Staff Spotlight: A career of community engagement

Q&A with Mauricio Palma, Director of Initiatives and Special Projects; the third piece in the SVCF staff spotlight series. Read other staff spotlights featuring Mallory Zickfeld, Associate Manager, Corporate Responsibility and Son Chau, Philanthropy Advisor.

Mauricio Palma
Mauricio Palma
Director of Initiatives
and Partnerships

Q: How long have you been at SVCF? What did your career path look like before joining the community foundation?

A: The thread that unites the pieces of my professional quilt is social justice. Prior to joining SVCF, I had the blessing of working with faith leaders, peace activists, health workers, farmworkers, refugees, educators and families across the country. It was my community engagement background as well as my experience working with diverse leaders, that brought me to Peninsula Community Foundation 14 years ago. In 2008, Peninsula Community Foundation and Community Foundation Silicon Valley merged to form SVCF and my responsibilities grew to organizing a variety of initiatives and special projects in multiple issue areas.

Q: Tell us about your role within SVCF.

A: I have the great fortune to be the Director of Initiatives and Special Projects in SVCF’s Community Impact division. We have the opportunity to work with hundreds of community partners on issues including housing, education, immigration, civic engagement and journalism. Broadly speaking, our team works to implement SVCF’s institutional priorities and engage internal and external partners on projects intended to address community needs with philanthropic solutions.

Q: What does an average work week look like?

A: I don’t have an average workday or week. Needs and opportunities change, and in turn design and implementation of programs that I work on change.

Q: What do you like most about working at SVCF? Do you have any favorite memories?

A: This past January SVCF’s Nonprofit Investment Program hosted a conversation focused on housing that included nonprofit and business leaders, journalists and philanthropists. The gathering exemplified the multisector collaboration needed to address the most significant challenges facing our region. SVCF was responsible for setting the table, but the stories, ideas and solutions came from the diverse voices of community partners who participated. While our country may be politically polarized and our region may be divided along economic lines, SVCF is still able to partner with and have respectful conversations with individuals with divergent agendas. I participate in many community conversations and I am always energized by the intellectual opportunities they offer. It’s important to use these conversations to inform strategy and action at SVCF and elsewhere.

Q: What projects are you currently excited about?

A: I am most excited about two initiatives that I am currently working on, the Bay Area Media Collaborative and On The Table.

With funding from the Knight Foundation and in partnership with Renaissance Journalism, SVCF organized a series of conversations designed to learn how a community foundation might add value to the journalism ecosystem. Journalists and media outlets are developing a regional, community-centered and collaborative journalism model to engage news outlets and their audiences to address pressing issues affecting people in the San Francisco Bay Area.

On The Table is another example that is close to my heart. Over the past two years, SVCF has collaborated with hundreds of community leaders and nonprofit organizations to invite Bay Area residents to come together for meal-time conversations and share ideas about solutions to the housing crisis that affects our region. Participants represent the diversity of people affected by the crisis: immigrants, educators, parents, foster youth, homeless members of our community, artists, tech workers and more. We are continuing to work with a powerful group of local advisors and community partners to move these conversations to action recommendations designed to change the housing landscape in the region.

Q: What do you like to do outside the office?

A: I like to use the bit of free time I have to read, hike, paint and explore new places with my family. Three places of great importance to us are Veggielution, the Pacifica Resource Center and Congregational Church of San Mateo. These are places where people of diverse backgrounds gather to create community, organize, care for each other and work to change the world.