‘It’s Up to Us’ to Create Postive Change in Silicon Valley


Santa-Clara-County-Assessment-Carole-Leigh-Hutton-United-Way-Silicon-ValleyThree cheers to Carole Leigh Hutton, president and CEO of United Way Silicon Valley, for the new focus of her organization on helping community members “actively engage in improving their lives.”

In a commentary published in Monday’s print edition of the Mercury News, Hutton outlined results from the 2012 Santa Clara County Community Assessment, which concluded in part that positive change in the lives of county residents must come from the residents themselves.

“There is little trust in institutions—government, nonprofits, faith-based—to solve community challenges. There is a strong sense that only residents themselves can create change,” she wrote.

In an executive summary of the report, one phrase heard from residents stood out: “It’s up to us.”

The United Way and several partner agencies from government, nonprofits, and business, conducted the community-wide survey last fall. More than 1,200 people were surveyed by phone, another 3,100-plus people responded to an online survey, and 500 residents from “all walks of life” took part in small group discussions. The partnership also reviewed more than 50 existing data documents.

Hutton said the survey showed something else: “Many people here yearn for a sense of community, with everything from the different languages we speak to the long hours we work as barriers.”

The survey’s results have helped refocus the efforts of the United Way Silicon Valley, she said.

“Real change, the kind that’s tangible for the community and the kind that lasts, will come about when we effectively help people actively engage in improving their lives.

“So at United Way Silicon Valley, we will now make that a critical piece of everything we do. Whether in our own internal programs or in the programs we support at other agencies, we will require a strong element of community connection.”

She said the other “big step” the United Way leaders are taking is tho focus their work on families raising children from birth to middle school.

“So much of what ultimately affects a child’s success happens quite early in life,” she said.

The report includes an extensive look at how satisfied residents are with life in Silicon Valley, and the great divide between those in the upper and lower income brackets. It also looks at how connected people feel to their neighborhoods and community. It was clear that while people feel connected to the “Bay Area”, they do not feel the same connection to their own neighborhoods, and they recognized they have a role in improving that situation.

The summary includes some excellent suggestions for how citizens can get involved in creating lasting change in the community. I’ll post some of those tomorrow.

What do you think? Is it up to the citizens to improve the quality of life in Santa Clara County? Or should government and institutions play a bigger role?


  1. […] Yesterday I applauded United Way Silicon Valley President and CEO Carole Leigh Hutton for outlining in the Mercury News how her organization is going to change its focus toward fostering more community involvement. […]

  2. […] I shared the list from last fall’s Santa Clara County Assessment Project. It has excellent suggestions for how we can all improve our neighborhoods. Today’s list casts […]