Ensuring Equitable Access to Career Development through the West San Jose Innovation Zone

January 15, 2022

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FUSE Corps

The City of San Jose is collaborating with community stakeholders to implement an Innovation Zone. In order to ensure that the Innovation Zone supports improved opportunities and outcomes for San Jose residents, especially those in San Jose’s West Valley area, the city will partner with FUSE Corps to help maximize career training and development opportunities for residents.

This fellowship project begins on April 25, 2022, and ends on April 24, 2023. The fellowship begins with a multi-day virtual orientation the week of April 25, 2022. The selected Executive Fellow will begin their first day of providing services to the host agency on May 2, 2022.


The City of San Jose is known as the Capital of Silicon Valley. With a population of just over 1 million, it is the third largest city in California. The metropolitan area has more millionaires and billionaires per capita than any other region in the United States yet had a higher unemployment rate than the national average in 2019. This highlights a need for local leaders to implement bold initiatives that can create more pathways to high-earning careers for all residents. Given the region’s proximity to cutting-edge technology companies, there is immense potential to offer residents greater exposure to new education and training opportunities.

Through the Office of Vice Mayor Chappie Jones (District 1), the City of San Jose is collaborating with community stakeholders to implement an Innovation Zone. The Innovation Zone will allow startups to develop, pilot and deploy new technology with ease. Many of the administrative hurdles that would typically be part of their launch process, including things like permitting and zoning requirements, would be made easier to navigate as part of the partnership. The Innovation Zone is envisioned to bring more Silicon Valley exposure to local residents, particularly communities in San Jose’s West Valley area who might not otherwise have the same exposure to tech innovation. By exposing communities to new possibilities, it is hoped that new opportunities for skills building and job creation will be unlocked.

The project centers around urban villages – high density housing that includes commercial spaces and will integrate transportation. It will all sit around an Innovation Hub, slated to be hosted in the former Century 21 theater building. Developers like Santa Row, as well as companies such as Amazon Web Services and Verizon are already part of the discussions to create the Innovation Zone. To ensure collaboration that benefits local residents as much as it does the startups who will be incentivized to participate, significant coordination will be required.

In order to ensure that the Innovation Zone supports improved opportunities and outcomes for San Jose residents, the Vice Mayor’s Office will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive fellow for one year to help maximize career training and development opportunities for residents. The fellow will develop and execute the implementation plan to ensure coordination between the various stakeholders in a manner that prioritizes equitable access and benefit to local residents. The fellow will explore similar initiatives from across the country in order to identify best practices that could benefit San Jose, develop a strategy to launch education and training opportunities in partnership with companies in the Innovation Zone, and launch initial pilots to showcase the potential longer-term impact of this work.


The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.

Starting in April 2022, the FUSE Executive Fellow will work to quickly connect with a wide range of critical stakeholders, including staff in the Vice Mayor’s Office. The fellow will work to develop an overview of San Jose’s socio-economic landscape in order to identify opportunities the Innovation Zone offers for improvements in economic outcomes and generational wealth. Subsequently, the fellow will begin extensive outreach and engagement with public, private and community stakeholders such as commercial developers, community partners and neighborhood groups to begin to understand the interests involved in the Innovation Zone. The fellow will spearhead mapping the process including the roles that various stakeholders will need to play.

  • Conduct a landscape analysis and a review of best practices: Develop an in-depth understanding of existing, planned and future efforts relating to tech innovation in San Jose and access to tech education in the area. Highlight current approaches such as similar initiatives around the country. Research best practices developed so far and map all of the public, private and community stakeholders whose interests coincide with the project’s successful outcome. Understand and map the cost-benefit analyses and data-collection necessary to help build consensus around priorities when consensus of opinion poses a challenge.
  • Engage and align stakeholders, identifying opportunities to harmonize existing opportunities: Establish ongoing channels of communications with stakeholders to ensure that all viewpoints are incorporated in the implementation plan which will govern the initiative’s execution. Ensure that commercial viewpoints are considered alongside community viewpoints in an equitable way that serve the best outcomes of the city as a whole, particularly underserved communities. Ensure that relevant existing initiatives are brought into the Innovation Zone implementation plan.
  • Promote and secure initial deals: Work towards successful completion of initial deals bringing startups and other product/service providers into the opportunity zones in furtherance of its goals. Work alongside the Vice Mayor’s Office to qualify, vet and secure participation, as well as additional funding to ensure sustainable implementation for the longevity of the initiative.
  • Support long-term implementation and ensure initiative sustainability: Execute the plan such that the Innovation Zone is officially in place by the end of the first year, with at least 1-2 pilot programs ready to launch – include goals and systems for monitoring and reporting out on progress.


  • Executive Sponsor – Chappie Jones, Vice Mayor, San Jose City Council
  • Project Supervisor – Raania Mohsen, Deputy Chief of Staff, San Jose City Council


  • At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field with a strong background in strategic planning and project management (PMP certification a plus)
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills, including the ability to quickly map various stakeholders and initiatives
  • Capacity to identify best practices, understand data and evidence and use it to support a business case, and make a persuasive argument to support recommendations
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations and action-oriented implementation plans
  • Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities
  • Self-motivated and goal-oriented leader who can also be an independent worker
  • Ability to relate to diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations
  • Ability to sustain progress within potentially ambiguous environments
  • Experience working with underserved communities
FUSE Corps is an equal opportunity employer with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives into our work at every level. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.