In 2013, resident Kirk Vartan saw opportunity in an empty piece of land in his neighborhood on the San Jose-Santa Clara border. He hired architects and organized a group of neighbors to create a community concept for the land. They envisioned a bold idea: a housing development with open space and an urban farm where seniors and residents of varying income levels and ages could grow their own food. They called it the Agrihood.
Developers took note. One incorporated this community-supported concept into their proposal to the Santa Clara City Council. When the time came for the City Council to select a preferred proposal, dozens of neighbors showed up to advocate for the community-supported concept, including Alex Shoor. On the night of the vote, the City Council selected the developer proposing the community-backed Agrihood.
From this series of events, Kirk & Alex realized that:
1. A positive, community-driven vision of a project can be a catalyst for community members and decision-makers.
2. Silicon Valley needs this level and type of community engagement and advocacy to happen again and again.
Kirk & Alex started wondering if there was an organization in Silicon Valley that could replicate the community engagement & advocacy successes of the Agrihood.
So they spoke to dozens of Silicon Valley nonprofit and civic leaders who shared many of the same values of how Silicon Valley should develop. From these information-gathering sessions, Kirk & Alex saw an opportunity in the local nonprofit ecosystem for a new organization to do this work.
So in December 2016, they met in Alex's living room with 3 other community members to conceive of a new organization. They began meeting once a month. Within a few months, there were 10 people attending. So they wrote a mission statement. A few months later, there were 20 people. So they chose a name for the emerging group: Catalyze SV.
Kaitlin Bailey, Michael Branson, Vikas Gupta, Alex Shoor & Kirk Vartan became the Founding Board members of this new organization. In January 2018, over 200 people gathered in Midtown San Jose for the public launch of Catalyze SV (CSV).
In 2019, CSV raised enough money to hired co-founder Alex Shoor as its first full-time Executive Director. Since that time, it has grown to an organization with over 110 annual paying donor-members and a listserve of over 1,700.