Chris DeCardy, the President of the Heinz Endowments, Convinces us that Pittsburgh is the Center of the Universe – Transcript


Kirk: Welcome to Let’s Hear It.

Eric: Let’s Hear It is a podcast for and about the field of foundation and non profit communications, produced by its two co-hosts, Eric Brown and Kirk Brown. No relation.

Kirk: Well said, Eric. And I’m Kirk.

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Eric: So let’s get onto the show.


Kirk: And we’re back. Welcome in. It’s another edition of Let’s Hear It. We’re so glad you found us, so glad to have you here. And Mr. Brown. So excited for this conversation. We’re about to hear this conversation that’s ahead. I feel like we should be at the barn. We should just scream Chris and welcome to him through the Door, talk about what we’re about to listen to. This is awesome. This is awesome.

Eric: Kirk, you really need to pep up.

Kirk: I can’t help it. I can’t. This is like, this conversation is like watching Babe Ruth step up to the plate, point to the outfield and send four runs across the plate. This is, this is an all time pro. Go ahead, set it up. This is awesome. This this’s great. This is the best. This is the best. This is the best. This is great.

Eric: You, you just, I think you need more caffeine. You’re a little low. You’re a little low energy. You’re, you’re a little Jeb Bushy. I, I, uh, finally had the opportunity to interview my pal, Chris DeCardy, whom I’ve known for a very, very long time, and he is now the president of the Heinz Endowments in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

He was the vice president at the David and Lucille Packard Foundation for quite some time. He was my counterpart. At Packard, when I was head of comms at Hewlett, he helped me get my job at Hewlett. I, I tithe him. I just write a 10% check of anything that comes into Chris ’cause he’s single handedly responsible for my career.

And what a delight it was to have this conversation with him as the grand high exalted mystic poobah of Pittsburgh.

Kirk: Yeah. And what a, what a role, what an important role is, uh, president of the Heinz Endowments. And, um, the personal relationship between you and Chris should not, uh, dampen the understanding of the significance of the roles that Chris has held over his tenure, his career.

Eric: You mean the fact that he knows me shouldn’t diminish his stature.

Kirk: Yeah. Yeah. He’s, yeah. Yeah. He’s punching down, he’s punching down a little bit of this conversation. But, uh, being the first communications person at the Packard Foundation, and then, and then being in a senior leadership role at the Packard Foundation, and then helping launch Climate Works, and then helping facilitate leadership transition for Climate Works. This is some of the most important philanthropy, some of the most important initiatives in the history of the world. And now, Chris being in Pittsburgh at the Heinz Foundation, oh my goodness. What a, what a gift to them, but also what a gift to us that we get to listen to this conversation and what generosity.

And of course, Chris succeeded. He’s a pro. He butters up the co-host at the end of your interview.

Eric: He knows he’s smart. ’cause he really knows where the power lies here.

Kirk: He’s, he knows how to play this. So, so let’s listen. This is an extraordinary conversation between Chris DeCardy of the Heinz Endowments, uh, on Let’s hear It.


Eric: Welcome to Let’s Hear It, folks. You know, in sitcoms they say there’s a very special episode of. Facts of life or something like this. Well folks, this is an extremely, very special episode of Let’s Hear It. My guest today is Chris DeCardy. Yep. Chris DeCardy, the president of the Heinz Endowments, and a former super duper wiggly worm like many of us who has made good.

The kid made good. Chris, uh, I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to have this conversation.

Chris: I am really glad to be here. I can’t tell you how terrified I am about how this conversation is gonna go. Having known you for way longer than either one of us wants to care, to admit, so it’s good to be here.

Eric: That’s right. We had folsome heads of hair. Thank you for being willing to subject yourself to this conversation.

Chris: By all means. And look, congratulations. What you and Kirk have done here is fabulous. You’ve got something that’s valuable that is connecting communications and philanthropy in the nonprofit world in a unique and important way.

So congratulations to you for what you’ve done for a number of years. It’s really important. It’s cool.

Eric: Thank you. You’re hired.

Chris: Good. I get, I get to stay.

Eric: Well, actually, I, I am remiss to not say that you are now. Soon to be the host of your own podcast, we can be following in the footsteps or maybe cleaning up the mess of your predecessor, Grant Oliphant, whose podcast, you know, it was great, but what, how do you feel about that? Before we even get into any of this stuff, how do you feel about being your own. Podcaster is a, you know, in addition to running a billion dollar, many billion dollar foundation.

Chris: Yeah. I’m excited. I’ve never done this before.

I think what you and many others are proving is that there is a role and an important place for podcasts in the ecosystem of delivering important messages to key audiences in this. And there are a lot of podcasts out there that are terrible, are awful. I give you, and I have known Grant, and so we can poke fun or you can poke fun. I’m not –

Eric: Oh, you’re not allowed to poke fun at him yet?

Chris: No, I’m completely allowed to poke fun at him, but I, but I won’t in this instance, because I think the podcast and what they built here is a really interesting tool and the people they’ve featured are critical for the future of the world for what they’re doing here in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.

So it’s fun for me to enter in and to learn, uh, about this from a team that we have here. And, you know, they’ll have to put up with me as I’m new at doing this. So my entire reason for joining you, Eric, is so that I could watch and learn from you in real time and then mimic what I do next.

Eric: All right. I’m gonna take that with a block of salt, but thank you.

Chris: Fair enough.

Eric: All right, Chris, for folks who don’t know you. Maybe there are some. Let’s just get into your little background. How did you end up in your august role as President of the Heinz Endowments?

Chris: Uh, it’s the, who am I and why am I here? question. The James Stockdale question.

Eric: That’s right. So it worked for him, but I, I’m sure it will for you.

Chris: No, the and the reason it didn’t work for him, and for those of you under the age of 50, go look it up. ’cause it’s actually a pretty remarkable clip is that he was so good in setting up the question, who am I? And why am I here? That everybody was convinced he had no idea what the answer is. And of course, when his self-referential like that, that’s not a good place to be. So, no.

Eric: And just to, to save people the Google search, James Stockdale was Ross Perot’s running mate in 19. 80, 92. Sorry. So yeah, 92. And uh, of course, you know, that didn’t go well for, yeah.

Chris: So, alright. Who am I? Why I’m here? Well, I’ll give you the why I’m here first. Pittsburgh is the center of the universe. Uh, and that’s why I’m here.

So now, um, and I completely understand that my goal and my tenure here is that when I say Pittsburgh is the center of the universe, nobody’s gonna laugh. They’re gonna say, well, yeah, I completely get it. And so why is Pittsburgh the center of the universe? I’m gonna give you, uh, the three step process. And in true debate fashion, you can tell me if any one of my priors is false.

