May 2, 2000 - From the May, 2000 issue

What Regions Might Learn From Trials & Triumphs of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley's unrivaled high-tech boom has presented many challenges, from housing to traffic to environmental pollution-issues that often go beyond city borders. Helping cities work together to tackle these concerns is Joint Venture: Silicon Valley, a collaborative effort in regional planning. How can Southern California do the same? In this excerpt from a recent forum on regional leadership, Joint Venture President Becky Morgan shares her lessons learned.

"Toward Regional Leadership"

By Becky Morgan

We need a new type of regional leader that can cross all the sector lines to create a more integrated view. And not just someone who talks about getting things done, but real action. John Gardner and Neal Peirce have called these people "boundary crossers." I tend to use the term "regional stewards."

I have a passion for education and have devoted much of my public service career to the improving our K-12 schools.

Early on, I saw the need to get personally involved and was elected to my local school board in Palo Alto. I learned about the importance of parents, business and community joining together in partnership with teachers and administrators to improve our schools. The schools couldn't do it alone; they needed the support of the whole community.

As a County Supervisor, I learned once more the importance of building partnerships, especially in this time of fiscal constraints on local government in California.

I worked with the Santa Clara County Manufacturing Group, established by David Packard in the 1970s to represent the large businesses in the County-to mount a campaign to raise sales taxes for transportation. We succeeded twice in raising billions of dollars to help deal with traffic congestion. It was in the interest of business to do this-to help their employees get to and from work-and it was in the interest of the County to work with business to get these measures passed.

Another thing that happened while I was a Supervisor was that Southern Pacific Railroad told us they would not be able to run the commuter trains between San Francisco and San Jose. So we formed a Joint Powers Agreement with San Mateo County to keep those trains running under a new organization called CalTrain. We learned that counties could work together to achieve a regional purpose.

In the State Senate, my primary areas of focus were education and the budget. However, I gained an important lesson in regionalism when I sponsored a bill to create stronger regional government in the Bay Area. "Bay Vision 2020" was a regional effort to consolidate a number of public regional agencies including the Association of Bay Area Government, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the regional air and water commission. This effort failed, largely because it was a "top-down" effort that did not have broad public support. It also looked only at the public side of the regional equation and did not actively involve business. And what I learned from this experience was that the issue was more about regional governance than government.

In 1993, I left the Senate to become President/CEO of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley, a new public-private partnership created with strong leadership from the technology community to address economic challenges facing the Valley in an era of post-Cold War defense cuts. During the early 1990s, California suffered from its worse recession since the 1930s. We were all looking for ways to get the economic engine running again, and the answer was at the regional level. We involved over 1,000 business, government, education and community leaders in a collaborative process that created "A Blueprint for the 21st Century Community." We launched business plans for several initiatives including Smart Valley, 21st Century Education, Silicon Valley Economic Development Team, Regulatory Streamlining and A Defense Space Consortium, and implemented those initiatives over the following few years with strong business and government support. And we give awards to leading civic entrepreneurs on an annual basis. Joint Venture was organized as a nonprofit to be led by the Mayor of San Jose and a local business leader. (The most recent business co-chair was Lew Platt, the CEO of Hewlett Packard.)

We learned a lot about what works in regional collaboration in the first five years of Joint Venture, and summarized those lessons in The Joint Venture Way:

• Lesson #1: Take Time To Build Momentum For Collaboration

It's difficult to work across regions. The first six months was spent doing necessary research and development for the organization. We took time to build consensus and leadership.

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• Lesson #2: Encourage Big Ideas & Achievable First Steps

We had to get some results and have impact to raise any money. So the first thing we did was streamline the permit process, bringing in experts, engineers and process people from the firms to design the changes. We got front-page coverage for this. Then we unified the building code across numerous jurisdictions and implemented electronic permitting. That made it easier to raise money.

• Lesson #3: Always Look For New Ways To Connect Ideas & People

In 1999, our region crossed a significant milestone-whites are now 49% of our population. The fastest growing populations are Latinos and Asian Americans. Our challenge is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the new economy and the opportunity to be a leader in our region. Joint Venture: Silicon Valley created a vision leadership team of 27 people, diverse by gender, professions, race, etc. and conducted focus groups, surveys and meetings involving over 2,000 people. The result was Silicon Valley 2010: A Regional Framework for Growing Together.

• Lesson #4: Demand Measurable Outcomes & Accountability

For the past six years we have prepared the Index of Silicon Valley, which measures progress along 30 economic and social indicators. This has become an important tool for the whole region in determining how well we're doing and where we need to focus our efforts.

• Lesson #5: When You Leave, Things Change

Ruben Barrales followed me as President of Joint Venture when I retired in 1998. He has taken the lead in efforts to close the digital divide. Joint Venture defines the digital divide as not simply connecting to the Internet, but rather participating in the digital economy. This requires a focus on education and training as well as building stronger social and economic networks between different ethnic groups in our region.

My message is simple: Regions today need new regional leadership-leadership that sees the connection among economic, environmental and social challenges and knows how to "connect the dots." I believe that these leaders are regional stewards. Our challenges are to recruit and support these new leaders; to create new pathways towards regional stewardship, including mentoring; to communicate our successes more effectively so that we identify role models; and finally, to connect our regional stewards both within regions and across regions so that we can share best practices and lessons learned. That is why the Alliance for Regional Leadership is so important.

I also want to make a suggestion: Perhaps this organization should be called the "Alliance for Regional Stewardship." Stewardship means the "careful and responsible management of something entrusted in our care." And I believe we are all regional stewards.

Excerpt from "Alliance on Regional Leadership Forum" May 5, 2000. Joint Venture President Becky Morgan's four decades of service in Silicon Valley also include: State Senator, County Supervisor and School Board Member.

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© 2019 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.