By: Amy Guterman, Director, Impact Labs and Tyler Woebkenberg, Senior Technical Architect, Impact Labs
Change doesn’t happen in a vacuum and it doesn’t happen alone. That’s why we’ve set out to engage and collaborate with the community through Salesforce.org Impact Labs. We are here to create technology solutions that support and address tough social issues facing us today. Impact Labs combines the expertise of our community with the power of the Salesforce platform to take risks, find new solutions, and address complex social challenges together.
When we announced Salesforce.org Impact Labs, we asked our community: What are the most pressing social issues that you want to tackle together? Between our open call for submissions at Dreamforce and online, we received more than 500 responses about topic areas to focus on for our first Impact Lab. Every topic area submitted was incredibly thoughtful and an important challenge to address in our world today.
Fighting Challenges in Housing and Homelessness, Collaboratively
After analyzing the results, resoundingly, the topic area of Housing and Homelessness was one of the top challenges submitted by our community on which to collaborate. More than half a million people in the United States experience homeless each year, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. California alone is home to 47 percent of all unsheltered homeless people in the country, informing our decision to focus initially in the Bay Area.
Launching this winter, our inaugural Impact Lab will focus on identifying ways technology can alleviate friction for people experiencing homelessness and strengthen the work of the service providers and organizations who support them. The specific challenge focus will continue to be shaped as we get input from the first class of Impact Labs Community Fellows – community members with lived experience and subject matter expertise in the field of affordable housing and homelessness. The Impact Lab will map back to Sustainable Development Goal #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, and will aim to create a technology solution that promotes a more inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable San Francisco Bay Area for all. That said, our hope is to create a scalable solution that can be leveraged by nonprofits and communities in other geographies.
How will we approach this challenge?
It’s a complex challenge and one that can’t be tackled alone. That’s why we’re bringing together a cohort of Community Fellows – practitioners and subject matter experts from across the housing and homelessness sector to ideate and co-design technology solutions to advance progress on this issue.
We know there are a lot of solutions out there already – Impact Labs’ goal is to complement and be additive to the work that exists. We’re looking for new ways technology can help. We know technology alone won’t solve homelessness, but we think it can help those who are working to address the issue amplify their impact.
Over the next six months, 19 Community Fellows from nonprofits, foundations, educational institutions, government, technology partners and other socially-minded organizations across the San Francisco Bay Area will work with Impact Labs to identify and co-design ways technology can support their work. Impact Labs will then leverage a team of Pro Bono Fellows to research, design, develop, and implement the solutions – so that community organizations don’t have to shoulder the risks and costs of innovation.
We’re thrilled to welcome the first class of Impact Labs Community Fellows who will bring this vision to life.
Meet Our Community Fellows
“The Impact Labs approach will be a unique opportunity to bring together partners from a wide array of cross-sector disciplines to think outside the box on solutions to prevent and end homelessness. I am excited to contribute my knowledge of the current homeless system of care while exploring innovative solutions that leverage resources not currently available to traditional homeless service sector partners.”
Interim Director, Office of Civic Innovation
City and County of San Francisco
“I believe that in order to create cities and communities that thrive, we must work together across sectors and silos like the one Salesforce is creating through this Impact Lab.”
“I’m excited to work to solve big problems with creative folks from different backgrounds. I participated in the Impact Labs presentation at Dreamforce and enjoyed thinking about new solutions to challenging issues.”
Data and Strategic Projects Manager
San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development
“I’m hoping to learn from other public-sector innovators in order to improve my projects, build new partnerships to better serve San Franciscans and Bay Area residents struggling with housing and homelessness issues, and hope to support others doing great work for public benefit.”
Bigger Boat Consulting
“Access to affordable housing and addressing homelessness are key issues facing our communities. My hope is that the Impact Lab work can bring value to organizations working on the front lines of these issues.”
HomeKeeper Training and Support Senior Specialist
Grounded Solutions Network
“I’m looking forward to brainstorming and implementing solutions that could help community-based program staff spend less time on data entry or searching for data, so they can more effectively provide services to houseless and underserved folks locally.”
Chief Operating Officer
Episcopal Community Services of San Francisco
“Finding solutions to homelessness takes the commitment of our entire society. It is a privilege to do this work.”
H.O.P.E. Basic Needs Program Coordinator
California State University, East Bay
“I’m excited to participate because I’ll get to work with brilliant minds to come up with real life solutions that impact real people!”
UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative
“I look forward to hearing a new and vibrant perspective on the crisis of homelessness in the Bay Area.”
SVP Community Impact
United Way Bay Area
“As an organization committed to getting people out of poverty here in the Bay Area, we know that housing and homelessness is the critical issue facing our region and the state. If our neighbors are not stably and affordably housed, long term financial stability isn’t possible.”
Director of Impact and Learning
Compass Family Services
“I am excited to join with leaders across sectors to explore how we can use technology and the tech boom to support homeless families and the people and organizations providing front line support and services.”
Chief Program Officer
Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco
“Looking forward to joining with other experts from diverse experience, fields and perspectives to tackle this critical issue.”
Tipping Point Community
“I’m most excited about the Impact Lab on Housing and Homelessness because of the potential I see for new and exciting solutions to a problem that affects so many of San Francisco’s most vulnerable people. For too long we have struggled to find meaningful solutions to this issue, and am hopeful that we can contribute high-impact solutions to the space.”
Restorative Justice Community Schools Manager
Oakland Unified School District
“I am excited to partner with Salesforce as I have witnessed the high level impact their innovative technology/systems have had within OUSD Force allowing me to immediately increase access to timely services for teachers, youth and families.”
“Homelessness as an issue and epidemic is continuing to evolve, and we need new, collaborative, cross-sector solutions to address and overcome these complex challenges. I look forward to bringing Homebase’s experience to this discussion, to learning from others about their perspectives and insights, and to working together to identify strategies that better leverage the capacity of technology and partnerships to formulate meaningful solutions to prevent and end homelessness.”
Larkin Street Youth Services
“I want to have a voice when speaking about our youth, particularly our youth of color. I want to be sure we’re practicing diversity, equity and inclusion in the work we do.”
“Homelessness is a complex community crisis that’s going to take many different stakeholders working together to make an impact. I feel compelled to contribute the skills and passion I have towards ending homelessness.”
Director, Homeless Initiatives & Community Development
The Salvation Army
“The lack of housing and homelessness is the crisis of this generation. We need all hands on deck to solve this tough issue facing cities all across the nation.”
Grounded Solutions Network
“I’m looking forward to working with others who are also passionate about exploring solutions to address the complex and growing challenges of housing affordability and homelessness.”
In March, we’ll be hosting a 2-day design sprint with all of the Community Fellows to co-design and ideate solutions. From there, Salesforce Pro Bono Fellows will test and validate solutions with users before developing them on the Salesforce platform. We will be working with the Community Fellows on an ongoing basis to get feedback and shape solutions.
We’ll be sharing more updates throughout the Impact Lab and look forward to reporting back on our outcomes as the solution gets off the ground.
Interested in being part of a future Impact Lab? Submit a social issue for consideration. We review these on an ongoing basis to ensure we have a good understanding of the most relevant social challenges affecting the community.