On Friday, I went to the monthly civic love meetup in San Francisco. It was held in the beautiful Friends of Boeddeker Park facility next to kids playing in the newly renovated park and playground.

I must admit it would not have occurred to me to wonder what happened to the people who used to frequent this park. Someone had remarked at how nice it was to see all of the kids playing in the park. One of the Faithful Fools, a Tenderloin non-profit, said he remembered this place as kind of a living room for adults — the neighborhood is mostly Single Room Occupancy (SRO) apartments, and people would come to the park and do the things that other people get to do in their living rooms. He wondered, where is that happening now? Those people have been displaced. Of course this safe, kid-friendly space is wonderful, but it displace a different sort of community center.

Wow, this stuff is complicated.

Sam Dennison, chief financial officer for Faithful Fools, mentioned that he was on KQED’s forum: Are Tenderloin Tech Firms Being Good Neighbors? The representatives from the tech companies seem earnest and a few employees are getting actively involved, but after hearing from homeless activists and a longtime tenderloin resident, I can see how far apart these worlds are.

On the KQED show, Zendesk mentioned that at their current size, they could sustain one employee volunteering once per week, but with 500 employees, that would mean that just 10% volunteer once per year (if I’m doing the math right). It seems like they could give everyone more than one day per year. Nonetheless, I liked how Tiffany Apczynski, director of social responsibility and public affairs for Zendesk, presented their community involvement. It was good to hear about Twitter’s plans too, since I hadn’t heard anything since they first moved in. They are planning to build a $6M center across the street from Twitter where employees can volunteer. I admit that I love Twitter as a service, but have yet to see the positive community impact that I think they could have. Again they face that tough challenge to cross the culture chasm between Twitter engineer and long-time Tenderloin resident.

More links from this fabulous group of people:

  • Faithful Fools Street Retreat a guided process for being part of this city, spending time on the streets
  • Planter Box Project creates a partnership between residents and business owners around growing something beautiful, small havens of life in the midst of our city
  • Hand Up let’s us donate directly to a homeless neighbor in need. Like an Indiegogo or Kickstarter for basic human needs to help someone step up
  • Project Homeless Connect
  • lava mae: Mobile Showers for the Homeless

I talked about my dream of bringing RailsBridge workshops to people who desperately need jobs. I don’t think everyone wants to be a software developer, but I do believe there are quite a few people on the streets who would be brilliant coders. I’d like to find them. MichelleGlauser is way ahead of me on that idea, but it was inspiring to hear about some places that are teaching computer skills:
* The Learning Shelter teaching skills to people in need
* Tenderloin Technology Lab
* Hospitality House

NCWIT Scorecard has great statistics and references. While the report’s title is “Why is gender diversity important in computing?” much of the supporting research references different kinds of diversity. Here’s a high level snapshot:


  • Expands the Qualified Employee Pool
    We’re not taking advantage of our diverse population. The industry is failing to attract
    this talent. Indeed, those women already employed in the technology industry are
    leaving at staggering rates, so we’re not retaining either.
  • Improves the Bottom Line
    Technology companies with the highest representation of
    women in their senior management teams showed a higher return on equity than did
    those with fewer or no women in senior management.
  • Enhances Innovation
    A large study spanning 21 different companies showed
    that teams with 50:50 gender membership were more experimental and more efficient.
    Extensive research has found that groups with greater diversity solve complex problems
    better and faster than do homogenous groups. Culturally diverse teams have been shown
    to generate a wider variety of possible strategies when setting a course of action.
  • Promotes Equality
    With technology playing an increasingly crucial role in all of our
    lives, having more people from different backgrounds participate in its creation can help
    break down gender and racial economic inequalities.
  • Reflects the Customers
    Most companies serve a variety of people, so it makes sense then to have a variety of intelligent, skilled people working on services and products.

Read the full report