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How to Build Partnerships the Right Way

In government, we often talk about the importance of building public-private partnerships. In San Jose, they aren’t just talking about building partnerships – they’re actually doing it.

The Silicon Valley Talent Partnership, a facilitator of public private partnerships, is working on ways to leverage Silicon Valley’s highly skilled constituents for volunteer efforts to address some of the city’s hardest-to-solve problems.

The idea is to go beyond requesting volunteers for manual work at food pantries, shelters and building homes for Habitat for Humanity and instead encourage them to use their special training and talents to do the creative things they do every day in the digital world.

Lea King, executive director of Silicon Valley Talent Partnership (SVTP), told me during GovLoop’s State and Local spotlight interview that her group enables people to make a difference in their community.

The STVP pairs up a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs with a city official to work together to find solutions for specific issues in the community.

“For example, we’ve worked on a really cool project to help the San Jose Library improve their summer reading program,” King said. H”istorically the summer reading program had been a paper based program, and a team of volunteers from eBay actually came in and developed an app to bring the entire process into the 21st century.”

The SVTP doesn’t limit themselves to tech solutions. “One of the projects we are working on is to help the city of San Jose improve its workforce development,” explained King. “They needed insights from HR experts, specifically with a specialty in succession planning. Folks are retiring.How do you capture their knowledge? We were able to reach out into the private sector, and a small team came in and helped advise San Jose. They designed a roadmap, and created work templates so that the government can be more efficient.”

Getting support from San Jose leadership, including strong support from San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, helped the SVTP create awareness about the program. “Department leads actually come up with project ideas, and we helped them refine the project scope,” said King.

Keeping the scope of project in mind is essential because at the end of the day the SVTP volunteers are volunteers who have full time jobs elsewhere. “We’re not an agency, we’re not an organization where we solve every single local government resource problem,” King said. “We can only work on specific projects that can be chunked into modules that can be delivered by volunteers working two to three hours a week for about eight to twelve weeks. We are not designed to implement an ERP system over an 18-month-period.”

In just a few years the program has brought together more than 80 volunteers to work on a variety of projects.

And their reach is growing, too. “The city of Santa Clara has already sent in a formal request for a summer reading app program. We’re already talking to developers in a couple companies who might be interested this is really a testament to the success of the program. It’s also a testament to how scalable this partnership is. I would love to take the summer reading program and go from city to city, to form new partnerships, to get new cities to sign up, and to improve their summer reading program,” said King.

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