S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

Legacy collection

In December 2020, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation concluded operations. Founded in 1957, the Foundation was committed to building a productive, vibrant, and sustainable California. In 2009, the Foundation decided to invest all of its assets, or spend down, by 2020 in order to spur significant progress on the challenging issues facing the state in education and environment. This collection features knowledge produced by the Foundation and its partners during its final decade of work. Read concluding reflections from the Foundation's president and learn more about its grantmaking.

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S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation National Character Initiative Retrospective Final Report

December 22, 2020

Starting in 2019, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) partnered with the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, to capture grantees' experiences with the National Character Initiative. Specifically, through interviews and surveys, AIR aimed to describe grantees' experiences implementing the grants and participating in the supports that were provided by the Foundation and expert consultants. Findings from the retrospective may be useful to other foundations as they decide how to fund and support youth-serving organizations.


Rehearsing the Future: An Introduction to Developing and Using Scenarios

December 14, 2020

Scenarios are stories about different future environments in which today's decisions might play out. We cannot predict the future. However, by thinking creatively and rigorously about a range of scenarios, we can rehearse future possibilities and prepare for what might be next.In the summer of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, job losses mounted, and the movement for racial justice grew across the U.S., one thing was clear: nonprofit leaders were trying to figure out how to manage in such a volatile, highly uncertain, and complex environment. The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation had long been committed to helping nonprofits cultivate resilience and grow the related capacities for responding and adapting to significant change and uncertainty. Scenario thinking was a natural fit for this moment. In the second half of 2020, the Foundation offered a training program, Rehearsing the Future, to four cohorts of grantees, partners, and staff. Through a series of virtual working sessions participants were introduced to the discipline of scenario thinking and the core steps of the scenario-creation process. 

Organizational Resiliency

California Environmental Flows Framework

December 9, 2020

The California Environmental Flows Framework (CEFF) provides an approach for determining ecological flow criteria and guidance for developing environmental flow recommendations that can accommodate a variety of stream types and biological communities, while supporting regulatory and management agency programs aimed at protecting beneficial uses for aquatic life. CEFF applies a Functional Flows approach and provides ecological flow criteria based on the natural variability of ecologically-relevant functional flow metrics. It provides a process for considering physical and biological constraints within a stream system and provides guidance on developing environmental flow recommendations that balance ecological and water management objectives.


Resilience in 2020

December 9, 2020

In fall 2018, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, along with fellow funders and the authors of this report, set out to study what it takes for nonprofits to survive and even thrive amid disruption, and to better understand how grantmakers can help grow this resilience. "Resilience" was defined as a nonprofit's ability to respond effectively to change and adapt successfully to new and unforeseen circumstances while staying true to mission. Ultimately, seven characteristics emerged as critical to organizational resilience, presented in the resulting report, Resilience at Work. None of the stressors profiled in the original study reached the magnitude of the multiple and interconnected crises that defined 2020 – the pandemic, the uprising for Black lives and racial justice, the economic downturn, the crescendo of natural disasters. The authors wanted to know: What does it take for nonprofits to be resilient in the face of the profound and far-reaching change and uncertainty that no organization was immune from in 2020? Can nonprofits bounce back better equipped to weather future crises? To find out, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation commissioned this update.

Organizational Resiliency

State Insights on Renewing a Cross-Government for Water Affordability

November 2, 2020

The 2020 Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum virtual sessions are exploring what constitutes good water governance through the lenses of water affordability and equity. While this topic was chosen prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the pandemic has further revealed and exacerbated health and financial disparities across racial, gender, and geographic lines. The first virtual session explored the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on urban water utilities. The second session focused on the unique water affordability and equity challenges present in rural communities, colonias, and tribal nations. The third session explored federal assistance programs related to food and energy, and taxes that have been developed to support low-income Americans struggling with poverty. The last three sessions explore the roles and responsibilities of local (September 28), state (this session), and federal governments (November 16) in ensuring the equity and affordability of water services.


What Education Leaders Can Learn About NGSS Implementation: Highlights From the Early Implementers Initiative

November 1, 2020

From 2014 through 2020, eight diverse school districts and two charter management organizations ran a substantial experiment with ways of implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in elementary and middle grades, called the California K - 8 NGSS Early Implementers Initiative. The Initiative certainly illustrated that a big financial investment can produce powerful change. However, even districts facing resource challenges may benefit from the lessons that were learned and the strategies that were developed by the Initiative.An external evaluation team has previously released a series of reports on what can be learned from the efforts of the Initiative districts. All reports are intended to be helpful to administrators at the school and district levels, education policymakers, and people charged with designing and/or delivering science professional learning. After briefly describing how the NGSS call for big shifts in science teaching and learning, this highlights report shares high-level, major learnings from the evaluation, distilled into only a couple dozen pages of main narrative. The report describes NGSS instruction as a powerful lever for equitable learning, explains how the Initiative made this kind of instruction happen, and describes the importance of the Initiative's ambitious professional learning for administrators.

