NextGen members at their third meeting since the advisory board was formed earlier in the year. Back row: Austin Carroll Keeley, Sunil Nagaraj, Ryan McDougall, Julia Duncan, Sean Taube. Front row: Daniel Valencia, Jeremy Stewart, Angelina Cardona, Elizabeth Woodson, Casandra Espinoza, Adam Klein, Mike Headley.
A new group of successful young adults who share interests in social activism and community outreach have formed an advocacy group to raise awareness about homelessness in the county and encourage a new generation of altruists.
The Innvision Shelter Network’s NextGen Advisory Board started last month and is comprised of 12 highly educated professionals in their early 20s to 30s who have backgrounds in tech and communications they will use to educate the public about homelessness in Silicon Valley, said Karae Lisle, CEO of Innvision Shelter Network and founder of the board.
Innvision is a nonprofit geared toward addressing and resolving homelessness in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. It operates 18 facilities and serves 1,000 homeless individuals, children, families and veterans each night.
Adam Klein, a 23-year-old Burlingame native, graduated from Stanford University last year and is Innvision’s strategic projects associate manager. He was thrilled to be chosen for NextGen and to work with a group of tech savvy youth who want to use their talents to impart change, Klein said.
“When I heard about the opportunity to join the board I thought it was an incredible idea to empower youth in the area to get involved with the issue of homelessness in San Mateo County. It seemed like a great way to broaden our horizon and reach a segment of the population that really has a lot to offer moving forward with other social impact issues,” Klein said. “I definitely think in terms of nonprofit work and governing work that technology and youth and new ideas are underutilized.”
Homelessness is often hidden and overlooked against the growing population of successful entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, Lisle said. The area has one of the country’s highest income per capita and some of the highest rent prices averaging about $2,100 per month, Lisle said.
“So the cost of housing is a huge driver for homelessness in our community. Because many people live their lives paycheck to paycheck and if there’s an episode or trauma, sickness, divorce, that could put them on the street in a matter of months,” Lisle said.
Many of the homeless Innvision assists are hard-working adults with full-time jobs who simply can’t afford to live in Silicon Valley.
The young, educated, successful, tech-speaking millennial generation can use their knowledge of business development and technology to raise awareness about social service causes through social media, Lisle said.
“In the environment where entrepreneurs are so focused, this incredible focus on building products and services to change the world, what I’m hoping is we can bring this topic of social consciousness into the entrepreneur’s mindset so that as they’re changing the world with tech, so too will they think about the role they can play in the social service sector,” Lisle said.
Silicon Valley companies are growing faster and profitable and many young adults in the tech industry are more motivated by plans to change the world then by making money, Lisle said.
NextGeners will encourage others to get involved, form their own projects and fundraisers and serve as an advisory board to Innvision’s main board of directors, Lisle said.
It’s also a perfect opportunity for those interested in becoming board members of nonprofits or even starting their own to gain life experience, Lisle said.
NextGen co-chair Julia Duncan, a 26-year-old Menlo Park native, comes from an extensive background in politics and activism. She worked at the White House, currently works at Google and eventually wants to start her own nonprofit focusing on eradicating hunger, Duncan said.
Duncan said she has been an avid volunteer since a young age and, over the years, she’s gained critical insight that there are people in her community that, whether you see them or not, are really struggling, Duncan said. Assisting those in need requires continued public education and NextGen is a way to cultivate a new group of nonprofit leaders, she added.
“This organization, for me, has really been a way to hone my interests here locally,” Duncan said. “The group of [NextGen] people we have here are all long-term visionaries in terms of social good and it’s important that they know how to do it in a way that’ll make the most change in any organization they end up working for.”
Lisle said she interviewed at least 30 people before narrowing the number to 12 to serve up to three two-year terms, Lisle said.
Klein shares Duncan’s desire to give back to her community and assist those in need.
“I’ve always been interested in using what I’ve been so lucky to have for good social causes, especially local causes. I went to Burlingame High School and Stanford and got a great education and I just feel our generation has a responsibility to use some of what we’ve been given to help others,” Klein said.
Many young adults working in tech, for startups and successful business are finding they have more free time they want to use for good, Lisle said. So while they’re tweeting and posting on Facebook at events, they can use it to leverage conversations about homelessness and social service opportunities, Lisle said.
NextGeners will start meeting monthly, establish social media accounts, network, organize fundraisers and advise Innvision’s main board of directors on how to help resolve homelessness, Lisle said.
“Because technology is one of the fundamental back bones of this fast-paced community, I think it’s really going to promote community and social involvement for the young demographic. Young people have plenty of resources and they’re agile with those resources,” Lisle said. “They can start giving back sooner, they can make it part of their culture. … getting them to start talking about it now, it’ll reach young people in these entrepreneurial environments and it’ll change the trajectory of our community here in 10 years, 20 years, we can see less poverty in Silicon Valley.”
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