By: Stacie Mills, Senior Associate, Bay Area
The pandemic has changed the lives of millions in the course of just over 14 months. Life is still severely altered and we will feel the reverberations of this unprecedented event for years to come.
In the Bay Area, we knew this wasn’t short-lived. But what could we do now – in this moment – to lessen the need for such a large recovery down the line? We decided to look at this situation as an opportunity to address some of the largest inequities facing Bay Area communities.
So, we did what we do every time we’re starting a selection cycle. We went to the community, we had conversations, and we listened a lot. What we heard wasn’t a surprise, but the breadth and depth of the situation shocked us. The numbers were appalling and something needed to be done – immediately. The two major issues individuals and families were grappling with the most were not new in the Bay Area but were severely exacerbated during the pandemic: food insecurity and digital inequity.
We utilized the GreenLight Method, which articulates GreenLight’s approach to transformational change in our communities and aims to assist with achieving and sustaining great impact. During the pandemic, we analyzed our sixth and seventh selection cycles with a different lens in order to meet this unique and unprecedented moment. By adhering to the first three steps of the Method (Discover, Scout, and Select) we were able to accelerate and modify our process.
We combined two steps of our method: Discover and Scout, so we could quickly match potential investment organizations with the issue areas we were seeing on the ground. While we are always analyzing for local community fit, there was a new dynamic at play: Could these organizations get to work almost immediately and would their model be able to function in, and respond to, the COVID-19 crisis in a powerful way? We needed to find nimble organizations that could get up-and-running in a new market quickly and who also had the energy and passion to tackle this new geography at such a moment of crisis globally. Through our accelerated process, we were able to identify and select two incredible organizations to scale to the Bay Area:
Already pivoting in many major cities, including GreenLight Philadelphia, Food Connect showed great success in implementing on-demand hunger relief by mobilizing massive transportation across sectors and matching the real-time deficiency of food insecurity, giving organizations the ability to plug into a large network of resources quickly. Conversations began with organizations/school districts around the Bay Area interested in potential partnerships, including San Francisco Unified School District, Franklin-McKinley Unified School District, and Alum Rock Unified School District.
A national organization well known for their offer locator tool, EveryoneOn came highly recommended by a major local funder in the digital inclusion space. EveryoneOn would be able to provide a platform to identify accessible and affordable internet and devices at a rapid pace, especially for low-wealth communities, and deliver digital skills training for students and adults during school closures and the economic downturn. Potential partnerships include Parent Institute for Quality Education, Front Porch, Facebook Community Hub, and the San Jose Digital Inclusion Fund.
We innovated and raised important questions during our accelerated cycle. There were key decision moments to inform future cycles, a few of them include:
- activating a smaller Selection Advisory Council for more frequent, one-on-one conversations to ensure we weren’t being bogged down by decision paralysis, and moving forward with the needs of the community as we heard them;
- being virtual during this entire process also raised some excellent future practices. We were able to have conversations with folks all around the country in the time span of a couple of weeks, a process that normally takes a little longer because of in-person logistics and planning; and
- conducting conversations with the community to better understand the largest gaps affecting the Bay while searching for potential partnerships and other funding sources allowed for a quicker plug into local infrastructure – allowing Food Connect and EveryoneOn to really hit the ground running. This process is usually separated into two steps, but we needed to make sure these two organizations had a supportive foundation in the Bay Area market for sustainability and support.
So, how are these two amazing organizations doing?
Food Connect distributed over 100,000 meals to San Francisco Unified School District students and families since the start of the year. The families received the meals directly at their homes and did not need to spend their valuable time trying to get to a distribution site or, worse, go without food. FC is also working with Franklin McKinley and Alum Rock Unified School Districts, providing meals to 50 families.
EveryoneOn developed a partnership with Front Porch (formerly Covia) to assist the senior population with navigating computing devices. EO is launching digital skills training in partnership with Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) Bay Area, serving 60 parent participants in four cohorts from two school sites beginning in May 2021 with monolingual Spanish speakers.
To read more about our process and hear from our Selection Advisory Council, read our press release and take a glimpse at the video below to view Food Connect and EveryoneOn’s amazing journey, impactful work, and what you can do to support their efforts in the Bay Area.