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By David R. Shorey, East County Program Manager, Institute for Public Strategies
Photo:  Approach to Community Transformation (ACT) Model, courtesy IPS
July 16, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- For almost 30 years, the Institute for Public Strategies (IPS) has been a partner with neighborhood and community groups focused on improving public health and safety. Our local, national and international efforts have resulted in meaningful changes in the systems that most directly affect people.

Photo, right:  Members of the Casa de Oro Alliance and East County Youth Coalition participate in a cleanup event along Campo Road in October. Photo courtesy IPS.
Today, that change comes to IPS. With a fresh emphasis on equity, IPS is proud to announce the restructuring of the nonprofit, including the appointment of a new CEO/President and launch of a state-of-the-art, user-friendly website.
Photo, left:  IPS coverage area for East County, courtesy IPS
The San Diego-based agency, with about 35 employees, has a dozen projects throughout Southern California in three counties, including an alcohol and drug prevention project in East San Diego County. IPS’s previous work has included projects in Southern Mexico, South Carolina, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, Louisiana, Georgia, Vermont, Florida and Delaware.
New Mission With a Focus on Community Transformation 
IPS has adopted a new mission: To work alongside communities to build power, challenge systems of inequity, protect health and improve quality of life.
In the East County, IPS’s work covers almost 20 years of substantive community transformation. This includes alcohol and drug harm prevention, efforts to improve public safety, and the development of effective resident and business coalitions. Today, we are involved in community-based change across East County through organizations like the Lakeside Community Collaborative, Casa de Oro Alliance, East County Youth Coalition, and others.
Photo, right:  IPS CEO/President Brenda Simmons, photo courtesy IPS
The foundation of IPS’s work is our Approach to Community Transformation (ACT) Model. The ACT Model is based on many years of community work and the best practices we have developed in our hands-on approach. The model centers around our goal of community transformation and is developed by working in the following areas: Media Advocacy, Data and Research, Community Organizing, Policy and Systems Change, and Sustainability.
There is no one beginning point in the application of these efforts and as such the model is flexible to the needs of the community and the transformation wanting to be accomplished.
New Values and New Leadership
IPS has also adopted a new set of core values, with equity listed first, and including diversity, empowerment, systems change, results, and integrity.
“Equity is not a path forward, it is the path forward,” IPS CEO/President Brenda Simmons said. “We are committed to transforming the social determinants of health so that all individuals, regardless of their race, culture, economic circumstances, sexual orientation, gender identity, or educational attainment, have the chance to live their best lives.”
Simmons was promoted to lead IPS in April 2019 after founding CEO/President James Baker transitioned to chairman of the board of directors.
Simmons joined IPS in 2003 as a community organizer in San Diego on the East County project and worked her way up the ranks. Her broad range of experience includes working in various communities in Montana, Los Angeles and West Hollywood, and managing the San Diego-Tijuana Border Underage Drinking Project.
The Montana native has been involved in projects focused on substance abuse prevention, community revitalization and child sex trafficking. Simmons earned a Master’s in Communication at San Diego State University and a Bachelor’s in Communication at the University of Montana.
“The Institute for Public Strategies partners with communities to advance quality of life,” Simmons said. “Together, we work to transform the conditions and systems that perpetuate inequity, poor health, and lack of opportunity in order to create vital, thriving, and inclusive communities.”
New Vision and New Website
The new IPS vision is for safe, secure, vibrant, and healthy communities where everyone can thrive. We pride ourselves in being partners for change.
What this means is that IPS is committed to just and fair solutions, learning the unique needs of communities, elevating the voices of those directly affected by societal problems and emboldening them to act and create measurable change.
One of the best ways to learn about and get involved in the work that IPS does is through our newly-designed website at and social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For almost three decades, IPS has worked with many incredible people in several amazing East County communities. We are excited to continue that collaboration with the agents of change who are working every day to make East County better for all.