So, step number one is we are in this massive transformation as a nation. Your podcast touches on it all the time. We’re moving from the industrial to post-industrial age. We’re in this really uncomfortable spot. All sorts of division, all sorts of othering. What do you do? You get scared, you turn inward, you look to a nostalgia, all that kind of stuff, right?

And it’s not entirely clear. We’re gonna get through to the other side. I think philanthropy has the business of getting through to the other side. We can talk more about that, but that’s prior one. That’s what we’re into as a world. And the world hasn’t figured out how to get to the other side. So if the world is gonna get to the other side, the United States of America is gonna have to get to the other side.

If we don’t, the world’s going down and if the United States of America’s gonna get to the other side, Pennsylvania’s gonna have to get to the other side. ’cause about the next three election cycles, that is gonna be a crucial critical swing state. And if Pennsylvania’s gonna get there, Western Pennsylvania is gonna have to lead because of the history, ’cause of the unique role we play.

So. Buy that logic. Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania is the center of the universe. And if we can play our part at the Heinz Endowments in working with the incredible people in this region toward that hopeful, inclusive, optimistic future where everybody sees themselves economically and culturally, then we will have played an incredible part of bending the light in the universe toward the future we want for our kids.

So that’s why I’m here. How did I get you asked the question now step by the way. Step, but go on.

Eric: Lemme interrupt you for a second. Damn. You’re right. Yeah. Good. Now continue.

Chris: Good. Alright. Good. So, so convinced once. So now when I say I’m here because Pittsburgh and Wins, Pennsylvania is the center of the universe, you completely get it and you’re like, oh yeah, I know exactly why.

And my goal is to make sure that more and more people understand why, and that we get through. Uh, and I’m super excited to play my part in that. So how did I get here? And you referenced me as the wiggly worm. And I think the wiggly worm is, is some reference to, uh, us Porsche Schlubs, who came from communications and issue communications and strategic communications and efforts, trying to convince audiences that don’t want to be convinced about things that we care about in the world.

And that history, that is my history. So, you know, the resume is grew up in the Midwest journalism undergrad. Go off to the Peace Corps to try to figure stuff out, come back and I moved to what was my center of the universe then, which was Washington DC And I moved there because I was committed that journalism communications could change the world.

’cause I grew up with Woodward and Bernstein and Watergate, and they did it. I grew up with Uncle Walter on CBS evening news telling me that’s the way it is and I believed that too. Uh, and so I wanted to go to DC and figure that all out. Uh, and I ended up not being a journalist, you stumble into things in life.

I was very fortunate that I got a chance to work as an entry level peon at a socially progressive PR firm called Fenton Communications. That did extraordinary work then. Still does. You are an intern. At, so no, I was a, you a wiggly worm, but, but a paid, paid a paid, okay. What’s the lowest centipede? What’s the lowest wiggly worm on your, uh, you don’t have to go to biology on this.

Eric: Our aum, I don’t know.

Chris: Yeah. Something like that. And then in life, you know, you get exposed to a bunch of stuff. You get to learn a ton of stuff. And, and I did. And I was like, wow. It’s just fascinating. You can actually help organize people and ideas to try to pressure a political system for social change.

And I just got the bug, you know, I, I go to grad school and then I help come back and launch something that was really cool, which we was Environmental Media services. And, and that model is, it’s now Resource Media, which is again, this fabulous organization that’s gone far farther than, than those of us that there at the beginning ever imagined.

The model was a great model. ’cause it said, rather than get paid to then say this issue or this report, or this person needs to get a lot of attention, you actually went to the comms folks and you said, actually, this issue needs to change in this way. Now how are you gonna build campaigns to make that happen?

I mean, we can talk a lot more about that, but that model in that way is incredibly freeing and gave us a chance to do some really powerful and good stuff when we did it well and when we screwed it up, we screwed it up royally all the time for all the reasons all organizations screwed it up. But that involved raising money from foundations.

One of our foundations was the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, and at a certain point they approached and said, Hey, we want to build out a communications function that actually takes some of that magic around issues as the priority about what and how we do our work integrated with our programs.

Eric: And it was an empty lot. The communications function at, at the Packard Foundation at the time, that didn’t exist.

Chris: Right. Pretty much That’s right. It was an annual report and a, and a couple responsive things and uh, um, we should have a website. Um, but it was one of those early rudimentary websites, which was fabulous, so, right.

You know, deep commitment. The president who had been there for just a few years was Dick Schlosberg, who had been the former publisher of the LA Times and ended up being a. A mentor of mine that I respected in so many ways, but his belief in the power of communications was there from the beginning. And how to put that together.

I had a chance to join an incredible organization with incredible team inside of philanthropy. And over 18 years there had the chance to be able to take on more responsibility. And in that transition ended up being the vice president and director of programs across all of our grant making. Um, so if Par partially, you’re, you’re talking about sort of that evolution in a career that starts out very much communications focused, audience focused, moves towards issues, out of issues, says, well, how do we build these campaigns with all these components?

Working in an organization that really wanted to make that happen and the opportunity to then lead on all of those components was a real gift. And it was, uh, fortunate that I could be there.

Eric: And when you got kicked upstairs, how did you feel about, did, did your relationship to the communications work change at all?

Did you have a given that it wasn’t your primary responsibility but your had oversight? I. On it. Did, did that affect your perspective on how the foundation could and should use communications?

Chris: That’s a really good question. I’ve never really thought about it that way. So this is a, just off the cuff on it, one thing is that I feel for the communications directors who are fabulous, that followed me because the last thing you want is your boss that actually thinks they know how to do your job when God, that you’re better at better it than they are.

So, and, and they did a really nice job and Felicia Matson, who is still there now and is fantastic, was wonderful about putting up with me and, and getting the best out of me. But broadening out your question on that, I will honestly say no, it really didn’t because my belief was that the communications function needed to continually be better integrated in the upfront so we could have greater impact.

Um, and that stayed top of mind. I suppose when you’re in a role where you’re also. Looking across the entire institution rather than looking for the piece that you were most responsible for. I, I suppose I started to see things a little bit more in gray than in black and white, but fundamentally it stayed the same.

If I could digress for a minute.

Eric: Please digress. This, this is your show.

Chris: It’s kind of you, it’s your show. I’m just visiting.

Eric: I’m just, I’m just the, uh, I, I tee it up and you get to spike it.

Chris: So it going from doing the communications piece to them, being responsible for, uh, integrating it and, and hopefully helping it be better on behalf of the entire institution.

