by Rob George

Bridge to Recovery logo

Just over 100 days ago, I embarked on a journey. A journey to transform my community and to pivot my career toward the good I always wanted to do in my career. Bridge to Recovery (B2R) became the fuel to satisfy the incredible curiosity I had to listen, learn, and lean in to the work that needed to be done in Santa Clara County. Without a clear idea of what the Project Manager for B2R really would be tasked with, I dove in. With no staff, we needed to move swiftly forward with the network, engage to learn more, get to know them, and to absorb their mission. Safety net and workforce development were merely conceptual. Today, those conceptual seeds are the foundation for workgroups and for the passionate leaders that consume my days, my thoughts, and my future.

Bridge to Recovery is a coalition of private, public sector and not-for-profit leaders who are building a two-pronged recovery path. The objective is to achieve a stronger safety net that is connected to training and meaningful jobs for all.

The pandemic is a tragedy that has hit our communities of color hard. The pandemic affected jobs and economic access that was already inequitable in the Bay Area. Where to begin? How might 50 organizations and more than 70 volunteers navigate the scope of the challenge? Amid massive social and economic disruption, Silicon Valley continues to be a place that is racially inequitable and economically exclusive. Economically-excluded residents cannot easily access the current benefits and workforce development support system.

The superpower of the B2R Network is our ability to build relationships and to listen to the voices in our community; the imperfect process of getting to know one another. It is the humble act of being open to collaborating with someone that may approach his or her community with a different mindset. The network is composed of seven workgroups comprising representation from safety net and workforce development organizations -- all of them giving their time to collaborate and create…and in some cases disrupt.

The outcomes to which we aspire are ambitious. “What if” is not a whimsical phrase, it is a challenge to think harder, to listen harder, to find the idea or partnership that moves effectively, embraces a community, and offers a way up. It is one step at a time… just skims the surface of the story.

We aspire to seize this moment to build back better by creating an economic system that ensures racial equity, economic inclusion, and providing support for all families. This new economy will ensure workers have access to quality, empowered jobs that allow them to benefit from and shape the region’s growing economy. This new economy must ensure that everyone's immediate basic needs are met and that they can achieve a dignified livelihood.

As we look to the future, there is so much work to be done. It has been a year of work, a year of forming and learning; a year of success and challenges. 2021 brought new energy and new progress and a realization that so much work needs to be done. Our outcomes will be accomplished as the network expands and matures and the cross-sector collaboration continues to flourish. We aspire to achieve access to safety net programs, an integrated safety net benefits ecosystem, a sustainable workforce development ecosystem, high quality job creation, and business growth and entrepreneurship support for undocumented immigrants.

I have learned so much in these early days at B2R. Of course, with every passing day I absorb more about the network, its members and the work that they do. That is a given. It is the shift in myself that has been the most powerful. I approach every day with empathy, with my ears wide open, with my heart and head aligned that I can make a difference. I have opened the door to others, to let their voices be heard and their ideas and collaborative spirits come alive. I am not afraid to not know an answer, I am not afraid to be a learner and I look forward to what the hard work of today and tomorrow will teach me.

Download a copy of the B2R info document to learn more about Joint Venture's Bridge to Recovery Initiative.

About the Author

Rob George is the Project Manager of Joint Venture's Bridge to Recovery Initiative. You can learn more about Rob on his bio page.

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Joint Venture’s blog is a laboratory for thought leadership. It’s a place where our team and our leaders test concepts and prepare work for wider audiences. We welcome posts from opinion leaders in their field of expertise in order to connect with Joint Venture’s spectrum of audiences.