Guest post: cross-sector collaboration with technology companies in a changing San Francisco

By Alison Gold

On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 14, Twitter hosted the 2016 Presidio Institute Fellows (@PresidioInst) for a tour of the NeighborNest (@NeighborNest), and a panel discussion about Cross Sector Collaboration with Technology Companies in a Changing San Francisco.

The Presidio Institute Fellows are mid- and late-career professionals working across the nation in business, non-profits, philanthropy, academia, and government. Fellows bring a diversity of expertise and experiences; a desire to learn and contribute, and a passion for solving complex problems by applying learning to projects in their communities, throughout the nation, and across the world.

The cross-sector panel engaged in a rich conversation that used the transformation of San Francisco’s Mid-Market neighborhood from 2011-2016 as a jumping off point for discussing how business, nonprofits, government, and philanthropy are contributing to and affected by the changing reality of San Francisco.

It has been said that by working together, we change each other. Moderator David Smith (@mobilizer) of the Presidio Institute asked the panelists, “What is an assumption that you had about partnering with organizations from another sector that has changed through your work together?”

Erica Kisch, who leads Compass Family Services (@compasssf), a nonprofit based in Mid-Market that helps low-income and homeless families break the cycle of poverty and homelessness, said, “You’re working with the company, but you’re working with the people. Our expectation was that they’d be callous and uncaring. But everyone has been so nice and committed.”

Kelly Bathgate of Tipping Point Community (@TippingPoint), a philanthropic organization that has been part of an effort to engage technology companies in corporate philanthropy in the Bay Area, noted, “We thought the #1 reason companies will join us is PR… ultimately it was educating and engaging employees.”

Todd Rufo, who directs the San Francisco Office of Economic & Workforce Development (@sfgov), was surprised to find that it was relatively easy to build partnerships between the government and other sectors. He also posited that in Mid-Market, the visibility of the struggles of some residents in the community and the fast pace of change contributed. He noted, “If you don’t see it every day, it’s hard to have that connection.”

Twitter’s Caroline Barlerin (@cbarlerin) shared a key learning she had about the community’s needs while developing the strategy that, among other things, led to the creation of the NeighborNest. “I spent six months listening to people and nonprofits. We thought we should lead with tech, but we learned people were craving community.”

The Presidio Institute Fellows and Faculty couldn’t pass up the chance to Tweet some of their own highlights while at Twitter HQ:

The 2016 Presidio Institute Fellows were in San Francisco for their first week of in-person learning, which focused on a mix of personal leadership development, exploring cross-sector leadership skills of building teams, and site visits to learn about cross-sector collaborations. Applications for the 2017 Fellows program will open in May. Learn more.

The Presidio Institute staff and Fellows would like to thank @TwitterSF and @TwitterforGood who generously hosted and collaborated with the 2016 Presidio Institute Fellows to make this experience happen.