Its mission. I was actually reflecting on this, which is I know so little about the tactics of communications now. I mean, social media came after I started doing this work, and so I do believe that a lot of the strategic questions are exactly the same ones. But tactically, I’m useless to everybody in this, except I think there are a couple truisms that are still so prevalent in the philanthropic and nonprofit sector that to put a pin on those is important.

And I hope, this is why I just did the segue. I hope that when I was in that position at Packard, had the chance to be an interim at the Climate Works Foundation and now here at Heinz, I hope I keep these in mind. So, and the first tourism is that it is still remarkable. That our collective theory of change, sorry to use that phrase, but our theory of how we’re gonna actually make the world a better place is if they only knew what I know, they would do the right thing.

That’s not good. And that’s been the saying since the moment I started doing this work until this time and I succumbed to it as much as anybody else in that. So, and then there are sort of corollaries on top of that, which is okay if you don’t support my issue for my reasons, I’d actually rather lose than win.

And if you don’t support my issue for my values, I’d really rather lose than win. Those things have held true again and again and again and again and again. And so this is my pitch, which is I feel really fortunate that I’ve been able to move from being, uh, communications into strategic responsibility for an organization.

But I think philanthropy and nonprofits are missing a massive untapped resource. Communications. People are phenomenal at this ’cause they’re tasked with doing it. They are really good. And our sector is still not getting broad leadership in this space. So there’s a plug for communications folks get outta your lane and aspire to be on the program and on the leadership side, and to the folks responsible for those decisions, communications folks can at least.

Spark up against what is just this ongoing underlying set of assumptions that is doom and us each time. There’s my riff on that.

Eric: It’s a good riff and I totally agree and thank God the other side also does, makes that same mistake. They are shooting themselves in the eye, not the foot in many instances because they would rather be right than to win, and therefore, in, in a sense, it’d be give it.

It provides a competitive advantage for those who really understand how do you win campaigns and how do you move issues. We had an interesting conversation with Anat Shenker-Osorio.

Chris: Which I listened to, and it was fabulous. And you were right. And I’m looking forward to the intro to this one for you to be even more over the top enthusiastic to introduce our conversation than you were with hers. You were quite the sales, sales job on that one. But carry on game, game on.

Eric: You just wait. I bet you be sitting at home waiting for that intro. I am. A hundred percent. I’m not leaving the house until I hear the intro. There was a point I was gonna make a long time ago, but I’ve forgotten what it is. Oh yes.

Right. So you wanna move your base, you wanna give them the tools to be able to carry your message, and then that’s 60. And then your base is basically 20%. And there’s 20% of people wouldn’t throw water on you if you burn broke out into fire. And, and that 60% in the middle are gainable on, on issues. Yep.

And they may not agree with you on certain things and they will, will agree with you on others. And, and if you can gain, if you can access them on issues that they care about, not issues that you care about, but the issue that then that’s how you. Make change. That’s how you move things forward. And I think it’s that, I think it’s both be able to create messages that other people can carry the baton forward on that communications people have an important role, but this understanding about the issues and winning on these issues, this is where the partnership between the comms people and the program people become so important.

And yeah. And I completely agree. I think that’s what we’re kind of missing often or not. Yeah. You know, we’re not, we’re not getting a, uh, quite enough.

Chris: I think that’s right. And that gets to, so if what I did was sort of the, the first thing that has remained true all the way throughout my career around communications and what communications folks get saddled with.

To your point, here’s the second one, which is, I have this event, this report, this study, this person, please make it the center of winning on the issue. And you’re like, how about, let’s figure out the goal for the issue and then figure out the person, the report, the study. Should be featured. But you don’t get that as a comms person, as a comms person.

You get handed to you something well down the line. And so to your point, that partnership also has to happen at the very beginning, totally on all of this in order to be able to make it go the right way. So, and I’m a, I’m a huge advocate of that too. So, so this is good. My friends and colleagues here at the Heinz Endowments now have two things to hold me supremely accountable for in everything I do here.

Eric: Um, well, it’s also with any luck at all, you get to signal to your staff and others, and I, I really honestly believe that now that you have achieved the sanctum sanctorum of the foundation CEOs that you can whisper in their ears and rub them, like rib them in the. The ribs to help them better understand how to integrate communications into their work.

Because again, there are some foundations that are really great at strategic communications. They understand what the goal is, and that’s the focus. And then there are others who are not. And to the extent that you can continue to evangelize for that kind of integration, that’s going to do a huge thing for, for our field.

Now we’re gonna take a very quick break, believe it or not, that was, that was very fast. That went. And, uh, and we’ll be right back with Chris DeCardy, the president of the Heinz Endowments right after this.


Eric: You are listening to Let’s Hear It, a podcast about foundation and nonprofit communications hosted by Eric Brown and Kirk Brown. If you’re enjoying this episode, you may just be a rule breaker. Tune in to Break Fake Rules, a new limited series podcast with Glen Galaich, CEO of the Stupski Foundation. Hear from leaders in philanthropy, nonprofits, government, media, and more to learn about challenges they’ve overcome by breaking fake rules and which rules we should commit to breaking together. We are also sponsored by the Conrad Prebys Foundation. Check out their amazingly good podcast, and we’re not just saying that, Stop and Talk, hosted by Prebys Foundation CEO, Grant Oliphant. You can find them at And now back to the show.


Eric: And we are back with Chris DeCardy, the president of the Heinz Endowments, and my very dear and old friend, I’m, I have to say also, by the way, I’m just over the moon.

I’m tickled pink that you are now a grand high exalted mystic poobah. And once again, congratulations for folks who know you. They’re like, wow, that, like, there’s a guy got that he, he should be doing this. And, and, and just from our conversation already, you can kind of tell folks that this is the kind of thinking that we need in philanthropy.

For sure. So, uh, so now let’s, let’s talk about what it is like to, to achieve this, you know, to become the head of a very large foundation. Was it stupid question? Was it what you expected?

Chris: A hundred percent. That part. You knew it. It’s not that I knew it. This is, this is how I’ll answer the question, which is I, I think for all of us in our life, when we’re considering taking on something different or new and you’re having conversations with whoever you’re gonna be in relationship with, and then you say, okay, we’re gonna take the plunge, and this was a decent sized plunge.

Our entire family had been in Silicon Valley for 20 years. My sons were both born there. It only lived in one house that entire time. Right. That’s a pretty big disruption that you’re going through. Um, and asking your family to go through what you hope for. When you then show up at the thing you committed to, is that the promise that you saw or the potential is actually there?

