Alianza is the place where government and residents meet. As the only alliance of multidisciplinary NGOs in the Coachella Valley, Alianza brings together community members, nonprofits, and government to lead efforts for a thriving region. Alianza’s vision is one vibrant, healthy, and thriving Coachella Valley where people have a seat at the table for decisions that affect their daily lives.
Alianza is distinguished by its ability to:
- Shape systems to remove barriers to economic and physical health
- Elevate local resident leadership to create opportunities for civic engagement
- Advocate through resident-led, issue-based campaigns that foster new leaders and collective impact
- Lead strategy for comprehensive policy solutions for our region
Since 2010, Alianza Coachella Valley (formerly Building Healthy Communities) has successfully engaged residents in addressing some of the most critical issues impacting the Coachella Valley through policy and systems change. As a result of this experience in engaging diverse voices in complex policy conversations, Alianza understands what it takes to create a setting where policymakers and residents can develop a mutual understanding of the issue at hand and explore ways to move forward.
With an emphasis on one Coachella Valley that works for all, Alianza takes pride in its local roots. Our alliance is representative of NGOs and residents from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea addressing a range of issues dependent on community and government collaboration.
Affordable Care Act Outreach and Enrollment: 2013- 2014
Through a partnership with Desert Healthcare District for a Valley-wide outreach and enrollment campaign, Alianza reduced the number of ACA eligible but uninsured residents from 90,000 to 45,000 in two years. Alianza staff led a learning series where enrollment counselors and community residents discussed and troubleshot barriers to achieving successful enrollment. Desert Healthcare District tracked progress and milestones.
Local Control Funding Formula Public Awareness Campaign: 2015, 2016, 2017
Alianza developed a communications and outreach campaign to increase public awareness about the new funding formula used to fund education. Alianza guided Imprenta Communications on culturally and place-relevant messaging. Imprenta made media-buys. Alianza led community forums to prepare residents to engage in the newly created stakeholder committee and participate at school board hearings on their spending plans. The results included recruiting nearly 400 residents to remain engaged in education issues and consistent participation of over 50 residents throughout the multiple stakeholder meetings with the Coachella Valley Unified School District.
Disadvantaged Community Infrastructure Task Force (DCITF): 2013- Present
The DCITF is the first and only task force of its kind in the state of California. This task force was created when Alianza facilitated a conversation between residents and the Coachella Valley Water District with the aim of improving access to safe and affordable drinking water and wastewater in communities facing disadvantages. This task force is working to connect more than 80 small, rural water systems to the district’s services.
Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG): 2019
Alianza worked with SCAG and Estelano LeSar consultant team to gather input for the 2020 Regional Transportation Plan / Sustainable Communities Strategy (Connect SoCal). Alianza provided feedback during the Connect SoCal development process, engaged local stakeholders, particularly those considered hard-to-reach, to inform them about Connect SoCal and solicit feedback. Alianza designed and facilitated the input sessions, resulting in the participation of 70 residents for 4 consecutive sessions.
Census 2020 Regional Coordinator for Outreach: 2019 – 2020
As the regional coordinator for Census outreach, Alianza convenes organizations from across the Coachella Valley and Blythe to implement an outreach strategy that targets the hard-to-count population. In this capacity, we convene, train and develop messaging, implement a grassroots outreach campaign that includes canvassing, and track progress to ensure a targeted approach to reach over 40,000 households. This is part of a larger Inland Empire effort to ensure an accurate count, in partnership with the Inland Empire Community Foundation.
Civic Education & Candidates Forums: 2014-Present
After residents identified a gap in accessing the electoral process, Alianza worked with residents, Public Counsel, Univision, and KCET to host a candidates forum for races in the Coachella Valley Unified School District and the Coachella Valley Water District. Alianza has regularly hosted candidate forums since that initial one in 2014. Alianza utilizes grassroots efforts like canvassing to encourage turnout and engages legal and media partners to ensure non-partisanship.
From a distance, the desert environment surrounding the Eastern Coachella Valley is beautiful to behold. Look closer and you’ll see the unsettling reality of hard-working people living in poverty and disproportionately burdened by environmental challenges.
Local infrastructure improvements have been inadequate in boosting standards of living. Public transportation providing connections to jobs and grocery stores is limited. Parks offering children safe outdoor recreation are scarce. This is not the case in wealthy cities a short drive to the west.
The future of the Salton Sea looms large over the Eastern Coachella Valley. As the lake dries up, accumulated agricultural runoff is exposed, threatening to become airborne in foul clouds of toxic dust. Already, communities near the Salton Sea face higher rates of pulmonary diseases such as asthma, especially among children.
Alianza supports environmental justice policies that enable the people of the Eastern Coachella Valley to enjoy healthy lives at home, work, and school. We believe solving community problems means addressing their root causes, and we advocate for letting people have a say in decisions affecting the places where they live. This includes supporting resident-led solutions, leadership training, and lobbying governments for better infrastructure.
