Brief History of Our Collaborative


Founded by the County of San Mateo, the San Mateo County Office of Education, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in the mid 1990s, the Peninsula Partnership Leadership Council (PPLC) developed a Children’s Bill of Rights for San Mateo County that was adopted statewide in 2009. The PPLC decided that the most important element of the Bill of Rights was addressing the achievement gap. After extensive study, the PPLC launched the Big Lift initiative to address third grade reading as the most important inflection point for children’s success.

In 2012, the PPLC included about 30 organizations and was funded by the three lead organizations. We developed a strategic plan and an overarching vision goal of getting 80% of San Mateo County children reading proficiently by third grade, but decided we wanted to know if the county would support this goal before we went further.

In 2013, we developed a presentation, researched the top 200 leaders across all sectors, and invited them to a convening. 120 county leaders came and all expressed support for the goal. Two weeks later, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors approved $10 million to get us started. We developed and convened work groups to research best practices and create action plans for each of our interventions.

In 2014, we grew the collaborative to over 150 organizations and 250 county leaders, won grants from Kellogg, the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (SV2) and the Social Innovation Fund, bringing in over $17 million in funding.

In 2015, we held a public launch event, funded our first four communities, launched our web site and social media, and won our first major grant from a Silicon Valley high tech leader, Google. Our collaborative has grown to 300 organizations and 450 county leaders. We garnered close to $6 million in new funding this year and completed our second strategic plan.



Big Lift Progress Report for 2015



  • Launched The Big Lift in four grantee communities, following a thoughtful application and selection process
    • Provided nearly 900 preschool student spaces, granting $4.4M in funding. 
    • Established grantee orientations, technical assistance, and quarterly meetings (The Big Lift Knowledge Network)
  • Completed first federal fiscal audit with no recommendations or findings
  • Provided quarterly programmatic and fiscal reports to CNCS for SIF grant 


Quality Preschool

  • Assessed and rated all Big Lift preschool sites as part of San Mateo County’s participation in the CA Quality Rating and Improvement System 
  • Developed quality improvement goals for each preschool and provided coaching to achieve those goals.
  • Launched online data hub for early developmental screening 
  • Initiated a pilot of two college courses for Big Lift teachers in partnership with University of Washington, First 5 California, and the San Mateo County Community College System, designed to lead to an online bachelor’s degree in early childhood development 
  • Held 18 professional development sessions focused on preschool quality elements within the new Quality Improvement System

Family Engagement

  • Rolled out Raising A Reader in all 47 Big Lift classrooms, including the RAR+ enhanced program in 21 classrooms 
  • Provided principles of family engagement via county-wide work group; co-sponsored a day-long Family Engagement Summit with Santa Clara County.

Inspiring Summers

  • Developed and issued an RFP for a summer program provider
  • Developed a concept for an early STEM summer component


  • Partnered with Harvard Kennedy School on attendance initiative, now reaching 65,000 students county-wide
  • Conducted focus groups and developed targeted messages for families with children showing signs of risk for chronic absence

Big Lift Little Libraries 

  • Placed 85 Big Lift Little Libraries and made an additional 80, partnering with the County of San Mateo, Microsoft, SAP, Marketo, GE Software, and Menlo Church


  • Selected RAND Corporation as our evaluator and developed a logic model
  • Developed, received approval by SIF, and started data collection for first phase of external evaluation (focusing on implementation)
  • Established and convened an Evaluation Advisory Committee to provide expert and community-based input into the development of the evaluation
  • Developed and launched Cocoa centralized data system in all Big Lift preschool programs; all Big Lift children/families/teachers/classrooms entered and services being tracked
  • Began selection process for universal kindergarten readiness assessment to be launched in funded districts in fall, 2016
  • Conducted ‘data discovery’ meetings with school districts to plan for ways of tracking children’s progress as they transition to kindergarten

Community Outreach and Marketing

  • Created launch event attended by 300 county leaders: a community celebration, public debut, press event, and outreach opportunity
  • Developed Big Lift branding and award-winning communications assets 
    • Developed a brand identity, logo, website and short video
  • Garnered over 75+ press articles/mentions on The Big Lift 
  • Launched social media program and took first steps to create a joint communications team across three lead organizations 
    • Jump-started our social media presence, tripling our number of followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
    • Through paid advertising and our social media accounts, we reached a potential audience of over 3 million Twitter and Facebook users.
  • Built awareness from less than 1,500 to an estimated 150,000 San Mateo County residents, through Google Impact Challenge, launch and community speaking engagements
    • Presented at the Burlingame and San Mateo Rotary groups, South San Francisco, Daly City Partnership, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, League of Women Voters, and many other community events
  • Built and strengthened our relationships with state and federal organizations like NCLR (La Raza), office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Super Bowl 50 Fund, the Campaign for Grade-level Reading, Early Edge, the Children’s Defense Fund, First Focus, Children Now, and the First Five Years


  • The County of San Mateo invested an additional $5 million, for a total contribution of $15 million
  • Also raised $250,000 from Google, $20,000 from Philanthropic Ventures, $5,000 from Kaiser Permanente
  • Acquired first high technology investor, Google, receiving the endorsement and financial support of one of the leading companies in the world.
    • Received a $250,000 grant and access to Google's staff, technology, network, and other resources.
  • Worked with First 5 San Mateo County to invest $4.8 million of preschool quality funding over three years in the 11 eligible Big Lift school districts 
  • Developed ROI model, working with Stanford GSB Alumni team

Collaborative Building

  • Worked together as a joint social venture, across three lead organizations
  • Developed and codified a Memorandum of Understanding among the County of San Mateo, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and the County Office of Education; presented a detailed plan that was approved by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors
  • Grew collaborative to 450 members and 300 organizations; kept them and partners informed and mobilized
  • Acquired new partners: RAND, Harvard, Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, Stanford ACT, Heising-Simons, Landscape
  • Invited community partners and SV2 to be part of evaluation committees for community selection, evaluation supplier, and summer intervention supplier
  • Strengthened our quarterly collaborative meetings and knowledge base:
    • With speakers like David Kirp, Linda Darling-Hammond, Justin Steele from Google, Ted Lempert, Lynn Karoly
  • Over 75 residents volunteered to help us
  • Maintained these collaborative structures:
    • Full collaborative
    • Core team 
    • ACE leadership team
    • Finance committee


  • Developed 2-year Strategic Plan to guide work going forward