Or expands and that the other stuff that you know that is there when you look under the hood. ’cause of course everything has that is sort of manageable and that’s been absolutely the case. You know, I’ve gotten here with this belief that Pittsburgh is the center of the universe. And I show up and I’m like, wow, there are incredible people, incredible organizations, incredible history.

This is the role of philanthropy is not to create new stuff. The role of philanthropy is to find all the amazing stuff that is already out there and then use the privilege that we have because of our position, because of the connections we can make, because we have resources to be able to connect and amplify.

Um, and so for me, coming here and what this opportunity is, was only expanded, which is really, really cool. And, you know, in terms of the job itself, yeah, that part, it was, it was fine and all good about putting this together. You know, I give an awful lot of credit to Carol Larson who ran the Packard Foundation.

She believed in hiring great people and in trusting them to take leadership and a whole lot of stuff. She gave me an incredible opportunity to work with the team there and with the field. And then similarly, I was entrusted with the care and, and helping the Climate Works Foundation. I think one of the most important collaborative hubs, uh, that exists right now, given where we are with climate, uh, in a.

Leadership transition and had the chance to do that there as well with an incredible board in both cases to help lead. So I, I felt really well prepared to come into this moment and, and grateful for that.

Eric: I. That said, I’m, I’m sure there are things that you have learned now that Yeah, sure can. Can you give us a little, just a little sampling?

Chris: Well, I’ll say so it is all well and good, and I really like that podcast with a knot, and that’s the longest that I have heard her talk about what she does in the buildup on George Layoff, which I like everybody else was enamored with at that moment in time as well. So, super excited about all of that.

It’s, it’s super easy to get hand wavy about, oh, we’re gonna go paint that hopeful, optimistic vision of the future. And you know, you get the mission statement there and you put it on NPR and every single foundation’s statement is exactly like every other one on NPR. That’s all kind of the easy part. So for me, I think the question is, well, what is the hard part?

And what do we do to try to lean into that? Now, there’s a whole ton of hard parts in philanthropy and a lot of really good stuff. Challenging philanthropy about our role, trust-based philanthropy off of the power that we have, what we are doing, embedding a series of historical inequities that we don’t even see all of that.

Okay. But building on top of it is, I think a couple things that are really important about getting to that future. One is, and this goes back to communications, and it’s just unfortunate, but back in journalism school, if it bleeds, it leads, right? Bad stuff always leads. Mark Twain, the rumor gets the rot in the world, you know, before the fat gets out of bed in the morning.

And so we’ve got this overabundance of deficit based reporting and stories and descriptions that hit this base of our brain. And so I look at that and say, that’s just a feature of the ecosystem. Philanthropy is in the business of hope, number one. And number two, one of the unique things we have is we don’t actually have to raise money, sell anything, get reelected.

And so who but us to lean into that? Okay, yeah, that’s fine, but what are we gonna support and who are we gonna lift up and what are those vehicles? Sure, it may be tilting at windmills, but we need to do more and more of that. So positive frame asset-based, solutions focused. So that’s thing one. I don’t know how to do that.

And this region and the folks here are buried by that like everybody else is. But I do have a couple in hypotheses. One of these is. We do ourselves no favors by saying that the world is always coming to an end when in fact it’s not right? And it’s getting better. So, so you look at climate change now, which I spent my entire career working on.

I wrote a grad school thesis on the thing in 1992 and I was working on it before that. And it is just not true that we haven’t made progress. In fact, we are winning on climate change and the we is like society and the better of the world that we’re gonna move in, there are only two problems. One is the goalpost keeps on moving because the impacts are sliding closer and closer to us.

And a lot of folks imagine it’s kind of the worst case scenario in that scientists can tell you about that. Uh, and the second one is because of that, we simply have to win faster, but we are still winning. 20 years ago, the projections for what warming would look like were multiple degrees higher than they are now.

Well, who knows that nobody, ’cause the people who actually should be celebrating it don’t do it. But why should we be celebrating it? We have to celebrate it because we actually know how to get this done, and there are phenomenal people that have actually succeeded in getting this along the way. And it means we can go further.

So we have to make that happen. So that’s an example. Here’s another example. This was a Nick Christoff column and once a year, Nick Christoph in the Times essentially says, I’m gonna write you the optimistic column because I spend so much time necessarily being pessimistic. So he writes at the end of last year, and this blew me away, but the lowest percentage of children in the world failing to get to or through their teenage years in the history of the world was last year in the history of the world.

We’ve got fewer kids not making it through than ever in the history of the world. Well, who knows that nobody. So we’ve got a responsibility to build on those things. And I think, again, there’s a role for philanthropy to be able to make that happen. And then I think the last thing I’ll say on this is we also just don’t know the indicators that would tell us if we were getting to that hopeful, optimistic future.

All the indicators we have look backwards and say what’s right happening right now, and then what’s lousy or all that kind of stuff. In the trend line, the only thing that supposedly tells us whether we’re doing well are gross national product, gross domestic product numbers. And those have nothing to do with happiness and utility for human beings.

All the data says that got disconnected along about 1970. So philanthropy, again, where are those indicators? What are we tracking and can we commit to those things? So you could actually say, Hey, we’re making progress or not. So you asked me, why is this so hard? Or what am I learning? Or what are we doing?

And I am super interested in those types of. Questions because philanthropy uniquely can afford to take the risks on sorting those out. So that would be one way of answering your question. Now you’d be like, Chris, that’s not the question. I meant, I meant this one.

Eric: No, that was good. So given that you are in the, at the center of the universe.

Chris: Yep.

Eric: And you have a couple of billion dollars to use to advance these kinds of ideas, and frankly it being a original regional foundation, you are extremely kind of relative to the economy around you. You have at least the spending power that you probably had at the Backard Foundation given the venue, uh, what are you, fair enough?

What do you do? Where, where are you going with this? How are you going to kind of create that kind of leverage and move these kinds of issues? How do you, how do you think about doing that in philanthropy?

Chris: I think you’re exactly right on what you just laid out. I think one of the things that’s exciting about Pittsburgh is the center of the universe is that Pittsburgh actually used to be even more center of the universe in the industrial age, and there’s a lot of latent commitment, talent, capacity, and resources.

And one of those is this philanthropic abundance that is here. So I think one of the questions here that is the hardest thing in the world is if there’s an organization that exists and in a trust-based philanthropy way. We should be listening, understanding general support grants over a number of years to help them achieve their mission, and they need to go through transformation, just like this whole region in our society needs to go through transformation.