Our collaborative community engagement project is designed to raise awareness and integrate varying viewpoints on environmental issues at the Salton Sea. We are helping residents, policymakers, and other stakeholders better collaborate to counteract environmental hazards, particularly air pollution.
The campaign is actively working with community members and the South Coast Air Quality Management District to support the goals of state legislation aimed at improving air quality in environmental justice communities, especially the Eastern Coachella Valley.
The campaign aims to influence environmental justice policies in Riverside County’s General Plan document in order to reduce health risks in environmental justice communities so they can be healthy and vibrant places to live.
Alianza’s Salton Sea information page
Kayaking on a Sea Worth Saving (Coachella Unincorporated)
Signs of Success:
- Gave residents of North Shore a vital link to shopping, jobs, health care, and parks by successfully lobbying for the first public bus route serving that community.
- Improved air quality in low-income neighborhoods by helping secure funding for a multi-million dollar paving project that reduced dust contamination in nearly 40 mobile home parks.
- Achieved historic change in the Coachella Valley Water District’s electoral system when the district’s board agreed to change from an all at-large system to a district system, which should better ensure Latino representation.
Students in the Eastern Coachella Valley face extraordinary challenges in order to graduate high school and further their educations. Four out of five qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch and roughly half are English learners. Of those who graduate, about a third aren’t prepared to enter college.
Student suspension rates at some schools are alarmingly high. At Bobby Duke Middle School in Coachella, the suspension rate is more than three times the average seen across California. Suspensions deny students immediate learning opportunities and can have negative consequences on long-term academic performance. This punitive approach to school discipline can be counterproductive for the overall school climate and thus hinder the educations of all students.
More can be done to support student success. The local school district, Coachella Valley Unified, receives a substantial amount of state money specifically to support at-risk students – more than $53 million for the 2018-2019 school year. The school district is required to engage stakeholders, including parents and students, in planning how this money should be spent.
Local schools must use every possible resource to keep students in the classroom, improve the learning environment, and support students considered high-risk of not graduating. Alianza works with school district leaders to ensure that every dollar designated for disadvantaged students is accounted for and spent in the most effective manner.
Alianza supports an alternative disciplinary approach in schools based on restorative justice that reduces suspensions and expulsions while fostering a safe and welcoming school environment for students and teachers.
Alianza and the school district are partnering to introduce restorative justice at an expanding number of local schools with the goal of reducing suspensions and expulsions and creating a learning environment that uses open dialogues to resolve conflicts.
Alianza is engaged with community members, including parents and educators, to make sure all stakeholders are represented in the school district budget process. The work includes advocating for greater disclosure about equity funding coming to the district through the Local Control and Accountability Plan.
The rise of restorative justice in California schools (EdSource)
The California Conference for Equality and Justice, an organization dedicated to eliminating bias, bigotry, and racism through education, conflict resolution, and advocacy.
Signs of Success:
- A restorative justice program at Bobby Duke Middle School has been well-received by students, teachers, and administrators. After the program was implemented, suspensions fell by 33% and more teachers reported that students and staff interacted respectfully with one another. The program is now being introduced at more local schools.
- Alianza increased community knowledge of the school district’s budget process through educational forums and encouraged stakeholder participation in public meetings. In 2018, for the first time in recent years, the school district presented a full accounting of its LCAP spending plan.
YOUTH ORGANIZING COUNCIL
Alianza’s Youth Organizing Council (YO-C) prepares young people to be the Eastern Coachella Valley’s future leaders by helping them put their values into words and their words into actions. Through group discussions, members examine how race, class, gender, and immigration status shape personal experiences and the wider community. After gaining an understanding of local issues, they work alongside Alianza’s diverse coalition to raise awareness and take steps to bring about long-term change by addressing the root causes of systemic problems.
The YO-C is the best opportunity our area young people have to learn community organizing skills and apply those skills to solving real-world issues. Members have planned large community events and successfully advocated for better schools and a cleaner local environment. They have traveled to Sacramento to speak with elected leaders and gone outside of California to engage with similarly community-minded young people from around the country. The YO-C’s success is a product of its ambitious members and their desire to empower themselves with the skills to change their communities for the better.
Participation in the Council gives students the skills they need to be successful in their lives, in their careers, and in their communities. They develop into leaders and critical thinkers. They improve their written and oral communication skills. They gain confidence in their ability to influence policy.
Signs of Success:
- Summer programs focused on personal stories, community needs, and leadership development
- Soapbox Speeches, public speeches on a personal topic that bring greater understanding to the whole community
- Assisting Alianza with community outreach efforts
- The Hue, an annual culture and music festival, and the first Eastern Coachella Valley LGBTQ Pride Festival, now an annual event
- Playing a major part in efforts to increase transparency in local school funding
- Successfully requested that the local school district adopt a restorative justice pilot program