New directors for housing and education work brought on to elevate those efforts
LOS ANGELES, CA—United Way of Greater Los Angeles is proud to announce Chris Ko as Vice President of Impact & Strategy. After more than a decade of transformational work at United Way, Ko is taking on this newly developed role that includes overseeing efforts to ensure every resident in LA County has a quality education, a stable job, and safe housing.
Ko’s team will include the newly announced hires of Jason Riffe as Director of Housing Initiatives and Norma Rodriguez as Director of Education Programs & Policy.
Throughout his tenure at United Way, Chris Ko helped craft the community coalitions to create and pass historic ballot measures around housing (2016’s Proposition HHH), homelessness (2017’s Measure H), and racial justice (2020’s Measure J).
“Chris is a huge asset to United Way and Greater Los Angeles as a whole and has been a driving force in our most impactful efforts,” said Elise Buik, President and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “I am excited to welcome him to this new and greatly deserved role where he can lead the transformative efforts we are undertaking towards building a more inclusive and just LA County, especially in this challenging time.”
Ko’s efforts also helped to double participation in the homeless count and to develop the architecture of the Los Angeles homeless services system’s Coordinated Entry System for Single Adults, Youth and Families, which became a national model emulated by other local systems after boosting priority housing placements by over 500%.
“In many ways, my personal history has mirrored the areas where United Way has seen success: helping families save, helping students succeed, and helping our neighbors have safe and stable housing," said Ko. “But if there's anything this past year has taught us, it's that emergencies don't follow the neat lines our initiatives typically fall into. Low-income Black and Brown families are moving mountains to send their children into the virtual classroom, scrambling to make up for lost shifts at work, and dealing with the stress of possible eviction. Having our work mirror the reality of real life is our greatest challenge and our greatest opportunity.”
Prior to joining United Way, Ko worked to expand community schools and close the digital divide in West Philadelphia and managed information technology at a Liberian refugee camp. He came to Los Angeles as an economic development policy aide for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, helping to design the Bank On LA program, which brought more than 10,000 low-income Angelenos into the financial mainstream. He was subsequently named a Coro Fellow and worked on special projects for SEIU 721, KPCC, and a LAUSD School Board Office.
Ko proudly serves on the board of Brilliant Corners and is thrilled to be supported as a Stanton Fellow by the Durfee Foundation. He was also previously named a StartingBloc Fellow, a Next City Vanguard and one of Empowerment Congress's 40-under-40 civic leaders. Ko was born in Seoul, South Korea and has lived in Atlanta, New Jersey, Virginia, Philadelphia, and Ghana. Having grown up in the middle of class and racial divides, his time as an Urban Studies major at the University of Pennsylvania helped him make sense of what he experienced and also the transformative change that's possible when people work together. He is glad to be able to devote his life to the rich community that is Los Angeles and is in the middle of a quest to visit each of its 88 cities.