How do you know in philanthropy if the dollars you are giving is helping that nonprofit organization have the space to go through the transformation? Or are they buffering that organization from the market forces they would otherwise be receiving, telling them to go through the transformation? I think that’s.

A, the one of most critical questions for philanthropy in this moment in time, and now you gotta do the wisdom to know the difference question and how are you gonna get the wisdom to know the difference? It’s people, it’s people and it’s relationship. And this is my, this is what I ask. And people around here, every moment as I, as I go in and I’m like, here’s what I’m committed to doing, Eric, I’m committed to earning your trust so that you will at some point, when you feel ready, tell me the 20% of the stuff in your head.

That is the important stuff for me to know. But you’re not gonna go there yet until you believe I’m actually trustworthy to utilize that in relationship with you. I think about that in every single conversation I have with everybody here at the endowments and in the region. I believe that’s probably the only real answer to your question.

Eric: Uh, that’s a pretty good one. Um, well, as, as we kind of wind down here, just a couple other questions for you and I, I guess the fir this one is a little existential, but having gotten to where you are now and really, I mean, it’s, it’s a, it’s a great achievement. It just is. But if, if you knew back then when you were at Fenton or EMS or Packard along the way, if you, if you, if you knew then what you now know, ’cause I, I, I do think that you have a, a very sensitive and thoughtful approach to this work, obviously informed by many years.

What would you have done differently?

Chris: You know, one thing you, you and I are being of a certain age, you can always look backwards and tell a more coherent story than was happening at the time, right? In your journey. Everybody can do that in their life. So anything I would have done differently, I actually am not somebody that spends a lot of time looking at like regrets or I wish I’d done that.

You know, exit A as opposed to exit B. And this, I do think if I earlier on could have recognized that there are things that I am good at and they have shadow sides. And if I could have been better about understanding those shadow sides and being curious about them. So I am good at talking, I’m good at explaining stuff.

I’m good at taking a bunch of information and kind of putting together in real time. But you can mask a lot of problems with that. Um, one of the reasons frankly, that I never became a journalist was recognizing that in myself. And I got an award for a piece that I wrote for the Daily Cardinal. Shout out University of Wisconsin Journalism School and Daily Cardinal.

Fabulous. Tons of us came through there and have and learned a lot, but I got an award for a piece that I wrote and it was about a music festival that was going on in Madison. And I was supposed to go in and follow a couple of the headline acts and then interview ’em and this kind of stuff. And I didn’t really have the courage to go in there and as a undergrad do that.

  1. I came across a busker on the street during that festival and I interviewed him and I, and I loved the juxtaposition about his life, what was happening all the time while this music festival was going on. I wrote this piece, I wrote this award about, there was award-winning, right? But I had to also be honest with myself that I didn’t have the courage to ask the hard question.

I wrote around the holes in my reporting and I got lucky and I had to be honest with myself about that. And frankly, I’m glad I wasn’t a journalist because journalists at the moment of truth have to be jerks and they have to be willing to be jerks. Uh, and that’s a little hard for me to be intentionally sometimes I’m unintentionally a jerk a bunch, I’m sure.

But at any rate, you asked me the question, what knowing then as opposed to now, and I think it is the understanding and looking at the shadow sides that I had and, and then I suppose with a little compassion.

Eric: All right. Last question. How do you feel about the Pirates this year?

Chris: I knew you were gonna get to that.

So when you just said you were so excited that I was here and that I moved to Pittsburgh, it’s because the one thing you think the Mets probably can do is finish hiring the standings than the Pirates. So I actually, IPNC Park is fabulous. It’s a jewel of the downtown Pittsburgh. We have an incredible set of resources to build on.

We’ve got a cultural district right across the river. Folks come and visit. It is the center of the universe. And it’s also really fun. Seeing a Pirates game is great. You get to watch the Pierogis racing around on the outfield fence.

Eric: Got you. Didn’t see that many wins.

Chris: Well, but they at least have a young team with some cool players that they decided to sign long term and commit to.

And I think if you’re a sports team, this is back to an old Seinfeld episode. Basically free agents come and go and ownership comes and goes. You’re basically just rooting for the laundry, right. I think this is better than rooting for the laundry. I love it. So, and I’ll spare you my diatribe against the Mets, which you, uh, have fully embodied anyway.

Eric: Well, you are the, you were the, the what, St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. You were the Orioles when they were terrible.

Chris: Yes, absolutely. Them and the A’s. Absolutely. Right. Yes. I’ve picked centers of the universe, DC Silicon Valley, and now Pittsburgh, which I fundamentally believe that have a baseball crisis associated with them.

Some, some professor can run the regression analysis about why that is.

Eric: Well, uh, it, this has been such a fun conversation. It has been for Thank you Eric. For folks out there who are, are for you foundation presidents in the Sanctum Sanctorum, I would hope you take Chris’s advice and thoughts to heart about how to integrate communications at the beginning.

And, and understand how, how issues move. I know you do, but there are so many tools at your disposal and, and you, Chris, have had, had this incredible communications career that you’re turning into. I think the opportunity to really make huge change. And as you say, and I’m now a convert, Pittsburgh is the center of the universe.

I can’t think of anybody, uh, more adept at, at, uh, navigating that universe than, than you. I, I just thank you Chris, so much for, for talking with us. Thanks for what you’re doing and, uh, you know, I’m a convert.

Chris: Well, I really appreciate it, Eric, and thank you. Thank you for the time. Give my best to Kirk. You get all the glory on this podcast, but I know Kirk is coming next, so I’m gonna butter him up.

So he’s kind to me on this. Uh, it’s been great to be with you. Thank you.

Eric: Uh, it’s great to have you Chris DeCardy, president of the Heinz Endowments.


Kirk: And we’re back. So again, I’m gonna say it again. Nobody says –

Eric: Say it again.

Kirk: Nobody says it better. Nobody does it better than Chris DeCardy. You ask him why he is there.

What is he doing? Pittsburgh is the center of the universe. Here’s why. Three steps. And you know what? He’s absolutely right. But you listen to that conversation, I’m like, this is Jordan saying I’m gonna, I’m, I’m, I’m going down the lane and I’m gonna score the winning bucket. This is just an all time great.

It’s so awesome. So how was it going to see Chris in, uh, Pittsburgh and seeing him in his new surroundings?

Eric: The child of Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan? That’s what he is. It’s Chris DeCardy. That’s right. That’s right. It’s. It’s a delight. I, I had a chance to spend time with Chris recently, and it’s so much fun to watch him in this, in this element.

