On the Table SV: 7,000 people joined small-group discussion about local housing issues

Nonprofit Veggielution held On the Table discussions at its San Jose farm on Nov. 15. Nonprofit Veggielution held On the Table discussions at its San Jose farm on Nov. 15.

Last month, Silicon Valley Community Foundation and hundreds of community leaders, residents and nonprofit representatives came together for On the Table SV, an unprecedented local attempt to create a community conversation around the housing challenges facing our region.

SVCF estimates that nearly 7,000 people participated in the event, hosting and joining conversations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Without the leadership and commitment of many, many people, these important conversations would not have been possible.

One of our community partners told us, “On November 15, SVCF made history with On the Table.”

We made history thanks to the efforts of so many people. We made history because On the Table was the first time that thousands of individuals came together to talk about housing in a single day, engaging the great power of our diverse residents, students, faith-based institutions, businesses, nonprofit organizations and policy-makers. In the midst of a divisive political environment we succeeded in coming together for more than 700 solutions-oriented conversations – and we honored each other’s voices, stories and ideas with respect and civility.

The work is not over. But I have no doubt that with the leadership and support of the people who made On the Table a success, we will continue to make history, using the stories and ideas we shared to inspire change in our region.

For those that were hosts or participants, we at SVCF have one final request now that the day of conversations is past:

  • If you were a host and have not already done so, please return scans or photos of your completed “Listening to Your Conversation” document to onthetable@siliconvalley.com. The information captured on those sheets is essential to SVCF’s ability to understand the hopes and solutions our community has about housing.

Sean Rico Fisher, associate manager of corporate responsibility of SVCF, was one of those who helped lead one of the On the Table discussions that were held at SVCF. His reflection:

I had the pleasure of hosting a public conversation at SVCF headquarters in Mountain View. A group of community members and SVCF staff explored a range of topics. The group’s blend of experiences and levels of formal expertise allowed us to build on each other’s ideas about things like housing density and development, transit, student homelessness, municipal politics and corporate responsibility.

I think the cross-section of ages in this particular conversation produced some fruitful insights. The housing crisis impacts people all along the life course: college students living in cars, professionals commuting hours to and from work, children being geographically isolated from both parents during work and commuting hours, older folk preparing to transition to fixed incomes. The narrative about housing is frequently portrayed as a 'homelessness issue,' but I think we need to expand the story to capture the damage that’s actually being done in the Silicon Valley region.  

The On the Table research team is currently collecting and analyzing information from host and participant survey responses to inform a report about the On the Table SV initiative. SVCF will have released that report by the second quarter of 2018, and we will follow up with participants about how to engage the community around the report’s findings.

On the Table SV received some great media coverage, which you can check out on SVCF’s news coverage page. You can also learn more about other peoples’ experiences by taking a look at Twitter’s #OnTheTableSV thread. And it’s never too late to post your own photo or quote on Twitter by tagging us @siliconvalleyCF and using #OnTheTableSV.

I know I speak for everyone at SVCF when I say that we appreciated the support of the many people who helped organize On the Table and who participated in conversations. Please do not hesitate to contact us at onthetable@siliconvalleycf.org with any questions or feedback you have.