Kiran Jain, Chief Resiliency Officer for the City of Oakland, on the importance of regional alliances
As its Chief Resilience Officer, Kiran Jain works at the intersection of critical issues in the City of Oakland — including access to housing and jobs, community safety, reliable public infrastructure and the city’s ability to recover quickly from adversity.
“We need to look at government at the systems level, paying attention to all those things that make your ecosystem of a local government work,” said Jain. “That’s access to jobs, access to housing, access to capital for economic growth; safe and secure neighborhoods; it’s also that robust infrastructure to withstand shocks such as earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters.”
Jain and her team work with other local jurisdictions — including San Francisco, Berkeley, and Los Angeles — as well as a global network of cities, sharing ideas and building a growing knowledge base.
“One of the interesting challenges is regional collaboration around some of these global problems, like sea level rise,” Jain explained. “Obviously, climate change knows no political boundaries.”
In her work with the City of Oakland, Jain hopes to incorporate new methodologies and technologies to bring new members into the civic process. She is working with Frog Design to bring together stakeholders in maximizing value with given resources, as well as with Streetwyze to invigorate the city’s digital engagement strategies and increase community participation in the civic process.
Oakland is a member of the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. 100RC supports a view of resilience that includes “not just the shocks — earthquakes, fires, floods, etc. — but also the stresses that weaken the fabric of a city on a day to day or cyclical basis.”
Cities in the 100RC network are provided with financial and logistical guidance for establishing Chief Resilience Officer positions; access to solutions and services providers; and partnerships with organizations from private, public, and non-profit sectors to help develop and implement actionable resilient strategies.
The first group of cities in the 100RC network began work in December 2013; the final group of cities was announced in May 2016.
Jain is also an advisor to Kiva.org, serving as the crowd-lending platform’s founding attorney. Called the “hottest non-profit on the planet,” Kiva is the world’s first internet lending marketplace for the poor, combining “the culture and approach of an internet start-up with an intense focus on alleviating global poverty.” In under 5 years, Kiva has raised $150+ million for 300,000+ entrepreneurs in 50+ countries. During Jain's tenure in the Oakland City Attorney's office, she helped pioneer a partnership with Kiva, deploying it as a civic technology platform to crowdfund local entrepreneurs.
“I do think about the way that technology is moving, and I think we could do more to bring new business models, new ways of thinking into government,” said Jain. “How can we make government speak to this new generation that will be inheriting these institutions? We do have to move faster, but we can’t compromise the democratic process.”
Before beginning work for Oakland, Jain served on the founding team of Neighborly, a financial technology company modernizing public finance. Neighborly is a community investment marketplace, helping people invest in their communities and civic projects they care about — including parks, education, and other infrastructure — by taking municipal bond investing, a process that’s over 200 years old in the US, and turning it into a simple and engaging way to support communities.
Jain also helped launch LawPivot.com, a crowd-sourced platform for those seeking legal advice.
“The question of equity is a question of accessibility — to decision-making authority,” explained Jain, who is concerned with data being used to improve traditional community engagement. “Framing the right question to solve is really important, so that we get increased adoption and usage… In terms of looking more closely at user needs, that’s key to solving the equity question.”