Update from Interim President Greg Avis: Sept. 18

Sam Rodriquez
San Jose artist Sam Rodriguez is painting murals on SVCF's lobby doors. The murals draw from his background as a graffiti artist and are inspired by the diverse people and languages of Silicon Valley.

As we head into one of the busiest seasons for SVCF – one which will be marked by two important community events, as well as the year-end giving season – it’s timely to reflect on the progress we’ve been making at Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the impact our initiatives are having on the community.

In the four months since I became interim president of SVCF, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with and listen to hundreds of SVCF’s community partners, corporate partners, donors and, of course, community foundation staff. Those conversations have been great learning opportunities, and I extend thanks to all those involved for their interest in making SVCF an inspiring place to work, a stronger community partner, and a better flag-bearer for the cause of philanthropy. The experience has been humbling and inspiring. 

Here are just a few of our accomplishments in recent months, beginning with highlights of our work in the community, plus a look ahead:

Community Impact

  • Our work to improve relations between communities of color and the San Jose Police Department – in collaboration with many partners – took a big step forward recently. The police officers’ union opted to support a plan that gives the Independent Police Auditor (IPA) expanded oversight, including access to use-of-force data in cases in which the police have not received a complaint. Vice President of Government Relations Gina Dalma leads this work for SVCF, collaborating with numerous public agencies and leveraging financial support from the San Francisco 49ers to improve relations with law enforcement.
  • In early August, Immigration Program Officer Anne Im was part of a group organized by Hispanics in Philanthropy that visited a detention center and a federal courthouse in San Diego where immigrants accused of illegal border-crossing were being prosecuted. She was able to witness a hearing and strategize with other philanthropic organizations on how to support changes in immigration processes. SVCF has provided a grant to Catholic Charities Santa Clara County so their staff can travel to McAllen, Texas, to help with the influx of immigrant families arriving there. Here’s Anne’s blog about the experience
  • We recently awarded 13 grants under a small-grant program aimed at increasing civic participation in the November 2018 elections. These grants, all less than $12,000, will support voter education events for unrepresented communities to learn more about voting processes, and for technology-based outreach to remind voters when to vote or help them learn more about issues on the ballot.
  • We published “Bay Area Housing Crisis: Foster Youth on the Brink,” in partnership with Unity Care, a nonprofit serving foster youth and families through numerous community, mental health and housing programs. The report looks at the confluence of factors that have caused increased “housing instability” among the Bay Area’s foster youth and foster care providers.
  • We launched the “Choose Children Tour,” a series of a dozen events around the state featuring a new documentary, “No Small Matter.” The film seeks to increase public understanding of what’s happening in children’s brains from birth to age 5 – and push children’s needs to the top of California’s social and political agendas.

Here at SVCF

  • One of my top priorities has been to work with our remarkable employees to improve our workplace culture. In June we began working with organizational culture consultant Lee Caraher, and by July 1 we formed a Culture Task Force, a 14-person group from a cross-section of the organization that has been meeting weekly ever since. The task force has also enlisted help and support from numerous additional SVCF employees. Among the task force’s goals are to redefine and communicate the values we share as an organization; find relatively quick ways to “jump start” improvements in our daily work lives; and examine the norms of the organization to ensure they align with our values. The energy and thoughtfulness our colleagues have brought to this work has been inspirational. I believe the process of culture-building is as important as the outcomes realized by the task force; the process itself is building trust and communication. 
  • An “implementation committee” made up of members of our board of directors and the executive leadership team at SVCF has also been meeting weekly. This group’s charge is to ensure that the recommendations made in June by Boies Schiller Flexner, as approved by the board, are carried out. Those recommendations include establishing processes for documenting and responding to informal reports about workplace culture issues, for example.
  • In July, after receiving input from SVCF staff and other stakeholders, SVCF’s Board of Directors launched a search for a new chief executive. The first round of candidate interviews took place in August, and the process will continue into the fall.
  • We are instituting some modest changes to our organizational structure to allow for a more collaborative, streamlined and modern organization.
  • To help invigorate our work environment, a new employee-led art committee has recently overseen the installation of new works, including murals by local artists, at the SVCF offices in Mountain View. (Check out the photos included with this post.) Plans are underway for the San Mateo office as well.

Upcoming Events

We are looking ahead to two community events focused on the Bay Area’s housing challenges:

  • On Oct. 23, our second On The Table event will bring together hundreds of people across Silicon Valley to talk about finding solutions to the housing shortage facing our region. Learn more and register to host a conversation.
  • On Nov. 14, our annual Regional Meeting will also address housing, looking at the true causes of the Bay Area’s shortage, how it impacts us, and what can be done to solve it. We hope to see you at the Santa Clara Marriott for this event.

I’m encouraged and inspired by all the progress we have made in the last few months, and very optimistic about the future of SVCF. Thank you for your support, ideas and assistance during this time of transition. As always, if you have questions or feedback, please feel free to contact me at gavis@siliconvalley.cf.org.

Greg Avis

Interim President and CEO

Artists Sergio De La Torre and Chris Treggiari, in front of their installation in SVCF's Mountain View lobby. The six piece series features original quotes about immigration, collected from community members.