Showing Up While Everything Is Shutting Down: A Story of Cooperation in San Francisco

San Francisco’s efforts to support children, youth and families through the COVID-19 pandemic is the focus of a new case study, Showing Up While Everything Is Shutting Down: A Story of Cooperation in San Francisco,  released by the San Francisco Education Fund and written by David Phillips and Carolyn Gramstorff.

The study explores the City’s Community Hubs Initiative, particularly the local context that made this unconventional, cross-sector partnership possible. Additionally,  the study examines the barriers the Initiative had to overcome including public health restrictions, political resistance, and structural limitations, and highlights lessons learned and main drivers of success, such as: catalytic leadership; true collaboration; and youth development professionals: essential workers of the Hubs.

Pulling testimonies and learnings from a diverse group of stakeholders, the over-year-long case study offers a model for how communities might rethink the role of governments, nonprofits, and  educational institutions to truly meet the needs of the families at their center, in crisis and beyond.  


The report includes four sections:

  • The Journey: The Case Study charts the path that led to the Hubs. In spring 2020, families struggled without in-person school, and municipal government, nonprofits, and public education rallied to support students. In summer 2020, the coalition of Hub partner organizations came together to create a solution for the upcoming school year while facing fierce resistance. And finally, in September 2020, the Hubs launched across San Francisco.

  • The Hub Model: The Case Study takes readers inside the Hubs by sharing a typical daily schedule, how the Hubs were funded, who staffed the Hubs, where Hubs were located, and more.

  • Analysis: The Case Study analyzes the Hubs’ challenges, initial outcomes, missed opportunities, and lessons.

  • Post-Pandemic Possibilities: The Case Study shares quotes from our interviewees on how our systems and people must work together to serve the most vulnerable children.

    This case study is one of three reports about the Hubs. Social Policy Research Associates’ (SPR) Mid-Year Synthesis analyzes the Hubs’ outcomes from September through December 2020 and details resources and processes needed to operate the Hubs. University of California at San Francisco published a report in the Journal of Pediatrics regarding the Hubs health outcomes.

In addition, the Case Study includes five short videos that provides an overview and goes in-depth on particular topics of interest and share commentary from Hub leaders, families, and children.



youth served at the Community Hubs


Community Hubs operated at Recreation and Park Centers, Public Libraries and Community Centers across the City.


youth development professionals staffed the Community Hubs


weeks of in-person supports of remote learning curriculum and out of school time activities (5 days a week) during the 2020-21 School Year


organizations and agencies across city departments, community-based organizations, school district and private sector participated in the Community Hubs Initiative coalition.

Catalytic Leadership

Across the various leaders of the Community Hub Initiative, three leadership traits contributed significantly to the program's success: bold decision making, going beyond safe political "lanes," and leading with shared experiences.

San Francisco was the first city in this country to issue a shelter in place order. I fully recognize how difficult for our Mayor to shut down this city. I will be forever in awe of her owning that responsibility. And because she did that, it gave me the freedom to say, ‘I will follow in those footsteps.’
— Maria Su, SF Department of Children, Youth and Their Families

We all have that understanding of what our goal is and the goal being to serve our families as best as possible and create a safe environment for everybody.
— Maricela Rodriguez, Mission Family YMCA

True Collaboration

DCYF couldn’t rely on a traditional “command and control” or “push” approach, whereby a central authority makes plans, identifies resources, and influences others. Such an approach might have attracted individuals and organizations motivated by funding or compliance, but forming the collaboration needed a “pull” approach. A deeply felt shared mission attracted service providers to volunteer for the cause and compelled over 100+ organizations to work with one another for the benefit of San Francisco’s most vulnerable children.

Youth Development Professionals: Essential Workers of the Hubs:

Without youth development professionals, there would be no Hubs. No other group had the expertise, skills, and knowledge to pull this off. These professionals gave nearly 3,000 marginalized students a chance to avoid disastrous academic, physical, and mental declines. What’s more, the Community Hubs enabled our most vulnerable families to keep their jobs and regain some emotional strength.

I think youth development in afterschool is a field that is often unappreciated. In this moment, anybody who’s doing in-person with kids is the superhero. 10 years from now, 20 years from now, I know that we did absolutely everything that we could do in this moment to support the young people and their families that we serve.
— Misha Olivas, United Playaz

If our young people aren’t socially and emotionally healthy, everything else becomes more challenging. This has been exacerbated over the course of the pandemic. We really need to pause and ensure that we’re not trying to push forward and cram knowledge, content and skills at the expense of human emotions, feelings and experiences.
— Chris Tsukida, Richmond Neighborhood Center

Post-Pandemic Possibilities

The Hubs, like the COVID-19 pandemic more broadly, created opportunities for change and strengthened relationships. “Going back to the way we operated before would do our young people a disservice,” said Chris Tsukida of the Richmond Neighborhood Center. Numerous interviewees noted that the COVID pandemic will not be the last crisis we face. Whatever the next one is, it is incumbent on us all to ensure that we are ready for it.

