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Statewide Progressive Organization Welcomes New Executive Director

Courage California Board of Directors recruits Irene Kao to be its next Executive Director  

Los Angeles, Calif. – May 29, 2020 – Courage California, California’s largest progressive organization, hired Irene Kao as Executive Director, its Board of Directors announced. Kao joins Courage California — formerly known as Courage Campaign — months after the organization’s rebrand, which serves to deepen the organization’s commitment to the state.

Kao is the first person of color to lead Courage California. She brings to the organization more than twenty years of experience working with and advocating for low-income communities of color, including in immigrant and refugee support services, public housing, early childhood education, media, philanthropy and politics.

“I am excited to step in as the next steward of Courage California’s bold vision for a progressive state and nation, especially at a time when we need the voices of all of our diverse communities to be driving what comes next in an unprecedented time,” said Irene Kao. “I look forward to working with our members and partners throughout California as we fight for a just and equitable re-imagining of what our communities need in order to be safe, healthy, and powerful.”

Prior to joining Courage California, Kao was a strategic advisor to the leadership of California Donor Table, Way to Win, Native Americans in Philanthropy, California Native Vote Project, and Vision Maker Media, focusing on community engagement, program strategy, development, and organizational transitions.

“California must be the vanguard of national progressive change, challenging the corrupt establishment,” said Jamie McGurk, Courage California (501c4) board chair.  “In Irene, Courage California is lucky to have a new leader who will continue our storied history of speaking truth to power — even within the Democratic Party — and demand the kind of courageous change that will speak to the needs of all Californians.”

Irene Kao will assume the Executive Director role on June 15, 2020, following the departure of Eddie Kurtz. In Kurtz’s nine years at Courage he has served as Courage California’s Executive Director for six years and as political director the three years prior. In his tenure, Kurtz conceived and executed some of Courage’s most impactful programs, including: the groundbreaking, progressive, legislative report card; the award-winning #CaliforniaCounts campaign, which helped flip seven California House seats in 2018; and 2020’s comprehensive, full-ballot California voter guide (

“Courage’s best years are ahead of it, but that is only because of the near decade of service from outgoing Executive Director Eddie Kurtz,” said Lindsay Gardner, Courage California Institute (501c3) board chair.  “Eddie transformed and strengthened Courage in every way, doubling our membership base, stabilizing our finances, and setting us on a trajectory to impact the lives of every Californian.”

“I have all the confidence in the world that Irene will take the Courage baton and run it to places I didn’t know existed.” said Eddie Kurtz, Executive Director of Courage California. “She is the right person to take Courage California to the next level and push California to fully embrace its potential as a model of progressive, equitable, and truly representative democracy that sets the standard for our country.”


Courage California, formerly Courage Campaign, works to unite communities organizing for progressive change, fight the forces of corruption, and hold our representatives to account in order to ensure that California’s elected officials act with courage. Our community of members envision California as a model of progressive, equitable, and truly representative democracy that sets the standard for our country.


Angela Chavez