It’s, and what he’s doing. I, I, yeah. I am sold that Pittsburgh is the center of the universe. He, I mean, he makes a very good political case for why we have to understand and engage in, and it’s, you know, it, Pittsburgh in a sense is a proxy for a whole bunch of transitioning pol kind of politically transitioning regions, kinda purple places.

And it’s, it is quite true that we have huge communications challenges ahead of us on things like. What do jobs in the future look like? And where are people going to work and what kind of relationships are they gonna have with their community? And what effect does it have on the environment? What effect does it have on our quality of life?

Things like that. And that is center front and center right now in Western Pennsylvania. Like it is in parts of Michigan, parts of Wisconsin, parts of Colorado. Name your name, your place where the old economies are giving way to something that people don’t fully trust yet and don’t quite understand. And our job is to build that trust and help promote that understanding.

And nobody knows this more than Chris.

Kirk: Well, I can’t imagine a better equipped, a better skilled, a better qualified person to help facilitate that than Chris at the Heinz Endowment right now. And so here he goes through his own trajectory, his own history of getting to where he is gotten, you know, he starts with his journalism and communications.

You know, he’s from the Midwest by the way. Start there. He’s already got. A lots of assets behind him. He’s, he’s, he’s, he’s a mid-westerner. He goes like, he’s –

Eric: Schmuck New Yorkers.

Kirk: He goes to DC , goes to DC, works at Fenton, helps create the transcendent environmental media services, which we can talk about a little bit.

No, that, no that, no. That story a little bit, but then moves on from there to the foundation side and this dynamic of harnessing all of this knowledge and expertise related to communications. Now I’m gonna jump into the foundation space, start on the comms desk, then I’m gonna move to senior leadership.

Eric: The really talented people, they get promoted the highly mediocre stay in that job, and then they become consultants. Please continue.

Kirk: Here’s my question though, because this is, this is the trajectory I wish that we saw more of in philanthropic leadership coming out of this work, this frontline work around communications.

And I keep, you know, I listen to somebody like Chris, and this is a question I’ve had a few different times in this podcast. You listen to Chris talk about this work, and I think, okay, is there a system that we can replicate here? Meaning that trajectory, that learning, that knowledge, that skill set that Chris now brings to the work?

Or is this just Chris and it might just be Chris, you know, that ability to just bring these ideas together. He, he’s so clearly such a, well-spoken can take these issues and drill them down to their key elements so quickly, but man, I wish we had more people in philanthropic leadership on the program side coming through this training ground, this proving ground on the communications side.

I feel like that’s, that’s a process that could help achieve this goal of trying to bring the comms piece further. You know, earlier into our considerations when we think about strategy at scale.

Eric: And of course the other famous ex-Communications Director is our pal, Grant Oliphant.

Kirk: Yes, yes.

Eric: But they’re kind of few and far between.

If you look around at, at foundation leadership, not that many of them came out of communications. Very, very few. And that’s, it’s an interesting, it’s just an interesting phenomenon. I think we absolutely put a premium on, so-called program specific knowledge. And then there’s, you know, then there are the folks who are, whatever they are, management consultants and that kind of thing.

I’m, I’m happy to see that more people are coming through activism. People who are actually out there who did things. And now those folks are becoming CEOs. And that’s a, I mean, that’s a great development, but there are, you know, we need more of them too. ’cause those folks understand communications as a, a integrated component into.

That kind of work into activism and rolling up your sleeves, getting thing done, ism so that, you know, it’s true. I would like to see better, I wouldn’t, I won’t call it better, but I would like to see more communications in leadership for sure.

Kirk: Well, just able to bring that sensibility forward. You know, I mean this, this notion of a hopeful, optimistic economic vision for our future and that the highs endowments are gonna play a central role in adv, in, in advancing that story in Western Pennsylvania that’s gonna have enormous positive implications for so many things we care about.

The big thing in that though, underneath that, is that, that when doing, when we do that work, we are part of your story. You’re not part of ours. We’re, we’re, we’re trying to be part of your, your evolution, not not trying to convince you of ours. And I love that reflection you guys had. You know, Chris saying, it’s still amazing to me that our collective theory of change is that they only do what I do.

They do it the right thing and. And you better support these issues for my reasons, or I don’t care, I’d rather lose. Or if you don’t support these issues because you share my values, I’d rather lose. So I’d right you wrong. Like so that divide, crossing that divide and being like, no, it’s not us, it’s them.

There’s no us and them. Let’s get aligned. We’re not trying to convince you to join our club. We’re trying to understand where you’re at. Again, that just feels like a sensibility that Chris is just so deeply holds and can and can show, can model for other foundations what that’s gonna look like.

Regardless of the scale, regardless of the area where people are working.

Eric: You know, uh, we hear a lot about audience centered design and God bless the nice people at the D School at Stanford for coining. A phrase about something that good communications people have been doing for years is, what does the audience care about and how do I create messages that speak to their values in ways that are consistent with my own goals?

They don’t conflict with my goals, but they’re consistent with them, but it’s about them, not us. And that is basically. Audience centered design, good for them for helping to make people understand it in a different way. But that is quite true. That is a communications mentality, which is, who’s my audience and what do they care about?

Now let’s have a conversation, not who’s my audience, and how do I get them to put ’em in a headlock to make them do the thing I want them to do? Even though they don’t care about it, eh, it doesn’t tend to work so well.

Kirk: And it’s this challenge of, it’s a communications problem first, even before you know what the problem is.

You know, this, um, I love Chris’s reflection. This thing about, you know, I have this event report study person, please make it the center of my campaign. And Chris is like, why don’t we think about the goal first? I remember, you know, um, uh, back in the day, uh, when, when EMS was con turning into Environmental Media Services West, and then it became, you know, what we named at Resource Media, but that you ran.

Eric: So here’s where the roads converge.

Kirk: And, and Chris was my first, uh, meeting when I first took that job to, to, to help run environ, what was that? Environmental Media Services West. But the big refrain back then, people were calling a week before the press release was due, and a week wasn’t a long enough to create a good press release.

We wanted to be called two weeks before the pre, before the press release is due. And I remember having the first meeting with the entire staff team, which is really then just a, a random collection of consultants. And I do think, um. There’s a, there’s a hidden story here around all this stuff, which we won’t talk about today, but none of this works if you can’t get hired.

You know, so you can be as lofty and as lot, you know, laudatory around all this stuff as you want, but you’ve gotta figure out ways to get this into the ecosystem. But, you know, we had this conversation and I, and I said to this team, you know, we’ve gotta be upstream, we’ve gotta be right on day one. We have to be part of the conversation just as it’s getting started.