It will take a village to address the wide range of learning needs for our City’s children and youth during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Community Hubs will provide a much-needed resource for our most vulnerable students.
— Mayor London N. Breed, July 23, 2020

City Departments and School District Partners

  • Department of Children, Youth and Their Families

  • Department of Emergency Management Services

  • Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing

  • Department of Public Health

  • Department of Technology


  • Human Services Agency of San Francisco

  • JIC

  • Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development

  • Office of Early Care and Education

  • Public Library

  • Recreation and Parks Department

  • San Francisco Unified School District

the Community Hubs

  • Asian Pacific American Community Center

  • Bay Area Community Resources

  • Bayview Hunters Point YMCA

  • Betty Ann Ong Recreation Center

  • Booker T. Washington Community Service Center

  • Boys and Girls Clubs of SF Carver Elementary School Beacon

  • Boys and Girls Clubs of SF Columbia Park Clubhouse

  • Boys and Girls Clubs of SF Don Fisher Clubhouse

  • Boys and Girls Clubs of SF Excelsior Clubhouse

  • Boys and Girls Clubs of SF Mission Clubhouse

  • Boys and Girls Clubs of SF Community School Clubhouse

  • Boys and Girls Clubs of SF Sunnydale Clubhouse

  • Boys and Girls Clubs of SF Visitacion Valley Clubhouse

  • Buchanan YMCA

  • Buena Vista Child Care

  • Catholic Charities CYO of the Archdiocese of San Francisco

  • Chinatown YMCA

  • City of Dreams

  • Collective Impact @Hayes Valley Clubhouse

  • Collective Impact @Ella Hill Hutch Community Center

  • Community Youth Center of San Francisco @Ingleside Branch Library

  • Community Youth Center of San Francisco @ Willie Woo Woo Wong Playground

  • Donaldina Cameron House

  • Embarcadero YMCA @Treasure Island Community YMCA

  • Eureka Valley Recreation Center


  • Felton Institute

  • First Graduate

  • Friendship House Association of American Indians

  • Garfield Clubhouse

  • GLIDE Foundation @Marriott Hotel

  • Golden Gate Tennis Center

  • Good Samaritan Family Resource Center @Calvary Hill Community Church

  • Hamilton Families

  • Hamilton Recreation Center

  • Herz Playground

  • Indochinese Housing Development Corporation

  • Ingleside Community Ce nter

  • Jamestown Community Center @826 Valencia

  • Jamestown Community Center @Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse

  • Jamestown Community Center @SF Community Music Center

  • Jewish Community Center of SF

  • Joseph Lee Recreation Center

  • Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreation Center

  • Mission Arts Recreation Center

  • Mission Graduates @YBCA

  • Mission Neighborhood Centers @El Centro Bayview

  • Mission Neighborhood Centers @Mission Girls

  • Mission Neighborhood Centers @Precita

  • Mission YMCA

  • Mission YMCA @Bernal Heights Branch Library

  • Mission YMCA @Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse

  • Our Kids First

  • Palega Recreation Center

  • Peer Resources

  • Portola Family Connection Center

  • Potrero Hill Neighborhood House

  • Potrero Hill Recreation Center

  • Real Options for City Kids @Visitacion Valley Branch Library

  • Richmond Neighborhood Center @Richmond District Branch Library

  • Richmond District YMCA

  • Richmond District YMCA @Argonne Playground

  • Samoan Community Development Center

  • Shih Yu-Lang Central YMCA @Boedekker Park

  • Southeast Asian Development Center @Marriott Hotel

  • Stonestown Family YMCA

  • Success Center San Francisco

  • Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center

  • Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center @North Beach Branch Library

  • Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Center

  • The Salvation Army

  • United Playaz

  • United Playaz @Gene Friend SOMA Recreation Center

  • Up on Top @Tenderloin Recreation Center

  • Youngblood Coleman Park

  • Urban Ed Academy @Safe and Sound

  • Wah Mei School @Sunset Branch LIbrary

  • Westbay Pilipino Multi-Service Center

  • Westbay Pilipino Multi-Service Center @Gene Friend SOMA Rec Center

  • Young Community Developers @100% College Prep

  • Youth 1st @Merced Heights Playground

Philanthropic Supporters


  • Crankstart Foundation

  • Give2SF Donors

  • Golden State Warriors

  • Marriot Hotel

  • SF Education Fund

  • SF Museum of Modern Art

  • Silver Giving Foundation

  • Stuart Foundation

  • Tipping Point Community

  • Yerba Buena Center for the Arts