The region in Northern California known as “Silicon Valley” shares many characteristics with other regions in the United States and around the world. Traditional boundaries that deﬁne towns and cities and separate the public and private sectors break systemic economic and quality of life problems into arbitrary fragments. City and county governments, large and small businesses and state governments are regularly frustrated trying to solve problems whose causes and consequences extend beyond their borders or jurisdictions. People within these regions peer out at the world from within their homes, businesses or communities and wonder at the ineffectiveness of existing institutions and established leaders to solve obvious problems.
In 1992, leaders in the Valley began to recognize that existing institutions and approaches to complex and economically debilitating trends were not working. A leap to a new set of assumptions and new solutions would be necessary if the Valley was to regain its footing and return to leadership and prosperity. In particular, the barriers between government and business would have to be bridged in new and productive ways. If business were to participate in addressing broader economic and social issues, it would have to participate with government as both a learner and a productive contributor. In fact, the Region would have to be redeﬁned as a larger community with common problems and common goals. The Valley would have to learn by experimentation, including the occasional failure, and would have to invest in a vision that assumed interdependencies among business, government, labor and educational institutions. Finally, the Silicon Valley Region would have to recognize that quality of life issues and the economy rose or fell together.
The Joint Venture Way, Volume 1, tells the story of a region coming together as a single community and taking responsibility for addressing and solving its own problems. Volume 2 extends that story. Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network contributed in important ways to a newly vibrant and prosperous Valley. Joint Venture, the organization, experimented with and pioneered approaches to regional problem solving from which much can be learned. By extending this story an additional three years, from 1995 through the end of 1998, a more complete picture emerges of this unusual effort.
Results achieved by Joint Venture ranged from visible and tangible improvements to intangible but profound changes in thinking and approaches to problem solving. The 21st Century Education Initiative improved the achievements of thousands of school children in math, reading, writing and science while fundamentally affecting the perceptions of business and school leaders about how to work together to change the complicated and entrenched public school system. Regulatory Streamlining, another initiative, uniﬁed the building code across the cities in the Valley and not only streamlined but used technology to radically reinvent the permitting process. The business and city government leaders involved in this initiative discovered that through trust and collaboration they could dramatically improve systems that they had viewed as unchangeable. The Silicon Valley Economic Development Team brought together business leaders and economic development directors from the cities to affect, as a region, decisions made by business organizations to relocate or remain and expand in Silicon Valley. A perception grew among this group that encouraging a business to locate or remain within one city in the region was a victory for every city.
Perhaps the most profound change, for which Joint Venture can take signiﬁcant credit, is the realignment of people’s understanding of where they live. Silicon Valley, “the region,” has moved to the forefront as an entity that deﬁnes an understandable and signiﬁcant geography. For many people, the region is understood as a more important entity than either the state or their home towns in inﬂuencing issues that strongly affect their lives — education, commuting, housing, economic vitality, etc. By adopting a regional perspective, exclusively, by frequently and regularly convening initiatives and other working groups and by engaging the most visible leaders in addressing regional issues, Joint Venture changed people’s “minds.”
We, in the Valley, have learned much from other regions and other experiments. We hope that other regions can beneﬁt from the lessons documented in the pages that follow. Creating an extra-jurisdictional, collaborative forum for addressing regional problems is both challenging and satisfying work. The Joint Venture experience would suggest that creating collaborative processes for addressing regional issues is likely to be a necessary element of any region’s progress towards community and sustainable prosperity.