-sufficiency for women, using the Self-Sufficiency Standard as the underlying blueprint for these changes.” – Carol Penick, Women’s Fund of Mississippi
    • We use the Self-Sufficiency Standard to educate policymakers and the public about the needs of low-income households. It is a very useful and credible tool for examining and contrasting the impacts of budget and policy proposals.” – Mike Herald, Western Center on Law and Poverty
    • “We use the Self-Sufficiency Standard to educate the media about how much families have to spend on housing and other basic needs. Getting folks comfortable with the federal poverty line and having them understand that this is what we’ve used for years, but it’s not any good, is one thing. It’s another thing to say, ‘let’s flip it on its head and let’s look at what’s adequate income versus what’s inadequate income.’” – Dena Wittman, formerly with Back Bay Mission
  • “SETA uses the Self-Sufficiency Standard to define self-sufficiency wages in Sacramento County. We raised the eligibility criteria for intensive case management and training services to the Self-Sufficiency Standard, which has made our employment and training programs available to more people in our community.” – Robin Purdy, Sacramento Employment & Training Agency

Our History

The Insight Center was one of four leaders that, in 1997, launched the Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Project: an innovative, nation-wide effort to gain support for proven practices to help working families reach economic security, using realistic benchmarks of what it takes to make ends meet in today’s economy.  With partners in 37 states and Washington D.C., this work has developed into a national movement to transform the way we measure and address poverty in the United States. The impact of our work includes the Census Bureau’s efforts to develop a Supplemental Poverty Measure.