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The Origin of Together San Rafael

by Jim Schutz

Every once in a while, I get asked what was the origin of “Together San Rafael.” It actually has a cool origin-story as it was not just one thing that caused it to happen but a series of things. It came about due to three primary reasons: 1) the changing world around us including rising community expectations brought on by the explosion of the Internet and people interacting through their mobile devices, 2) the overall declining public trust in all levels of government over the past several decades, and 3) the impacts of the Great Recession and the need to create a new kind of local government.

When I became city manager in August 2015, I called an all-staff meeting in the City Council Chambers and gave a presentation about the above and my goals for innovating a new kind of government. The presentation was not recorded, but the below slides and notes were sent out in August 2015 to all employees as an executive summary of the main points. Here you will find concepts such as: focusing on the how and why (not just the what), finding something to say “yes” to, focusing on innovation and creativity, leveraging technology, designing around our community’s needs, being okay to fail and learn from our mistakes, and opening our data.

Though the original “vision” of Together San Rafael may have come from the City Manager’s Office, every step since then has been very intentional to make sure it is built from the ground-up as a cross departmental effort including all levels of the organization. A cross-departmental Advisory Committee ensures it stays that way and oversees efforts. Other examples include: a cross departmental/multi-level group created the Guiding Principles, the Learning Lab project ideas came from the participants, all of the communication and relationship to employee recognition and hiring and everything is staff driven – and not mandates from my office.

Together San Rafael evolved over time from a “vision” to “practices” and ultimately “culture.” It is being organically grown from the employees of San Rafael and has been influenced by many professional experiences, mentors, books, conferences, and more. The best part is, we are making it…together.

Together San Rafael is by and for all of us to innovate a new age of local government and make San Rafael a great place to work.

Here are the original notes from August 2015:

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