Press Release Strategic Growth Council Announces Initial Speakers for Inaugural Catalyst Conference


Sacramento, California – The California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) today announced initial speakers for the 2023 Catalyst Conference, an inaugural event focused on building partnerships, frameworks, and solutions to implement the Justice40 Initiative in California and beyond. The event, hosted in partnership with the Milken Institute, will take place next month February 1-2 and bring together 275 leaders from across government, private and philanthropic funding, community, California Native American Tribes, academia, and advocacy to discuss opportunities to catalyze readiness and sustain investment in under-resourced communities.

The event follows the release of Governor Newsom’s proposed climate budget, which prioritizes continued funding for under-resourced communities and additional federal funding through the Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Panels and breakout sessions hosted as part of the Catalyst Conference will consider how to invest available state and federal funding through the creation of standards for climate equity investment and identification of obstacles to funding access and implementation within under-resourced communities.

“California has long been a leader in equitable climate investment through programs like Climate Change Investments, which to date has invested over $11 billion into disadvantaged communities statewide,” said Lauren Sanchez, Senior Climate Advisor for Governor Gavin Newsom. “As we continue to prioritize our most vulnerable communities, the Catalyst Conference will elevate best practices to direct climate investments where they’re needed most and strengthen partnerships across sectors to accelerate action.”

Conference Speakers Include:

  • Lauren Sanchez, Senior Climate Advisor, California Governor Gavin Newsom
  • Antonio Villaraigosa, Senior Infrastructure Advisor, Governor Gavin Newsom
  • Karthick Ramakrishnan, Executive Director, California 100
  • Jessie Buendia, National Director, Green for All
  • Emi Wang, Deputy Director of Capacity Building, The Greenlining Institute
  • Sheila Lewis, Director, Office of Community Support, US EPA
  • Felipe Escobar, Organizing Director, Pacoima Beautiful
  • Shasta Gaughen, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Pala Band of Indians
  • Dan Adler, Deputy Director for Climate Finance, IBank
  • Heather Vaikona, President and CEO, Lift to Rise
  • Dawn Weisz, CEO, Marin Clean Energy
  • Pastor B.T. Lewis II, Office of Community Affairs, City of Fresno
  • Lauren Grattan, Co-founder and Chief Community Officer, Mission Driven Finance
  • Henry Litman, Senior Director, Coalition for Green Capital
  • Matt LeDuq, CEO, Forum Mobility

“At this critical moment of unprecedented state and federal funding, the Catalyst Conference will convene diverse partners to discuss implementation of climate equity and infrastructure investments,” said Lynn von Koch-Liebert, Executive Director of the California Strategic Growth Council. “California has laid the groundwork through meaningful partnerships within under-resourced communities, so the question we’re asking now is, how do we enshrine equity and scale equitable transformation with current and future funding?”

Themes of the Catalyst Conference are organized around several models derived from SGC’s climate equity programs over the last decade. The Catalyst Model Hub, launched last week, includes best practices and template guideline language to inform climate equity funding programs across the public and private sectors. Through illustrative case studies including SGC’s Transformative Climate Communities and capacity building programs, the online hub offers guidance on building pre-implementation readiness, addressing barriers to access, and advancing community-led planning and development.

The 2023 SGC Catalyst Conference is hosted in partnership with the Milken Institute and sponsored by the James Irvine Foundation,, the California Endowment, Meta, the Blue Shield of California Foundation, Edison International, and the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).

Ticketing for the Catalyst Conference is now closed but livestreaming information is available at

Media Contact

Agustin Arreola, 279-386-2183

About the California Strategic Growth Council

The California Strategic Growth Council (SGC) is a 10-member council comprised of seven state agencies and three public members with the mission to build healthy, thriving, and resilient communities for all. Funded through California’s Cap and Trade system and the California General Fund, SGC’s grant programs, strategic initiatives, and interagency coordination focus on multi-benefit and community-centric solutions at the nexus of climate and equity. Since 2008, SGC has invested over $3 billion in projects strengthening communities and addressing climate change.