The sounds of waves crashing, families laughing and the sun setting beyond the ocean horizon help paint the canvas for our communities’ coastlines. These are some of the most special parts of what makes our coastlines great and demonstrate why preserving them is a priority.

In 2022, the Binational Resilience Initiative (BRI) was created to improve coastal resiliency, reduce pollution impacts and champion local leadership through key collaboration among several nonprofit agencies. Since then, BRI has awarded $1.7 million in grants to local nonprofits with the same mission and values in mind – building cross-border resilience.

BRI catalyzes community and connection to improve Cali-Baja coastal resilience from Oceanside to Ensenada, while creating opportunities to work to protect the beloved Cali-Baja coastlines and overcome challenges presented by climate change.

What is BRI?

The Binational Resilience Initiative, a collaboration between San Diego Foundation and the International Community Foundation, strategically focuses its efforts on the Cali-Baja coastline region—from Oceanside in North San Diego County, U.S., to Ensenada in northern Baja California, Mexico.

Spanning the largest economic zone along the U.S.-Mexico border, our region boasts a formidable regional GDP of $250 billion, with an impressive $70 billion in cross-border trade flows and over 90 million people crossing the border annually.

“It’s important to recognize that the communities in this region are connected,” said Christiana DeBenedict, Director of Environmental Initiatives at San Diego Foundation. “They’re connected through the economy. They’re culturally connected through the environment, and binational challenges really require binational partnerships and collaboration to really create solutions in the face of a changing climate.”

A Year of Grantmaking


In its first year, BRI has granted out $1.7 million, garnered support from 300-plus local leaders and supported a total of 16 projects being implemented by 33 community partners in the U.S. and Mexico.

When launched in 2022, BRI initially granted out nearly $295,000 to four inaugural grantees – Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association, UCSD Scripps California Sea Grant Program, Via International and WILDCOAST. Each organization exemplifies the initiative’s commitment to fostering resilience, sustainability and community well-being along our cherished coastlines.

Each inaugural grant plants a seed for longevity and builds upon coastal resilience — whether through data and research collection, using nature-based solutions to pioneer infrastructure projects, promoting sustainable development in under-resourced communities disproportionately affected by climate change or combating plastic pollution in the Tijuana River watershed.

In its second round of grantmaking, the Binational Resilience Initiative funded another 12 projects with more than a million dollars in grants.

“All of those projects are unique to the region and connects us all to the coastal areas and help our communities address and face those changing climate impacts,” said Yamilett Carrillo, Senior Manager of the Binational Resilience Initiative at San Diego Foundation. “Some of those are air quality and water monitoring, but others are addressing children’s environmental education — connecting youth to our coastal areas.”

Celebrating Cross-Border Collaboration

Carlsbad beach

Perhaps the pinnacle of BRI is the shared importance and value of cross-border collaboration. Recognizing that working together, an even bigger difference and impact can be made.

“We share the watershed, we share the water supply, resources, energy, coastline, and especially the people and our cultural connections,” said Carrillo. “Once we realized that those are our strengths in this Cali-Baja region, that’s when we realized we could find solutions together to our shared issues.”

The BRI team primarily consists of members of both San Diego Foundation and International Community Foundation, along with several funders and nonprofit partners.

“Together, we are working to build a strong base for greater impact in the region, as well as funding partnerships and by national collaboration,” said DeBenedict. “This is critical to our success. Through this collaboration, we will see greater creativity and greater effective, more effective solutions in [and] for the region.”

Carrillo cites the amount of shared eagerness and enthusiasm as an inspiring factor in achieving BRI goals.

“The amount of excitement and the collaboration that was triggered between U.S. nonprofits and Mexican nonprofits was really something amazing and exciting,” Carrillo said. “There’s not only a need, but there’s also a willingness and an excitement to build projects together and forge new partnerships.”

Funders for the Binational Resilience Initiative include The Builders Initiative (BI) and Alumbra Innovations Foundation, which together seeded the initiative with nearly $2 million in combined funding. Other project partners include Resilient Cities Catalyst and the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative housed at The Nonprofit Institute of the University of San Diego.

In the years to come, the BRI team is committed to increasing funds to support more binational projects and leave a greater impact on the region.

Learn more about the Binational Resilience Initiative at San Diego Foundation.