Nobody in the room knew what that meant because it’s so hard to bridge that conversation when things are so vague and so uncertain. So again, I think back to Krista Cardi and think about his capacity to bring people together and facilitate those conversations way upfront. It almost seems like part of this leadership role we need is the ability to facilitate and mediate and moderate those kinds of conversations.

You know, just so that people can get, get aligned before you kinda even know what the, what is of these campaigns.

Eric: Well, I’ve always said that communications is not an activity, it’s a mindset.

Kirk: Yeah.

Eric: And that, uh, a program officer or a CEO or anyone will say, well, what is it I’m trying to achieve? And how does communications help move towards that?

How do I use communications to do that? You have to have a communications mindset in order to be able to ask that question. Not just, I’m gonna do a whole bunch of stuff and I want you to promote it as if that’s gonna magically make anything ha happen at all. So that, I’ve always said that if an organization has a communications mindset, doesn’t matter whether you have two or 20 communications people there, you’re gonna succeed because you’re gonna understand how things, how things move, and how many times, you know, we all have our own values, we have all of our own goals that we as, as just individuals that we care about, and people don’t have a lot of time and energy to take on somebody else’s hobby horse.

It’s our own thing. And so the trick is, how do we marshal all of this energy? Uh, that overlaps and use that overlap to move something forward. That’s, and I’ll, that’s how you build like real cool coalitions, partnerships and all that stuff.

Kirk: While continue making the pitch that these foundations consider should consider themselves to be media and communications enterprises first and everything else.

Second, and I love that Chris is taking on the podcast at the Heinz Endowments and, and, and I, and I actually love that this is a new thing he gets to do. It’s a new skill set he gets to hone, but he’s also there. He is like, yeah, actually I get it. Like, you know, it’s been interesting seeing this proliferation of this.

But every institution practically now could use something like this, which is a direct voice we create and cultivate so that we’re actually putting a spotlight on ensuring the stories about the things that we care about most. We’re not trying to have millions of listeners. Maybe, maybe that’ll happen, who knows?

I wouldn’t put it past Chris to actually, you know, create that outcome. But, but for the people who do listen, this is gonna be important. It’s gonna be consequential. So how do you think Chris is gonna do as a podcast host? ’cause I think, I think, I think this is like, man, this is like his, his gonna be his next career after the heis Endowment.

He’s gonna be a, a, a a a celebrity.

Eric: I, well I would say that it’s a very difficult skill to be a. Good podcaster. You could be a good interviewer. You have to be so tuned in and perceptive, and you have to be able to stir, steer and otherwise gonna rotate your comfort. No, he’ll do great. Uh, it’s, he’s got the kind of curiosity and the kind of enthusiasm that I think it takes to, to make these things work.

I will take issue with the fact that, I don’t, with your, your contention that foundations should be media entities. I don’t, I happen to agree with that. I think that sometimes it might be useful. It’s worked for the Kaiser Family Foundation, which started, literally started its own media operation. But some foundations don’t need that at all.

They need to understand how communications moves and fund those things that will get them there. And it may be them, it may not be them. Some foundations sometimes are not, are, are not great messengers for certain things. The people are doing this, the, so-called actual real people doing real work. Those, those are the.

Often a better messenger. So that I, so I take minor issue, but I do think that understanding how communications drives issues drives change that you have to have from the get go or else you’re just guessing.

Kirk: Well, it’s funny and fair enough, because we heard recently that, you know, sometimes it’s important for foundations to like pay for the childcare and pay for the transportation.

So there’s a lot of stuff that foundations can leverage the dollars to support. So that’s a fair point. I will say though, there was an aside, Chris had just a little aside. That was a little chilling for me. This is conspiracy. Kirk entering the room.

Eric: One of my favorite Kirks is conspiracy Kirk.

Kirk: It’s an important, such an important point though.

I completely, and I, and I share the sensibility. ’cause Chris was like, you know, I, I know the strategic questions related to communications and those remain the same. Then he started talking about some of the truisms that have been with us for all these years. I. On tactics because of how the communications landscape has changed on tactics.

Chris said he’s useless. I would probably just debate that. I’m sure he is not useless. But there’s something important in there which is, I think it’s possible that none of us, not one person in the entire communications field, progressive communications field, actually understands how tactical delivery of communications is actually working in today’s social media ecosystem.

That we understand parts of it, but the, the social media enterprises are such black boxes of what’s going in and what’s coming out that we cannot actually know. And so this piece where Chris is feeling, yeah, I don’t get the tactics. I actually think in a weird way, we all are probably. Uh, vulnerable to that in some respect.

And, and that actually tips me over to, again, the importance of the work that Chris is doing because Chris is in the field now in places that most of us will never go to, never think about, and most Phil philanthropic dollars will never reach. And we wonder what’s happening in those places, and how are people’s opinions and views being shaped?

And then why do they act or behave certain ways? Well, in my experiences, one of the reasons things go the way they go is because those areas are being utterly ignored. Even though we talk about it, there’s so few people that are actually showing up to do that hard spade work. But what do you think about that?

I mean, I think this notion that we kind of don’t get our, we don’t, you know, it’s not, it’s not, we got page one above the fold on the New York Times anymore, and we know that’s gonna have a certain, you know. Number of points in the whole, it’s a totally different consideration now.

Eric: Yeah. Some geek in, in his grandmother’s basement just changed the algorithm by one word that caused us to succeed instead of fail.

That’s interesting. And by the way, that little aluminum foil hat looks lovely on you, Kirk.

Kirk: Well, and hopefully this is because hopefully it’s a geek in the grandmother’s basement. Right. Hopefully it’s not 1 million. Yeah. It’s not Putin in his Yeah, exactly. The Kremlin, it’s, it’s good point. It’s not some auto system running and, and what we’re calling the social media conversation is actually a completely manufactured creation that we don’t even know where it’s coming from, where it’s going, except that it’s affecting people in their lives.

In terms of, in terms of how they view the world. We have no idea to what extent that’s shaping opinion in key parts of the country, including Western Pennsylvania. That’s, at least, that’s what I think.

Eric: Okay.

Kirk: What do you think about that?

Eric: Thank you for ruining my day. Thanks for that. I was having a perfectly good day. And now you’ve, you’ve, you’ve dropped a bomb on me.

Kirk: Hey, so, so I will say you are getting good at this interview thing. You’re getting good at this. And so, here, here’s my question for you. You’re getting good at it. It’s only taken six years, but you’re getting really good at it.

Eric: Oh, okay.

Kirk: How was it, how was it interviewing a dear friend?

