Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy


PolicyLink is a national research and action institute advancing racial and economic equity by Lifting Up What Works.®

Oakland, CA


As the nation moves toward becoming majority people of color, achieving equity—just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential—is the moral imperative, a potent antidote to inequality, and the superior growth model. To advance equity, PolicyLink advocates for groundbreaking policy changes that enable everyone, especially people of color, to be economically secure, live in healthy communities of opportunity, and benefit from a just society. PolicyLink is guided by the belief that the solutions to the nation’s challenges lie with those closest to these challenges: when the wisdom, voice, and experience of those traditionally absent from policymaking drive the process, profound policy transformations emerge.

Ruling Year


President and Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Michael McAfee

Main Address

1438 Webster Street, Suite 303

Oakland, CA 94612-3228 USA


advocacy, research, communications, capacity-building, policy, national





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Civil Rights, Advocacy for Specific Groups (R20)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (W05)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Social Media


Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

At the heart of the American Dream lies the promise that ours is a land of opportunity for all. But this ideal collides with the reality of persistent racial inequities, toxic inequality, generational poverty, and stalled economic mobility. Equity—just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential—offers a potent antidote to inequality. As the United States population rapidly approaches the day when the majority will be people of color, equity points the way to a prosperous future for all.

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Equitable Economy

Healthy Communities of Opportunity

Just Society

Where we work

Our Results

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one. These quantitative program results are self-reported by the organization, illustrating their committment to transparency, learning, and interest in helping the whole sector learn and grow.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Number of policies formally introduced

Population(s) served

Economically disadvantaged, low-income, and poor people

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

Founded in 1999, PolicyLink has gained national prominence in the movement to use public policy to improve access and opportunity for all low-income people and communities of color, especially the 100 million people living at or below 200 percent of poverty. To advance equity, PolicyLink addresses race forthrightly and drives groundbreaking policy changes enabling everyone, especially people of color, to be economically secure, live in healthy communities of opportunity, and benefit from a just society. PolicyLink is guided by the belief that the solutions to the nation’s challenges lie with those closest to these challenges: when the wisdom, voice, and experience of those traditionally absent from policymaking drive the process, profound policy transformations emerge. The PolicyLink long-term goal is to build a broad-based movement for equity and inclusive growth by engaging hundreds of partners in cities and regions across the United States and supporting their efforts with data and policy analyses.

The PolicyLink programmatic initiatives are organized within three interlocking, mutually reinforcing areas of work: 1. Equitable Economy. Economic participation is essential to reversing inequality, improving mobility, and growing the middle class. PolicyLink Equitable Economy initiatives focus on creating good jobs, expanding entrepreneurship, and building human capabilities. 2. Healthy Communities of Opportunity. To participate in economic life, people must live in healthy, safe, stable places connected to opportunity and resources. 3. Just Society. Even as the equity movement succeeds in growing a more inclusive economy and building opportunity-rich communities, millions of people will remain shut out unless the nation eliminates entrenched racial and economic barriers to participation such as mass incarceration. PolicyLink Just Society initiatives advocate for reforms so systems and institutions operate free of racial bias. PolicyLink uses the following strategies to advance its mission. Frame the Opportunity– An equity narrative emerges that shifts the culture allowing most of the people in America to see themselves in it and to be inspired by it. Set the Standard– To ensure the equity framework is not weakened, and to ensure leaders can accelerate the achievement of a just and fair society, a national standard is established that describes what the most vulnerable in America need leaders to do to affirmatively answer the question is anyone better off. Maintain and Track Shared Indicators– Youth and movement leaders have a common equity agenda and shared measures of success and are using their power to attract investment to their implementation of mutually reinforcing activities. Achieve Results at Scale– Policymakers and corporate leaders are implementing equity-based policy solutions that impact entire populations, and their organizations are no longer behaving in ways that work against creating communities of opportunity. PolicyLink succeeds by weaving together four essential functions: • Advocacy that advances policy change at all levels of government and across sectors. • Applied research and communications that build public and political will for inclusion, justice, and broadly shared prosperity. • Constituency and network engagement that empowers leaders to advance equity. • Implementation capacity that connects local innovations to policy and gives people and organizations the tools and networks they need.

PolicyLink is highly disciplined in selecting the projects it undertakes and in the approach it brings to executing them. While building and managing a portfolio of initiatives that touch on a range of issues, PolicyLink aims to meaningfully advance the equity agenda—measured by real results on the ground— and each project is pursued via a well-developed set of principles and capacities that have evolved based on experience. The core elements of the approach, which have enabled PolicyLink to help deliver billions of dollars in policy victories at the local, state, and national levels for local communities, are as follows. 1. Driven by a strategic equity framework: employs a dynamic, nuanced, and multifaceted communications and research agenda that continuously defines the national equity narrative. 2. Grounded in place: develops strategies to improve people’s lives in the context of the places where they live. 3. Deals honestly and straightforwardly with issues of race: achieves equity results through an uncompromised command of the nuances of structural and overt racism. 4. Comprehensive and integrated: aggregates strategies and policies; works across sectors; and simultaneously engages community, government, and business leaders. 5. Solutions­ oriented: crafts policy based on a positive, inclusive framing that harnesses the creativity and will of diverse sectors. 6. Results­ based: grounds policy advocacy in a results framework focused on the 100 million Americans living in or near poverty. 7. Informed by disaggregated data: all policy strategies and campaigns are supported by data disaggregated by race, ethnicity, nativity, class, and gender. 8. Expands agency and power: leads with the voice, wisdom, and experience of local residents and organizations in policy development and advocacy. 9. Builds capacity: maintains a track record of building strong leaders at strong organizations by working in partnership, conducting trainings, and providing coaching and mentorship opportunities. 10. Backed by partnerships and networks: solves complex problems through strong and diverse partnerships.

