This syndicated post originally appeared at Network World Zeus Kerravala.

Cisco has a diverse corporate social responsibility program,
and now it’s focusing on ending homelessness in its own
backyard with an investment in Destination: Home.

Cisco is well known for many things. It’s the world’s largest networking vendor, it has typically been the bell weather for IT spending, as it’s often predicted upticks or downticks in spending before other vendors, and its ability to catch market transitions has been remarkable, which is why it has a market leading position in so many technology areas adjacent to the network.

I’ve always felt that one of the more under-appreciated attributes of Cisco is the work its corporate social responsibility (CSR) group does in trying to solve some of the globe’s biggest problems. Cisco has been very active at the World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, Switzerland, where world leaders, celebrities, and business leaders gather to discuss issues such as ending hunger and creating greater equality.

Cisco pledges to positively impact 1 billion people

If you were at Cisco Live in 2015, you may remember a declaration the company made to positively impact 1 billion people by 2025 through the work the CSR team does. CSR was a big area of focus for former CEO John Chambers, and the group not only continues to thrive under Chuck Robbins, but one could argue the new CEO has accelerated CSR efforts.

As CEO, Robbins gets many of the accolades for the company’s efforts in this area, but the person most responsible for the impact Cisco has had is the company’s senior vice president of corporate affairs, Tae Yoo. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Yoo a number of times, and she is constantly challenging her team to be better global problem solvers and has a true passion for this kind of work.

It’s been about two years since Cisco made the 1 billion people commitment, and the company claims it has impacted 232 million people in the past two years (78 million in 2016 and 154 million in 2017). I asked Cisco how they calculated that number and was given a brief overview of the methodology. And I believe that is a defensible number.

Destination: Home focuses on ending homeless in Santa Clara County

While much of the work Cisco does is global in nature, this week the company made an announcement to impact its own backyard. Through Destination: Home, Cisco has committed $50 million over the next five years toward the goal of ending homelessness in Santa Clara County. Destination: Home is a project to end homeless in Santa Clara County, and the organization will use the money and partnership with Cisco to leverage existing public resources to build more homes for low-income individuals.

Santa Clara County is in the heart of Silicon Valley and is well known for its wealth and the high cost of housing. However, not everyone works for a Cisco, Facebook, or Google, and many can’t afford a home. In fact, Santa Clara County has 7,400 homeless people, with 2,000 being “chronically homeless.” That is the third-highest rate in the U.S. behind only New York City and Los Angeles. However, New York City provides shelter because of the cold winters, and Los Angeles has Skid Row, which offers free social services to that area. SCC has nothing like those programs, and the homeless have to fend for themselves.

Compounding the problem is that builders want to make money, so most of the new construction in Santa Clara County is focused on the above-average income group because there is such high demand for homes. The median income in Santa Clara County is currently $93,500, so if a family earns less than $75,000, it’s unlikely they will find a place to live anywhere in SCC.

Further, a Cisco CSR spokesperson said that of the 665,061homes in Santa Clara County, only 348 apartments have been designated for homeless individuals and families. That’s less than 0.005 percent of the housing stock dedicated to the homeless.

Cisco funds complement existing Measure A

In 2016, the Santa Clara County voters approved Measure A, a $950 million housing bond with $700 million dedicated to increasing the housing supply for Extremely Low Income (ELI) (defined as under $28,000 annually) individuals and families and supportive housing. This funding from Cisco will complement Measure A in the following ways:

  • Developing and supporting ELI and supporting housing development by providing innovation on housing construction.
  • Support and expand existing prevention programs to prevent homelessness for at-risk individuals. This includes rent and security deposit assistance, workforce development, and employment programs.
  • Data and technology integration and optimization programs. The systems used by social services are often very old and outdated. Cisco certainly knows technology, and it can help modernize infrastructure and improve processes to streamline the coordination between agencies

As a watcher of Cisco, I’m glad to see the company continue the great work its CSR team does. This group doesn’t sell Cisco products, won’t be margin accretive, and likely will not impact RFPs, but Cisco has always strived to use its size and influence to make the world a better place. If you live in Silicon Valley, or even if you don’t but want to help, there’s a donation tab on the Destination: Home website.

Note: Cisco is a client of ZK Research.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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