Top of Mind: Seeding an Equitable Recovery

Jun 18, 2020 | Lisa Sobrato Sonsini

As we all breathe into this moment of compounding crises and inspirational mobilization for change, we are faced with a series of challenges to meet and opportunities to seize. As some elements of the shelter-in-place mandates are lifted and the active protests begin to settle into the long-term work of systemic change, too many in our communities are struggling to meet basic needs—in the face of devastating economic and health impacts that disproportionately affect people of color and low-income communities. Our nonprofit partners are mobilizing to respond, but are working with decreased revenue and reduced staff and volunteer capacities.

At the onset of the crisis, there was relative clarity in outlining our first steps: our partners needed fast funding with as few restrictions and requirements as possible, so we did everything we could to provide just that. Now the truly difficult work begins—evaluating our initial response and continuing to fill deep persistent needs, while looking ahead and anticipating how we can support the long-term needs of our community partners.

Outside our direct COVID-19 response grants, last month we approved renewal grants to partners who are working on the front lines of community need in our Essential Human Services portfolio. All grantees received increases in their annual funding, most in the range of 25-50% over their prior funding. We have also increased funding for local grantees who provide training and financial capability for both low-income individuals broadly, and tailored training and support for those who are disproportionately impacted by shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders. And we are building on our long-standing English Learner work to increase statewide investment in advocacy for English Learners, who will undoubtedly suffer under the massive cuts anticipated to hit our education systems due to budget and economic challenges. In the coming months, we will be expediting grants to our core community partners, seizing new opportunities to support equitable recovery efforts, and listening and learning about the evolving community needs.

In the midst of a global public health and economic crisis—as well as a moment of reckoning around the pain that Black and Brown communities have experienced for far too long—we are working to balance the critical and urgent needs of our local community while grappling with what justice means in the work we do. We have spent much of the past year building out a robust, refined strategy and growth plan, which is guiding our current work and giving us the flexibility to respond to this moment. What we have come to is that the common thread that unites all of our work is a deep desire to alleviate human suffering. With this in mind, we are working to begin tackling the big, persistent challenges that amplify so many of the immediate crises we face.

This is a “yes and” moment. We need to give here and give now, but with an eye toward beginning to imagine how our communities, and our world, will emerge from this immediate crisis. The road to recovery will be long and indirect, but by investing in thoughtful, holistic solutions we can and will emerge stronger than before. This is not about a return to normal, this is about rebirth and growth, not only for Silicon Valley but for the world.

In solidarity,

Lisa Sobrato Sonsini
President & Trustee
Sobrato Philanthropies