While the equity movement continues to experience success, it has not achieved the population-level impact necessary to transform the nation into a place where your zip code does not define how long you live or how well you live. Foundational progress had to occur for the equity movement to be poised for its next evolutionary leap forward. But just as the nation is more fully embracing the concept of equity and the nation evolves to being majority people of color, the concept stands to become diluted—just another catchphrase of civil society, leaving the promise of racial and economic inclusion unrealized. This is also the moment when leaders of color could be further pushed away from leading at the vanguard of the movement. Leaders of color must be centered in the movement, and we must not allow equity to be relegated to random acts of charity in which we project our fantasies of societal progress without having the courage to take on the systems changes, and policy work that evidence shows ushers in just and fair inclusion at a population level. While we need charity, we also need to turn movement leaders’ eyes toward redesigning the “rules of the game” so that the need for charity is diminished and opportunity for all reigns supreme. PolicyLink is ensuring that the equity movement has a well-planned, well-coordinated, well-executed, and sustained strategy so that supports the 100 million people living at 200 percent below the federal poverty line to have economic security, live in healthy communities of opportunity, and benefit from a just society. PolicyLink accepts Zadie Smith’s insistence that “progress is never permanent, will always be threatened, must be redoubled, restated and reimagined if it is to survive.”

PolicyLink has meaningfully contributed to advancing the national equity agenda— anchored in place, informed by disaggregated data, measured by real results on the ground, and based on a deep understanding of the nuances of structural and overt racism. Below are some examples of the PolicyLink portfolio. • Promise Neighborhoods: Twelve communities are implementing over $800 million in programming to improve educational outcomes for 300,000 children. • Healthy Food Financing: Delivered over $1 billion in resources to create access to healthy food in low-income communities. Sustainable Communities: With $250 million in support, piloted the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule to ensure fair housing and create communities of opportunity. • My Brother's Keeper: Supported the federal government and philanthropy to design and launch the nation's premier boys and men of color initiative and supported over 50 cities to advance boys and men of color programs. • All-In Cities: Cities are resurgent, and they are the crucibles where ambitious strategies can and must be forged to grow an economy and a society that work for all. PolicyLink is facilitating efforts in twelve cities, from Pittsburgh to New Orleans to Oakland, to advance creative solutions that foster equitable growth, community revitalization, and democratic engagement. National Equity Atlas. This online Atllas, with easily searchable economic data analyzed by race, ethnicity, nativity, and gender, has become an indispensable tool for 30,000 users as they campaign for equity-focused policy change. Released in 2014 and continually updated, the Atlas contains unique data on demographic shifts and the economic benefits of equity for the nation's 150 largest regions, all 50 states, the 100 largest cities, and the United States as a whole. California Alliance for Boys and Men of Color. The Alliance has secured more than 100 state and local policy victories to improve the health, education, and economic prospects of the Alliance's constituents. National Equity Summits. Every three years, PolicyLink convenes a one-of-kind national summit with over 3,000 attendees, focused explicitly on equity, creating a deep reservoir of intellectual, strategic, and innovative thought for feeding and sustaining the equity movement. PolicyLink serves as a backbone organization for the equity movement and will mobilize its network of 100,000+ equity leaders and facilitate the process of aligning individuals and organizations in service of crafting a national “winning-on-equity” agenda. PolicyLink will lead the way in advancing a people-centered movement capable of moving equity ideas into the policy mainstream. PolicyLink and its partners will play a long game, over decades, with an eye on capturing the highest ground of American politics: law, fiscal policy, regulation, and the narrative frames of public discussion.

How We Listen

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

Source: Self-reported by organization

the feedback loop
check_box We shared information about our current feedback practices.
How is the organization collecting feedback?
We regularly collect feedback through: electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person), community meetings/town halls, constituent (client or resident, etc.) advisory committees, suggestion box/email.
How is the organization using feedback?
We use feedback to: to identify and remedy poor client service experiences, to identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, to make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, to inform the development of new programs/projects, to identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, to strengthen relationships with the people we serve.
With whom is the organization sharing feedback?
We share feedback with: the people we serve, our staff, our board, our funders, our community partners.
What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?
It is difficult to: it is difficult to find the ongoing funding to support feedback collection.

External Reviews




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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Board Leadership Practices

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?


Organizational Demographics

In order to support nonprofits and gain valuable insight for the sector, GuideStar worked with D5—a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy—in creating a questionnaire. This section is a voluntary questionnaire that empowers organizations to share information on the demographics of who works in and leads organizations. To protect the identity of individuals, we do not display sexual orientation or disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff. Any values displayed in this section are percentages of the total number of individuals in each category (e.g. 20% of all Board members for X organization are female).

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Race & Ethnicity

Diversity Strategies

We track retention of staff, board, and volunteers across demographic categories
We track income levels of staff, senior staff, and board across demographic categories
We track the age of staff, senior staff, and board
We track the diversity of vendors (e.g., consultants, professional service firms)
We have a diversity committee in place
We have a diversity manager in place
We have a diversity plan
We use other methods to support diversity