An 'a-ha!' moment: Creating 'communities of opportunity' on a regional level

Jill RademacherSVCF’s Regional Meeting on Oct. 8 provided a terrific opportunity for me to speak with more of our dedicated donors. But the most salient moment that day for me was in hearing the opening presentation given by Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of PolicyLink. 

Angela highlighted the fact that young people of color are being disproportionately left behind in terms of income growth – and yet they are the very ones who will be this country’s future, who will make up the majority of American society in the next few decades. But Angela had a message of hope: Increasing numbers of people are engaging in discussion now about racial and economic equity, and many community-based organizations are succeeding in addressing some very tough social problems relating to education, poverty and social justice. 

The remaining challenge is to  “scale up” those good ideas, and thereby create “communities of opportunity” in which many more people have access to the education, healthy food, health care, affordable housing and transportation that will allow them to live productive lives.

Hearing this – and later that day hearing from officials John Maltbie of San Mateo County, Naomi Kelly of San Francisco County and Gary Graves of Santa Clara County about the challenges they have in common – I felt more deeply committed to SVCF’s recently announced plans to launch the Silicon Valley Regional Fund, which will extend grants to San Francisco-based charities working on issues of regional importance. It suddenly made so much sense – when all types of residents across this interconnected region can thrive, the overall quality of life improves. We are connected as a region, and we can and should address challenges such as affordable housing and transportation from a regional perspective.

That message hit home again when I chatted with a Latino College Prep Academy student who came to the meeting at the invitation of one of our board members. She said it was eye-opening for her to imagine how today’s housing affordability crisis could affect her. She had never before considered that she might not be able to afford to move out of her family’s home once she had finished college. 

With the commitment of many philanthropic and nonprofit partners, we hope young people like her will be able to find affordable housing and good jobs and contribute to the Bay Area community for decades to come.