In a previous post in December 2016, I argued that cross-sector collaboration holds promise for solving complex urban challenges (though not without risk). Well, I’d like to up my ante on that statement now that we’re a few months into 2017. Many local governments, non-profits, and civil society organizations will now face new and significant funding challenges and will be operating in a relatively unfamiliar political and policy environment. Collaborative approaches to solving social problems are now more crucial than ever.
Perhaps nearly as important as creating cross-sector partnerships is sharing success stories and models that work, so that others may replicate them. I promised in my previous post that I would highlight some of the ways the Technology and Civic Engagement team at Microsoft is working across sectors to drive impact and solve problems in San José.
Here are some examples:
We recently supported the Paseo Prototyping Challenge which culminated in a two day festival showcasing the work of student teams from San José State who designed prototype technology solutions to address a critical social issue of their choosing in San José. The event was a wonderful success, with prototypes addressing education, water use, public safety, homelessness, and more. One reason why I’m so jazzed on this initiative is that it engenders cross-sector collaboration from its core—all teams were required to have a student from at least two different schools at the university, which led to some very interesting and creative prototypes.
Last year, we announced a partnership with Joint Venture Silicon Valley to support their State of the Valley conference and the Silicon Valley Index. At its core, Joint Venture is an organization that embodies cross sector collaboration, bringing together leaders from business, government, academia, labor, and the broader community, to spotlight issues and work toward innovative solutions. The State of the Valley brought these groups together to learn about key indicators highlighting the health of the region. Looking forward, Joint Venture is undertaking a new and exciting initiative to drive cross-sector collaboration on building a smart region in the Valley to address some of the key policy and service delivery challenges that exist here. We’re looking forward seeing how this initiative develops over the next year.
We’ve supported the work of Prospect Silicon Valley (PSV) for several years now, and the partnership continues to grow. PSV is an urban-tech innovation hub whose mission is “to advance urban tech innovations for sustainable, smart communities.” We’re excited about the direction of this organization under the leadership of the new CEO, Ruth Cox, and we’ve begun developing a cloud platform for the organization, built on Azure, to encourage data-sharing between PSV and its partners, as well as facilitate advanced data analytics on issues core to their mission. More on this will be announced at PSV’s annual conference, the Impact and Innovation Symposium, hosted here at Microsoft Silicon Valley on June 14th. We hope you’ll join us for this event!
The Technology and Civic Engagement team announced a partnership with DataKind in 2015 to support Vision Zero efforts in the US. Initial work was focused in Seattle, New York, and New Orleans, with plans to share the work with other cities upon completion of the analyses. Just this past week, these analyses were released, with results ranging from accurate estimates of the number of motor vehicles on individual streets to determining variables that have the greatest impact on midblock collisions to assessing the impact of street safety tools. San José is also a Vision Zero city, and we’re hopeful that the work produced by DataKind will prove useful to community leaders here who are working hard on this important issue.
One of our strongest partners on the civic tech scene is Code for America and, here locally, the Code for San Jose brigade. I’m excited about both organizations and their ability to positively impact the community and governments’ ability to provide public services. In San José, we see the brigade as an integral part of the civic ecosystem, and they’re particularly well-suited to be a strong conduit for cross-sector collaboration here. Biweekly meetups are hosted at the Tech Museum (another local partner of ours) and include civic hackers from the local university, government, and the private and non-profit sectors who are putting their tech skills to use for the public good.
While I’m proud of the work we’re doing with these tremendous partners, we can do more. We must do more. Today’s challenges require comprehensive solutions and varying approaches, and this can only be achieved through partnerships that leverage organizational strengths toward the collective good. I’ll continue to look for opportunities to facilitate and cultivate these partnerships, and I hope you’ll join me!