STEM - Science

How Learning Happens Video Series

October 8, 2020

In this video series, Edutopia explores how educators can guide all students, regardless of their developmental starting points, to become productive and engaged learners.


Residency Year Scholarship Stories of Impact: California State University, Bakersfield

September 16, 2020

The Residency Year Scholarship helps aspiring teachers preparing to serve students in high-need schools. It supports a year-long clinical experience working alongside an expert mentor. Scholarship recipients share their stories.

STEM - Teacher Preparation

Guiding Principles for Equitable Engagement in Coordinated Planning

September 1, 2020

Five foundations from across the state, known as the Community Foundation Water Initiative, have been working since 2015 to advance sustainable water management solutions. The Initiative partnered with Local Government Commission to develop a report on the Equitable Integration of Water and Land Use which was released in 2019. Shortly following the report, each foundation selected one nonprofit in their region to advance the report's regional recommendations and statewide strategies while building local capacity for coordination. This cohort of five NGOs collaborated for an entire year, culminating their work in this guide.

Land; Water

Building Leadership Capacity to Improve Math Teaching and Learning: Lessons from the Math in Common Initiative

September 1, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has required educators to make a seismic shift to distance learning, first on an emergency basis early in the crisis, and now with some amount of pre-planning in fall 2020. Many educators are concerned that distance learning exacerbates students' inability to access and engage in high-quality math learning. Educators are particularly concerned about learning for the groups of students that, prior to the pandemic, were already performing less well than average on the state math achievement test: Black students, English learner students, and students with disabilities.Before COVID-19, there was already a growing awareness that school site leaders' instructional leadership could be critical for raising student achievement. The pandemic further highlighted the potential for targeted leadership development to improve math teaching and learning in California schools at a moment when achievement gaps could be widening.Findings from WestEd's evaluation of a seven-year initiative called Math in Common may offer some useful insights at this time. Math in Common was organized to support 10 California districts in effectively implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M) across grades K-8. A key part of the effort to improve math teaching and learning in these districts involved providing leadership development opportunities for many types of district and school leaders — from teacher leaders and instructional coaches to principals and district administrators — to help them understand and support the math content and instruction that teachers are expected to use.In this brief, we offer three recommendations for how educators in California and beyond should conceptualize new leadership development opportunities to support math improvement - during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. We offer these recommendations to a broad audience of educators, administrators, and policymakers concerned with building leaders' capacity for school improvement, including representatives from county offices of education, district central offices, the California Subject Matter Projects, the newly formed California Leadership academies, and leadership associations such as the Association for California School Administrators. To ground our recommendations, we begin with some brief background on the CCSS-M and the Math in Common initiative.

STEM - Math

NGSS in the Classroom: What Early Implementer Science Instruction Looks Like

September 1, 2020

This 13th report in WestEd's evaluation of the K-8 Early Implementers Initiative for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) provides an extensive response to the following question: What does NGSS teaching look like in the classroom? The report also briefly describes specific ways that teachers have advanced in their NGSS teaching over the years of the Initiative and how the Initiative prepared them for such teaching.The report draws most strongly from more than 50 classroom observations of, and interviews with, 24 teachers across six districts. It is also informed by multiple interviews with each district Project Director as well as results of an annual survey with high response rates from more than 500 K-8 science teachers.

STEM - Science

A Time for Talent: Improving Federal Recruiting and Hiring

August 26, 2020

As the United States works to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus and blunt the pandemic's economic fallout, the need for an effective and efficient federal government has never been clearer. Indeed, there may be no institution more important to the health, safety and financial wellbeing of the nation than the federal government. To deliver for the American people now and in the future, and competently respond to inevitable crises, the government must be able to recruit and hire a world-class workforce. Yet the federal recruiting and hiring process is in drastic need of repair.The federal government has long struggled to attract the talent it needs, handicapped in part by a General Schedule pay system that makes it difficult to compete with the private sector. Too often, the applicant experience is miserable, plagued by confusing job announcements, a USAJobs platform that is difficult to use, and a cumbersome hiring process that can take months to complete. Even after collecting resumes, agencies rely too frequently on outdated methods to evaluate candidates, causing them to overlook the most qualified.While there are a number of well-documented steps that Congress and the Office of Personnel Management could take to reform the recruiting and hiring process, agencies can do a great deal on their own.1 Made possible by generous support from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and informed by interviews with human resources leaders in government and the private sector, this report describes approaches that agency leaders and human resources specialists can take right now to strengthen the federal workforce.Particularly as new staff are added to deal with a range of issues stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, agencies should:- Strategically identify their talent needs for both today and tomorrow.- Recruit more effectively and efficiently by being proactive, promoting their brand, keeping in touch with former employees and targeting young people.- Ensure that they hire the best applicants by creating a better candidate experience and using innovative techniques to identify who is most qualified.- Look inward for the next generation of talent. This report describes what these strategies look like in practice, sharing replicable examples from across the federal government.

Special Grantmaking

About this collection:   Presidents reflections | Intellectual property