Civic Bridge Partner Spotlight: Adobe

Our Civic Bridge program is all about creating collaborative spaces for City staff and private-sector experts to join forces and tackle critical government challenges together.

Civic Bridge would not be possible without our passionate company partners. Read on to better understand how pro bono teams of expert volunteers help the City power civic change and to celebrate the innovative spirit they bring to our program.

Adobe has emboldened civic change as a Civic Bridge partner for six years, spanning eight different projects. We spoke with three Adobe team members — Ashley, Elle, and Kristy — about their experience and what inspired them to lean into the civic volunteering space.

Interested in working with us? Contact us at innovation@sfgov.org to explore how your company might engage with Civic Bridge.

CSR PROGRAM MANAGER: ASHLEY RHODES

Ashley Rhodes, CSR Senior Program Manager at Adobe

Adobe has a strong culture of volunteerism and giving back to the community. As Senior Program Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility, why is it so important for companies like Adobe to build up this kind of culture and seek out pro bono partnership opportunities?

For us, our pro bono initiatives give employees the opportunity to not only give back to organizations that they’re passionate about, but also to stretch and develop professional skills that may be applied to their roles within the company.

We know that making space for volunteering opportunities is really important. It improves employee satisfaction. It helps employees develop connections across other business units within the company, and forge relationships with colleagues that they may never have met otherwise. We also find that volunteers, when they complete their projects, report they are much more likely to continue engaging with community organizations in the future.

So it’s just a really great strategy for us to enable employees to both develop their skills and have a social impact at the same time.

Adobe has participated in eight Civic Bridge projects since the Office of Civic Innovation first launched the program in 2015. That’s a lot! What motivates you to keep signing up Adobe for Civic Bridge?

The Office of Civic Innovation (OCI) does a fantastic job at working with various City Departments to identify their greatest needs and help finesse them into appropriate and well-scoped pro bono projects.

It’s really helpful to be able to send our employees off to do projects where we know they’re in great hands. It helps program managers like myself to expand the number of opportunities that we can offer to our employees because the project management is so well handled by the OCI team.

Civic Bridge is the only pro bono opportunity that we offer to our employees outside of the nonprofit space. Civic Bridge projects always resonate well with Adobe employees because the projects are all in service of the local community, which is something Adobe employees are passionate about.

There’s definitely a level of civic pride that develops within employees who participate in Civic Bridge.

And not only does the program expose employees to the benefits of public-private partnerships, it’s also a great opportunity for them to see firsthand the kind of work their local government is doing. A lot of government work is opaque to the public. But our Civic Bridge participants get to see the day-to-day work of City staff and realize the types of services and impact their partner City Department has on residents, which helps them understand the value of local government.

THE PROJECT LEAD: ELLE WATERS

Elle Waters, Accessibility Product Manager at Adobe

This was your first project with Civic Bridge. What made you raise your hand and volunteer to lead this collaborative work with the Office of Transgender Initiatives?

I was a new employee at Adobe and positively overwhelmed with how much Adobe was committed to being a citizen during a really tumultuous year around human rights, equity and inclusion. So, looking at all of that, I wanted to find some way to get involved.

Civic Bridge appealed to me for two reasons: One, because it centers on a very structured goal with a finite amount of time to focus on a particular need. And two, I really like working with government agencies and nonprofit agencies because they are usually overworked and understaffed. I felt like Civic Bridge was a wonderful way to infuse the city government with additional resources and momentum.

Truthfully, the project — looking to improve the communications strategy for the transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) communities in San Francisco — is close to my heart. I have a transgender son and I’ve watched him try to navigate through things like medical conversations. And while he’s not here in California, this was my way of giving back and supporting a much needed service to that community.

How was your Civic Bridge experience? What were some moments that stood out to you?

It has been a fantastic experience. I work in a different type of inclusion at Adobe — digital accessibility. So this experience was an incredible opportunity to learn about the different challenges the transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) community faces through our user research, and from Clair Farley, Executive Director of the Office of Transgender Initiatives (OTI), and Maceo Persson, Director of Communications and External Affairs, who have a tremendous network and deep level of understanding of their community.

The most impactful moment for me was the stakeholder interviews we conducted with OTI’s nonprofit partners. We wanted to understand what kinds of challenges the partners felt the TGNC community was experiencing with regards to the pandemic, access to basic services, and mental health and wellness services. And in an aspirational sense, how they would like the TGNC community to be represented in the future.

Being able to hear firsthand from people who have spent their whole careers and lives dedicated to supporting at risk TGNC community members — and being provided insights into all the various intersectionality of that, I felt like I was at ground zero of people who are being the most impacted by the pandemic. It was so humbling and heart-wrenching at times, but incredibly meaningful.

Reading through the survey results was also pretty impactful, especially hearing the voices of people whose mental health suffered because they didn’t have the confidence and trust to know they would be treated with dignity and respect. On the flip side, seeing when someone was getting the mental health support they needed and how much that helped them even when other things were going wrong — it really brought home the importance of the need for good communication so that TGNC individuals can take advantage of all these free and low-cost services.

“Counseling groups and individual therapy have kept me going. Knowing that I’m not alone and that there are people that care about the real me and care whether I’m assaulted or whether I contract COVID. Being accepted and cared about as me, helps me carry on during the days when I am not.” [survey quote with usage permission]

How would you sum up your Civic Bridge experience in one word?

It’s going to sound strange, but the word is “compassion”. Somewhere in my college days, I read about the origin of that word and it’s defined as the act of giving from the very center of yourself.

THE SPECIALIST: KRISTY TAVES

Kristy Taves, Brand Social Media Manager at Adobe

This is your second Civic Bridge project! What motivated you to volunteer with us again?

So my first Civic Bridge project was with the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Someone at Adobe sent me an email about this opportunity and I thought it was so cool that this engagement existed.

My experience was eye-opening. Civic Bridge is so special because it’s really valuable to be able to work on something that’s so different from my day-to-day role, but still be able to apply my marketing expertise and industry knowledge. I think that’s so great because, first of all, any sort of experience you have to work outside of your normal job is an amazing opportunity to open your mind to what else is out there. And second, it’s so valuable to do something with so much purpose and get to know the amazing people that are working in government. It’s been such a fantastic experience and I want to keep doing more!

As someone who has been on multiple Civic Bridge project teams, what are some key elements that have led to a successful public-private partnership collaboration?

Having shared values is definitely crucial. Every Civic Bridge team I worked on, everyone is absolutely passionate about that cause. With this most recent project working with OTI, transgender issues is an area that I feel passionate about, but I had a lack of knowledge and I wanted to explore and learn as I supported the OTI team. And that’s been incredible.

Keeping an open mind is also really important. Active listening and keeping an open mind on the workflow and what you’re able to give within the project scope is essential, especially given how things can evolve. It allows you to meet opportunities as they come up and you’re more postured to say, “oh we can support this as well” or “here’s something else that I can do to set you up for success in the future”.

How would you sum up your Civic Bridge experience in one word?

Meaningful.

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San Francisco Office of Civic Innovation

San Francisco Office of Civic Innovation

San Francisco Office of Civic Innovation, making @sfgov more collaborative, inventive and responsive to San Franciscans. #civicinnovation