Who We Are

Group of people clapping

PICO California is the largest faith-based community organizing network in the state. Our network is made up of nine local affiliates who organize across 18 counties, representing 500 congregations and nearly 650,000 Californians.

Our mission is to catalyze faith-based and spiritually-centered people power in California to create systemic change for the most vulnerable so that all Californians thrive.

Founded in 1994 as a fiscally-sponsored project of the national Faith in Action Network and spun off as an independent 501c3 nonprofit in 2021 along with the 501c4 PICO California Action Fund, we are a network of organizations that, through community organizing, builds power across race, faith, and class with congregations and faith-based, spiritually-rooted individuals who take action for racial and economic justice in California.

Our vision is a Moral Economy for California — which includes structural campaigns that result in significant material improvements for the most vulnerable Californians: making affordable and dignified housing a human right, reducing the number of people incarcerated and increasing job and housing opportunities for those returning home, creating conditions for low-income workers to thrive in family-sustaining jobs, funding schools and communities more than law enforcement and prisons, ensuring inclusion of all immigrants and refugees, and creating a government that is effective in caring for all Californians.

Grassroots movements dedicated to bending the moral arc of history towards justice have been historically animated by faith and spiritual values, with people of faith having been at the center of some of America’s most consequential fights for social justice, from the abolition of slavery to the fight for civil rights to the present-day struggles against systemic racism and worsening economic inequality. Faith institutions are also some of the only remaining places in civil society where people can come together across race, class, and ideology to advance a vision that is broader than themselves, which we believe is critical to achieve real change for the most vulnerable Californians.

As the largest faith-based community organizing network in the state, PICO California has successfully led multi-racial, multi-class, non-partisan efforts to achieve racial and economic justice: from helping to pass the largest expansion of tenant protections in the nation to reducing our jail and prison populations and reforming law enforcement, to creating pathways for immigrants to be welcomed, protected, and promoted.

We have built a statewide, multi-racial and multi-faith movement for racial and economic justice in California, anchored by deep relationships through power building, leadership development, and organizing. By centering belongingness and empathy, PICO is a place for historically underrepresented communities to develop agency, leadership capacity, and pathways to participate in public life.

Annual Reports

PICO California is led primarily by volunteers who are most impacted by equity issues, including immigrants, the formerly incarcerated, low-wage workers, chronically uninsured and underinsured, and young people. These grassroots leaders are deeply connected with BIPOC communities through congregations and other community organizations. We work across racial, economic, ethnic, and religious lines, where our diverse membership of faith traditions helps people understand the systemic roots of their shared suffering by articulating an alternative to a dominant cultural narrative of individual responsibility and racial division that perpetuates inequity.

The recruitment, formation, and activation of people whose lives have been significantly impacted by structural racism and other forms of exclusion are vital components of PICO California’s theory of change. System-impacted individuals have a set of knowledge, influence, and credibility that enables them to effect change. They operate at the intersection of communities and systems that do not usually interact, and bring a track record of commitment and an ability to communicate across different backgrounds and cultures as authentic messengers. This combination affords them multifaceted insight into the needs, barriers, and opportunities for transformation, as well as the legitimacy and influence needed to mobilize change based on that knowledge.

Organizing Power

The authenticity and moral voice we bring to issues is a powerful form of influence, and stepping into public leadership is a powerful development experience for people, individually and collectively. We build deep, multi-racial power by forming and training people and teams in congregations, neighborhood groups, and online. We are a leader-centric network, where grassroots leaders are leading campaigns, helping their peers grow in leadership, and living at the center of our decision-making. This is our priority area of work, where we invest the majority of our energy and capacity.

Morally-Rooted Narrative Power

People of faith and spirit are uniquely positioned to speak to the core values that give rise to how our systems and society operate and the outcomes they produce. We operate as a faith institution with regular spiritual rituals that invite new members, create a sense of broader community, provide nourishment to an individual’s life journey, awaken people to their shared humanity, shape values and worldviews, and motivate people to act together for justice. We create narrative and communications materials that reach a wide swath of Californians, deeply connected to our values, vision, and organizing priorities. We center the experience of oppressed people in the moral narratives we project.

Electoral Power

The ballot box profoundly impacts the health and wellness of people and communities. PICO California provides non-partisan education and outreach to hundreds of thousands of voters annually along with our partners in the Million Voters Project in order to promote racially- and economically-equitable public policies. Electoral power is an outgrowth of our leadership development and narrative work and engaging voters is deeply entwined in the regular work of organizing.

We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the following foundations to lift up a new vision for California:

  • Blue Shield of California Foundation
  • California Community Foundation
  • California Endowment
  • California Wellness Foundation
  • Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
  • Common Counsel Fund
  • Crankstart Foundation
  • East Bay Community Foundation
  • Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund
  • Friedman Family Foundation
  • Hilton Foundation
  • James Irvine Foundation
  • Libra Foundation
  • McNulty Foundation
  • Meadow Fund
  • NEO Philanthropy
  • Raikes Foundation
  • Rockefeller Family Fund
  • San Francisco Foundation
  • Susan Sandler Fund
  • Weingart Foundation

Our Staff

Joseph Tomás McKellar

Joseph Tomás McKellar

Executive Director
Calvin Abbasi

Calvin Kia Abbasi

Director of Communications and Narrative

Jazmin Albertie

Data and Digital Organizing Manager

Vy Nguyen

Director of Spiritual Home

Pauline Hassan Burkey

Organizing Project Manager

Eddie Carmona

Director of Campaigns

Brenda Valencia Flores

Development Associate
Anthony Gamblin

Anthony Gamblin

Chief Operating Officer
Stephanie Gut

Stephanie Gut

Director of Formation
Viviane Henry

Viviane Henry

Communications Manager

Elizabeth Kim

Legislative Director
Alia Zaki Ludwig

Alia Zaki Ludwig

Administrative Officer
Lisa Lockwood Thornton

Lisa Lockwood Thornton

Director of Data and Research
Soua Vang

Soua Vang

Operations and Events Manager

Sabrina Ward

Director of People
Jeremy Ziskind

Jeremy Ziskind

Senior Development Manager
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