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Business as a Platform for Change

A Year in the Field: Salesforce Product Manager Helps Deliver 2500 Vaccines to San Francisco’s Unhoused

Dan McGarry, a Salesforce product manager, had his Slack status switched to “away” for a full year, but he was still hard at work. 

While McGarry’s colleagues fine-tuned Sales Cloud for an upcoming release, McGarry circled blocks in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, working to distribute vaccines to the city’s most at-risk populations.

McGarry was on secondment with the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative (BHHI). During secondment, Salesforce places employees in organizations aligned to the company’s business values and purpose to apply their skills toward an important mission. 

McGarry, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on homelessness in San Francisco, joined BHHI to help provide both subject matter expertise and tech proficiency as the organization worked to combat the pandemic’s effects. For Salesforce, McGarry’s secondment represents the company’s core value of stakeholder capitalism, with San Francisco, the company’s headquarters, itself serving as a key stakeholder. 

“By the time this is published BHHI will have delivered over 2,500 vaccinations to some of the hardest-to-reach patients in San Francisco, including hundreds of unhoused and marginally housed individuals — almost all the work of volunteer nurses, doctors, pharmacists, UCSF students, and other engaged citizens,” McGarry said.

Benioff Homelessness & Housing Initiative Supporting Vaccinations in San Francisco

A pandemic with far-reaching effects

In San Francisco, as in so many communities across the country, the pandemic threatened not only to increase homelessness due to economic insecurity,  but also represented an increased risk to the health of an already vulnerable population. 

For McGarry, this increase only underlined the importance of bringing vaccinations to all San Franciscans, so many of whom remain unhoused or marginally housed.

“Homelessness isn’t something new — it’s a distressingly old issue,” McGarry said, reflecting on his year-long secondment through the lens of his doctorate in history. McGarry studied homelessness in California for his degree, and has a passion for capturing the memories and artifacts that can both foster a shared sense of community, and inspire positive change.

Homelessness isn’t something new — it’s a distressingly old issue.

Dan McGarry, Director, Product Management, Salesforce

“We live in a city where everyone is essentially from somewhere else,” McGarry said. According to the 2019 American Community Survey by the Census Bureau, roughly 34% of SF is foreign-born, compared to 14% nationally. On top of that, only 30% of San Francisco residents were even born in California.

With so much migration and movement, it’s easy to overlook the shared stories and memories that form part of a city’s identity. These stories can reveal solutions to cyclical issues that often plague a specific place or population again and again. However, McGarry, who was born at UCSF and grew up in the city’s West Portal neighborhood, wants to help stop this repeating pattern when it comes to homelessness.

Getting involved: at work and beyond

In 2018, McGarry raised his hand to support Salesforce’s efforts behind “Our City Our Home,” a ballot campaign that Salesforce — and CEO Marc Benioff — strongly backed.

The Salesforce Government Affairs team, working on the initiative, saw McGarry’s passion and expertise, and subsequently tapped him for the UCSF secondment at the new Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative. Because COVID-19 delayed McGarry’s initial start, he began his secondment in July 2020 as a Special Projects Consultant meant to help launch the BHHI.

Dan McGarry and the Benioff Homelessness & Housing Initiative Supporting Vaccinations in San Francisco

With fighting COVID as BHHI’s top priority, McGarry led complex logistics efforts to deliver first COVID testing, and ultimately COVID vaccinations, to unhoused people across San Francisco. And within San Francisco, McGarry focused on reaching some of the city’s hardest-to-reach residents in the Tenderloin, SoMa, and Bayview neighborhoods.

“For people in these situations, walking a few blocks to get a vaccine could mean leaving all of their possessions unattended,” McGarry said, adding that, “reaching people when they might not have access to the internet or a phone means we have to be out in the streets and SROs where people live.”

For people in these situations, walking a few blocks to get a vaccine could mean leaving all of their possessions unattended. Reaching people when they might not have access to the internet or a phone means we have to be out in the streets and SROs where people live.

Dan McGarry, Director, Product Management, Salesforce

At the BHHI, McGarry coordinated volunteer management in the COVID vaccination clinics in the Tenderloin for both fixed sites and mobile teams, leveraging Salesforce technology — an app called Volunteers for Salesforce — all along the way. Among other projects, McGarry also facilitated community listening sessions and compiled the feedback into actionable recommendations for the Our City, Our Home Oversight Committee and the Board of Supervisors. 

“I want to make this place as good as possible,”  McGarry said, explaining that this act of documentation and amplification of community voices is a key piece of what drives him. 

For McGarry, these collected, shared memories represent not only an expression of the community’s voice, but also a spur to action to make the city a better home for all of its residents. As McGarry, like many of us, heads back to Salesforce to resume his work as a Salesforce product manager, his memories of a year spent with BHHI will never be far from his mind. They will, in fact, serve as a daily reminder that the work doesn’t end with a company’s products or services, but also impacts how that company contributes to the world around them. 

Learn more about BHHI here and Salesforce’s perspective on Stakeholder Capitalism here

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