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Selection Criteria

The James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards recognize leaders whose work improves people’s lives, creates opportunity, and contributes to a better California.

The Awards recognize notable leadership, characterized by:


The leader’s work addresses an issue that is critical to California, and the issue is anticipated to affect the quality of life of a substantial number of Californians into the future.


The leader is advancing an innovative strategy that directly improves people’s lives. The work represents an entirely new approach, is not widely known or practiced, or applies a proven approach in a new way or within a new context.


The leader has been highly effective in achieving positive change. Their work has a measurable record of accomplishment.


The leader helps build bridges among people with differing viewpoints or different backgrounds. The leader brings diverse experiences to their work and creates opportunity for underserved communities.


The leader’s project is at a stage conducive to replication and informing policy, and there is urgency or opportunity for the nominee to expand their work.

Leadership Capacity

The leader is well-positioned and prepared to take the next step in advancing change.

Nominees may:

  • Be an individual or a pair of leaders
  • Work in any sector (nonprofit, public, or private)
  • Work in any field (such as education, health, public safety, housing, economic development, or the environment)

Nominees must be residents of California.

We especially encourage nominations that reflect the diversity of California’s population and regions.

Before nominating, we ask nominators to carefully review the selection criteria, nominations questions, and additional details provided in our Frequently Asked Questions.