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The Important Role the Tech Industry Plays in Fighting Poverty

Instead of pointing fingers at potential villains, let's look at who is actually investing in solutions.

A roof over your head each night should be a basic right, but it isn’t. Neither is the right to an education, a job or a doctor’s visit, though that last one is changing.

Without a place to live, it’s virtually impossible to find a job. Without shelter, you face near constant upheaval, massive amounts of stress and exposure to the elements. Any one of these conditions can result in lost work or school days, which not only costs you money out of pocket, but also may lead to you losing your job.

With this domino effect caused by lack of reliable housing, it’s understandable why so many people have cited evictions and the rising cost of renting or owning a home as the rallying cry for what’s facing our city, San Francisco, and the Bay Area.

Instead of pointing fingers at potential villains, let’s look at who is actually investing in solutions.

SF Gives was born out of the strife and opportunity facing San Francisco and the Bay Area. We all have to take responsibility for the future of our region, and tech and business leaders are not exempt. We are blessed with economic prosperity thanks to the tech boom, but this boom also brought with it tens of thousands of new neighbors and growth. The change we are experiencing is undeniable, and it’s the already marginalized among us — the one in five people living in poverty in our community — that suffer most.

There are misunderstandings on both sides of the rising tide of prosperity. It’s good for companies to want to be here, to thrive and to inspire risk-taking and entrepreneurship. But those companies must recognize the indelible nature of their footprint, not only on the business sector, but also on housing and the overall cost of living.

In that growth, we need to ensure that all of our residents have access to a better life, but it will take investments and it will take leadership.

Zynga and Workday are joining philanthropic pioneers like Levi’s, whose long-standing tradition of philanthropy has fundamentally shaped our understanding of corporate responsibility. Younger, cutting-edge companies like Box and Lookout have pledged equity or stock in a quest to build giving back into the very foundations of their enterprises.

Just as poverty cannot be solved overnight by one solution, philanthropy can take many forms.

We need outspoken leaders like Marc Benioff and others, whose quiet yet significant generosity hasn’t made headlines. Every approach that creates real pathways out of poverty for the 20 percent of Bay Area residents who are unable to meet their basic needs is a worthy investment, in my view.

Every child in our community should have the opportunity to dream of a career as an engineer at Google, an investor at SV Angel, or a marketing professional at LinkedIn. It’s up to us to ensure each one of them has a roof over their head, safe streets, food on the table, and access to the education and training required to make those dreams a reality.

The $10 million raised by the SF Gives challenge is one thing, but the coalition of companies coming together to give back is groundbreaking. I hope it inspires more companies to consider their philanthropic goals and the weight they carry in shaping our community. But it will take more than corporate giving to alleviate the problem facing our city. It will take more of us making philanthropy and giving part of our lives. It’s beyond writing a check. It’s giving your time, your expertise, and connecting with people who are living in poverty or on the edge.

Catalyzing social change starts with an idea that can set a new course for people you may never meet. This is our moment in the Bay Area. The companies involved in SF Gives are showing us that they care about being part of this community and that together, we can face these problems.

Daniel Lurie is the CEO and founder of Tipping Point Community, a nonprofit that fights poverty in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 2005, Tipping Point has raised more than $70 million to educate, employ, house and support nearly 365,000 Bay Area people in need. Reach him @Daniel Lurie.

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