The secret to keeping our community front and center

The secret to keeping our community front and center

“Keeping community at the center of our work.”

Many community foundations and funding institutions keep this objective in mind as they pursue their missions.

What does “keeping community at the center” mean? For SVCF, it means fostering closeness. It means ensuring that our community leads us the way in defining the challenges, the obstacles – and most importantly – the solutions. Our community helps us define the strategies with which philanthropy can have the most impact and deliver the most meaningful outcomes.

Recently I had the privilege, along with Nicole Taylor, our CEO, of participating at the Silicon Valley Recovery Roundtable. The Roundtable was a 59-member coalition of diverse leaders from academia, philanthropy, business, labor and the social sectors, tasked with devising a roadmap to COVID-19 recovery in our region. Silicon Valley Community Foundation led the conversation about recovery focused on equity. We sought to answer this question:

How do we ensure that we build a Better Silicon Valley, one that is more inclusive, just and sustainable?

Store open during PandemicPutting our community at the center of recovery requires listening. We hosted more than 10 focus groups and 12 one-on-one interviews with community members. We listened to our neighbors – young and old, documented and undocumented, employed and recently unemployed. We heard from working students at San Jose’s Evergreen Valley College, workers experiencing homelessness, dayworkers lacking documentation, and union- and non-union-represented workers. We spoke to our neighbors from the diverse, rich ethnic and racial backgrounds that reflect Silicon Valley.

Closeness means going to our community not through intermediaries, but by hearing directly from our community and listening intentionally. Through these opportunities, we learned more about the depth of the challenges facing us, and about the incredible innovative spirit and resiliency that our community embodies.

We also know that the hope for a “Building a Better Normal” for Silicon Valley will only be realized if we get closer as a community. Getting to know each other will help us build a more inclusive, just and sustainable Silicon Valley.

Fellow philanthropists and funding organizations: We know that bringing the people, stories and histories of our community to public light is part of our role. Letting the innovative spirit of our community actually drive our actions is even more central to our purpose.

View more of Gina Dalma's reflections from the Silicon Valley Recovery Roundtable here.