In a city undergoing a massive transition, suffering and transforming from conflict between generations of communities versus corporate, technological infusions, how does one preserve one’s original identity, how does one maintain a connection to the heart of the people? Remaining motivated and involved in the welfare of one’s district is an avenue that many San Franciscans continue to explore.
When Yves-Langston Barthaud was interning at the District 6 Supervisor’s office, on a daily basis, representatives of local organizations as well as city residents would visit the office in search of resources. Oftentimes, the requests were for information: How could someone get involved in their community? What organizations could help with their specific needs? Who else was out there doing what he or she was doing, or trying to do? The answers ultimately came from the Supervisor, legislative aides, and interns who happened to have the appropriate contact information and names on file. While this is a great service to offer, Yves-Langston realized that there could and should be a much more efficient, centralized and accessible way to offer these resources to the public, and devised It’s Your District, a platform for small non-profits providing support in recruitment, fundraising, and advertising.
In order to take this idea to the next level, Yves-Langston enlisted the help of long time friends and fellow San Francisco natives, Elizabeth De Nola, with a background of non-profit employment as well as an MBA with a concentration in non-profit management, and Lionel Jingles who is a product management consultant with a background in mechanical engineering. What they created was a free, comprehensive database of non-profit and community organizations in a given San Francisco district, starting with District 6, an area that encompasses the Tenderloin, South of Market, Mission Bay, and Treasure Island. This area is unique in that it is home to a number of large and small-scale operations, and while it experiences the highest levels of poverty and social unrest in the city, it also boasts an impressive number of motivated and conscious individuals who truly want to contribute to and preserve their community.
For individuals seeking to engage their community socially or politically there are many organizations to choose from. There are establishments out there that have hundreds of employees and interns at their disposal who seek them out. In these situations, It’s Your District can handle the overflow and redirect individuals to other groups in need. Access to our database of local organizations can serve to make these groups even more aware of their surroundings, and give them the opportunity to reach out and share needed resources.
Each district has numerous non-profits and organizations that are founded and managed by very few people, and don’t have the time or resources to promote themselves and increase their productivity in the capacity they would like. In these cases they have a valiant mission with not much bandwidth. One of the biggest goals of IYD is to give equal visibility to them through our website, positioned alongside larger recognized organizations. The site also allows them to observe and communicate with each other, to increase collaboration and resource sharing opportunity. IYD can also offer social media publicity, long-term volunteer recruitment, event sharing capabilities, and can maintain an Internet presence amongst their peers. These basic tasks can drain smaller operations, and by taking some of the load off, the groups can instead focus on their mission.
Elizabeth De Nola
The reason why IYD has chosen to gather and list organizations based on districts goes beyond proximity and convenience. The districts of San Francisco have their own character, geographic demarcation and political potential. If all of the organizations dedicated to a certain cause or sector can communicate and align on a given mission that would benefit them, they can collaborate and further their shared goals. This was recently observed when tenants groups rallied together to oppose the Ellis Act, which allowed landlords to evict longtime tenants from their homes. The political pressure helped city and state lawmakers make reforms to curb such evictions. While the Ellis Act was a city and state wide issue, similar steps can be taken at a more local level by district.
Process and Next Steps:
When organizations register, they describe themselves based on any number of sectors (arts, social justice, homelessness, etc.). The IYD site is searchable and organized based on these identifiers for this reason: to unite like-minded groups and individuals that have similar goals. Many organizations offer different avenues to pursue their mission that are not always apparent on the surface; they also offer varying degrees of opportunities to get involved. By being able to track and visualize what other groups are doing, stakeholder engagement is encouraged and emboldened.
The feedback from registered organizations has been tremendous, and has helped shape the direction and content of our site. Personal outreach and fostering authentic relationships have been key in development and these efforts will continue to increase exponentially reaching to the greater San Francisco and Bay Area.
Elizabeth De Nola is the Director for It’s Your District. She completed her Masters in business administration with a concentration on non-profit management at Mills College in Oakland, CA.