This article originally appeared on Medium.
When Governor Gavin Newsom took office in January 2019, he saw the untapped potential within California’s private sector. Home to Silicon Valley and Hollywood, California is one of the biggest economic and innovation engines in the world. Governor Newsom, knowing that government alone can’t solve all our problems, pulled together California’s greatest minds to address some of our most pressing issues. In doing so, the state has led 44 public-private partnerships — totaling more than $4 billion in just three years in corporate and philanthropic support — to help fill the critical gaps in providing essential services for Californians throughout the Golden State.
California’s successful social innovation program shows that government and philanthropy do not have to operate in isolation — when Californians come together to show love for Californians, we become stronger than ever. And by working with the private sector on these issues, the state is not only tapping into some of the world’s best talent, but also saving taxpayer dollars.
For the past two years I’ve been working as Governor Newsom’s Senior Advisor for Social Innovation, helping bridge the philanthropic arms of our state’s most innovative companies and the laser-focused nonprofits and initiatives tackling our biggest challenges.
In December we launched our second Social Innovation Impact report, detailing the tangible results of our spirited collaboration and innovation. We are so grateful to the California organizations — in the tech world and beyond — who stepped up and stepped in over the last two years and invested billions into our vital social programs and nonprofits.
Through this pandemic, it has been so inspiring to see hundreds of companies, foundations and nonprofits raise their hand and ask, “How can we help?” During the transition to online learning in the early stages of the pandemic, one in five California students did not have access to laptops and other devices needed to participate in distance learning. We partnered with companies like T-Mobile, Google and HP to get hot spots and laptops to our students, particularly those in rural California. And, Intel lent its supply chain expertise to get us access to these devices when they were in short supply globally.
Thanks to these partnerships, today 98 percent of California’s students now have access to digital learning devices. And we couldn’t have done it without the tremendous support of so many companies around the state who stepped up when California students needed it most.
Our Homekey initiative is the state’s $3.6 billion program to purchase hotels, motels, vacant office buildings, tiny homes and other adaptive reuse properties and convert them into housing for thousands of people living on the streets. Across the state, nonprofits and homebuilders have leveraged Homekey dollars to bring affordable housing onto the market quickly.
Homekey is an example of innovation at its best. With the private sector, we created over 6,000 affordable units last year alone -- in record time and at a fraction of the cost. Homekey has been the fastest, largest, most cost-effective addition of permanent housing in California history, successfully re-engineering the strategy to create more housing for people experiencing homelessness.
One of my favorite partnerships was with Lennar Homes, who purchased 86 tiny homes near the Westwood Veterans Affairs building to shelter homeless veterans who had been living in tents outside the facility.
California’s strength lies in its diversity. When hundreds of Afghan families started arriving in California, we knew we had to find ways to support them.
Over the past several months, we’ve partnered with resettlement agencies and Afghan-led community-based organizations, like The Afghan Coalition, to make sure that they have the help and resources needed to support our new neighbors.
We’ve also partnered with San Francisco-based Airbnb, which is leading an incredible initiative to provide temporary housing for newly arriving Afghan families in California. So far, this effort has housed 1000 individuals through Airbnb hosts.
Looking forward, we’re excited to expand our public-private partnerships and further leverage funding in the newly unveiled California Blueprint. We hope you will join us, and that these results will inspire other states, and even our federal partners, to emulate our approach. While we have been tested in the last few years — by fires, by disease, even at times, by each other — this spirit will keep us moving toward a California For All built on love that we aspire to create.