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Regional Vibrancy and Sustainability

Monday, October 10, 2016
by Steve Barton
Director of Regional Vibrancy and Sustainability
Northern California Grantmakers

This morning out of curiosity I googled “What makes the Bay Area so special and unique?” I got all the usual responses…nature, food, yoga, bridges, etc. But I also got diversity, culture, community, a place where change really happens, and the baddest LGBQT community on the planet.

But it does sometimes feel that we’re losing our “specialness”; that this is not a community and a region for all. Housing cost continue to rise. Communities are rapidly changing, leaving long-time residents adrift in their wake. Nonprofits can no longer afford to be in the communities and cities they’ve historically served. Artists and arts organizations continue to be besieged. And for many, the bay is losing the special verve that made many of us want to live here.

There are silver linings: efforts to stem the tide and bring an equity lens to the proceedings, people banding together to keep their communities intact, recognition of the shifts that are occurring and focused efforts to address them. There is much to give us hope.

As we go deeper into our areas of focus, I’m consolidating my energy at NCG to surface transformative ideas and solve the issues impacting our region with such force. I’ll return to some central questions: asking how the growing economic opportunities can benefit us all, paying attention to the vitality of cultural and nonprofit institutions, and applying dogged commitment to strengthening communities.

This is our due north for Regional Vibrancy and Sustainability to sustain the fabric and culture of the place we all love.

Where will we give our attention and investments regionally? We’ll continue to be in dialog with all of you as we build out this area of work starting in the areas already underway:

  • Displacement & Gentrification. Coming together for housing, nonprofit spaces and community stabilization
  • Community Resilience. Focusing on economic/workforce participation and infrastructure; response to disaster and recovery in communities, institutions, systems and the environment
  • Arts & Culture. Ensuring diversity, equitable access and sustainability of our rich and vital cultural landscape
  • Environment & Climate. Preserving and restoring the natural beauty of the region; addressing issues of environmental justice and climate change

Over the last year, NCG has engaged in substantive work on nonprofit displacement; partnered with funders and community organizations on a host of briefings focused on housing and gentrification; and continued to support arts organizations through our historic arts loan fund. In the weeks and months to come you will hear much more about our multi-faceted approach centered on collaboration and partnership.

I invite you to join us. Let us know how we’re doing. Point the way on the areas that concern you most. Share how we can work with you to retain and in some cases rebuild what make this region alive, vibrant, and special for us all. Feel free to email me at and let’s continue the conversation.

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