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The First 90 Days

By Evan Schmidt

As of this week, I’ve been in the position of CEO of Valley Vision for 90 days – which is often counted as a milestone for a new job. During these 90 days I’ve focused on learning the job; engaging with community partners, stakeholders, Board, and staff; and developing a set of priorities for Valley Vision into 2021. What is my vision for Valley Vision?

1. Deepening Our Commitment to Social and Racial Equity

My career focus has always been on strengthening equity in communities – from early in my career working on gender equity to the many projects I’ve advanced at Valley Vision that create equitable opportunities. As CEO, it is important to me that Valley Vision’s commitment to social and racial equity be authentic and apparent through our actions. In July, the Valley Vision staff team participated in a Whiteness at Work web series to examine how dominant white culture and anti-Black culture impacts our staff, teams, and work in and for the community. We ended the series with new resources, a new staff-led Equity Subcommittee, and an identified set of actions to cultivate inclusion and equity within our staff and through our work. We are starting with ourselves – building trust, team cohesion, and a common set of values that are foundational to our work. Our goal is to develop our own framework to advance operationalizing equity in our organization and throughout our work.

2. Visionary Planning and Investment Strategies

Valley Vision’s role in the region is to set our eyes on long-term solutions to create economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental sustainability in the region. To do this, Valley Vision is known for advancing research, fostering collaboration, and catalyzing action. We also need an engine to achieve needed investment to solve our region’s larger challenges. Therefore, Valley Vision is engaging in more intentional investment planning including working with community leaders and partners to create comprehensive, co-designed strategies which will create project and investment-ready coalitions to advance bold solutions. We have an opportunity to meet our region’s greatest challenges together through ambitious, co-owned solutions that will position our region as one of the most livable in the nation.

Our first focus is on developing an investment strategy to advance digital inclusion in the region by expanding broadband infrastructure and connectivity, supporting access to needed technology for all, and advancing digital skills for the workforce. We are already co-leading the Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion with other partners to create the systems, tools, and skills needed for all to fully participate in civic life, education, and work. Reaching our long-term solution to truly create digital equity in the region will require a big-umbrella vision to inspire investment — because if we don’t know where we are going, how will we get there?

3. Creating Actionable Research and Sharing Our Insights 

Our region and communities are transforming more rapidly than in generations. Between coronavirus, effects of climate change, upcoming elections, the pace of technology change and adaptation, and more – life has never been so complex. That is why it is more essential than ever to have the data and information needed to adapt, recover, and reimagine our future. There are a few main areas where we will grow our research capacity by focusing on actionable research and advancing a commitment to sharing best practices.

  • Actionable Research: We believe that decisions should be informed with data and we are expanding our capacity to create actionable research. We have already built two new partnerships in the last six months to be able to do just that – Capital Public Radio for our polling initiative and Burning Glass Technologies to analyze rapidly changing workforce needs. We’ve also hired Dr. David Espinoza to manage the Connected Capital Broadband Consortium – bringing his GIS and other analytical expertise to our team.
  • Sharing Lessons Learned: Valley Vision’s ability to collect and analyze unique data for the region is one of our key strengths. We generate a tremendous amount of data and lessons learned at Valley Vision, but it has not always been our regular practice to slow down in order to share the unique data and the stories from the field that we have collected. I’m very committed to reporting out regularly as well as connecting with other publications and networks to share our work, insights, and recommendations. 

The Valley Vision I envision is an inclusive organization with clear values around equity; is action-oriented, collaborative, and poised to do big things; and is always pushing forward to find new information, connect the dots, and support data-driven decision-making in our region. Let’s get to work.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!

Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Chief Executive Officer.

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