San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation (sf.citi) is a membership organization created barely 3 months ago under the direction of Mayor Ed Lee and Angel Investor Ron Conway, with the goal of bringing together the tech industry and city government to work collaboratively on city issues.
San Francisco is the beating heart of world innovation; collaboration between local governments and the tech industry seems only natural, and the public sector is clearly expected to fully embrace tech innovation, its community and state of mind. Easier said than done, at least until recently, according to Principal at Ground Flood Public Affaires Alex Tourk. Part of it, he told l’Atelier, has to do with the fact that “the City is a large bureaucracy with around 28.000 employees; it’s a Behemoth, and one that can move very slowly.” On top of this, tech companies tend to focus on their own growth and don’t necessarily show much interest in civic matters. However, things are changing: “It’s the first time in my 20 years of working in government and politics in San Francisco, that I saw a united tech interest around Mayor Lee’s election, around job creation and the future of work in San Francisco” adds Tourk.
Uniting the voice of the tech industry
Mayor Lee, who Tourk says to be “committed to forging a strong relationship with the tech community,” along with Super Angel investor Ron Conway and a few other tech company CEOs, decided to keep the momentum going after Lee’s election, and create sf.citi, “an organization and an infrastructure that would really unite the voice of the tech industry.” Zynga’s Marc Pincus and Salesforce’s Marc Benioff have been particularly involved in sf.citi, which now counts over 240 members, including Airbnb, Twitter, Google, Code for America, Oracle, Adobe, Dropbox… Bringing those companies under one umbrella means involving not only the CEOs, but also the employees: “We’re trying to get them to realize that it’s bigger than just their own company, that for instance their bus ride has an impact on the city” Tourk told us.
“Improving the service delivery of San Francisco government”
Ultimately, the goal of sf.citi is to “harness the innovation of the tech sector into improving the service delivery of San Francisco government.” The first step is to identify key city issues and how technology can be used to help solve those problems. Public security, transportation and education are 3 major issues sf.citi has been looking at. The two ongoing projects are a Jobs and Apprenticeship program with Zynga to address job creation, and an accelerator with Code For America (funded by Google and the Kauffman Foundation) to promote “civic hackers” and startups working on civic issues. “We’re not just trying to just be an organization that advocates, we’re trying to be one that innovates” Alex Tourk concludes.