And did you, how’d you prep for that? Like, did you have to come in with questions? Did you just, you know, did you just, you know, how was I, because you actually got, you covered some really good ground, and I do wanna talk about what Chris had to say about kind of the, the balance of messaging and, you know, the, the negative versus positive vision we’re trying to create.

But how was it talking to Chris like that?

Eric: Well, I mean, the only thing I can say is that you have to make sure that you talk about something substantive and, and not just talk smack about whatever your fantasy baseball team or something like that. So, so in that sense, I was trying to keep it, you know, professional.

But it’s always great to interview somebody whom you know well, because you can cut to the chase. There’s no, you know, he, he talked about this notion of trust. Yeah, when you, and I think that we all have these co colleagues in our fields who, whom we trust implicitly and to whom we can say anything, any stupid idea and not feel bad about it.

And I think that building those kinds of relationships are, are essential. I think also that Zoom and the pandemic and this dislocation and disconnection that many people feel are, are making that more problematic. But because we go back so far, I, I can tell him anything and I can tell him that’s a stupid idea.

I can tell him that’s a great idea. And if I say It’s a great idea, he actually knows that, think it’s a great idea. Instead of, I’m the president of the Heinz Endowments every going to, everybody’s gonna, they’re gonna tell me I’m fabulous. And so in that sense, having surrounding yourself with people who will actually te actually tell you, you stink.

Is is is good. It’s lucky. And I strive to have those people in my life as well because, not because people tell me I’m, I’m smarter or good or anything. ’cause I don’t work for a foundation anymore. I got stupider, by the way, when I left the Hewlett Foundation. But, uh, but there were a bunch of people who could tell me I was stupid and I believed them.

And then if they told me that I was smart, then I really believed them. ’cause no one would tell me that.

Kirk: So, but Chris’s reflection at the end, he’s so committed to building these trusting relationships so that people will tell him what’s true. And I, I, I can’t imagine a better person equipped to actually build relationships like that.

And, and, and how smart, how savvy it is to be thoughtful in that way. To say, my role here first and foremost is to build trust. And, and I do think that’s an interesting challenge. He’s reflecting on, you know, as, as philanthropy provides dollars to help organizations grow and evolve and provide general operating support over multiple years.

Are we helping organizations transform in the ways they need to because they’re remaining sensitive and, and, and responsive to circumstances as they evolve in front of them? Or are we actually inoculating them to a certain extent from their need to change? Like, what a challenging thing to sort out, and again, I I that that the depth and breadth of experience that Chris brings, his integrity, his authenticity, but his ability to actually develop these real relationships with people, I feel like is gonna be an incredible asset to him as he tries to sort out key questions like that.

Eric: Yeah, that’s right. You just have to have a pretty good BS meter and you have to be kind of humble. ’cause I, I imagine that it must be a little tricky when everyone’s telling you, you’re so fabulous. As I said, there’s a million times Paul Brest president of the Hewlett Foundation, when I got there, had this little plaque on his desk that said, with money in your pocket, you’re handsome, you’re funny, and you sing well too.

And Paul always had that sense of, that’s right of reality, that people were gonna. Say he was those things. Uh, yeah. And, and, and he was No, but, uh, it was, and yeah, like I say, Chris I think has the right temperament for this kind of job. And, and of course he’s smart and he’s a great communicator. Yeah. And he’s, I’ve, and he follows in the, the excellent footsteps of Grant Oliphant who, who helped build Heinz into a regional force in so many ways and helped develop a lot of really, really great grant making over there.

So it’s kind of like the best of all worlds if you ask me.

Kirk: Well, and I can’t wait to see him. We’ll leave on this, but I, but I can’t wait to see him attack this. Issue he’s talking about around communications and storytelling and how we have such an overabundance of deficit based stories. The bad stuff always leads it bleed, it leads and philanthropy being in the business of hope.

How do we reorient our communications to this positive frame, this solutions focused, asset based communications framework. And you know, it’s interesting in places like Western Pennsylvania, you know, as much as we there are, it’s true. There are so many areas where we’ve made progress. There’s so many places we’re making great strides.

These communities are also under enormous stress and strain. They’re losing. Local newspaper outlets, they’re losing local healthcare. They’re, they’re, you know, they’re, they’re kind of being drained of their vitality in so many ways. And for a hopeful, optimistic partnership based entity to come forward like the Heinz Endowments and say, we care about you.

We’re gonna focus on you. We’re gonna lift you up. Tell us how we can help and turn those stories into the place-based stories of hope and optimism, that’s gonna be transformational work. And so, you know, so again, I mean, back to Chris’s first point, he stands at the center of the universe. And I can’t imagine a better person to actually be standing right at the center there with all of his partners, all of his colleagues, the board, the trustees.

But he is putting his hand up to say, I wanna be part of something that’s really important, but also incredibly difficult. The work I had for Chris and the Heinz Endowment, incredibly difficult.

Eric: Well, if it was easy, anyone could do it. And by the way, Kirk, I have to say that you, you have become quite the excellent play-by-Play, man.

Whatcha saying? Whatcha talking about? I do The color commentary. You’re an excellent play by, you’re helping make sense of things. You really listen to the interviews, you pull out the best bits of it. Well done sir.

Kirk: This is what we need. We need a podcast so we can talk about why these people are great.

It’ll never work. Chris DeCardy. Chris DeCardy is great. Chris DeCardy is great. He deserves to hear that he deserves to be recognized. He deserves to be acknowledged. We need the field that could put a positive spotlight on ourselves and say thank you and congratulations. So yes, thank you. I’ll take it. I’ll take it. Alright, Chris, you’re great.

Eric: I’m, I’m gonna send you a small packet of Thorazine.

Kirk: There you go. Well, Chris DeCardy. President of the Heinz Endowments. My goodness. Chris, thank you for joining us on, Let’s Hear It. Thank you for all the work you’ve done. There are billions of people who will never meet you that can say thank you for studying up climate works.

Not to mention all the other work you did at the Packard Foundation. Uh, you’ve touched millions and millions of people in a positive way, and you’ll never say it or copted because you’re a modest mid westerner. But my goodness, Chris and Eric, what a conversation that was awesome.

Eric: Well, that was really fun.

And uh, yeah, I just, I really cherish Chris. If it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you. And for that I am deeply grateful, but I’m also grateful the work that he’s doing and the work that he will do.

Kirk: Awesome. Well, thank you, Eric. Thank you, Chris, and thank you all for listening.

We’ll see you next time on Let’s Hear It.


Kirk: Okay, everybody. That’s it for this episode. Please let us know if you have any thoughts about what you heard today or people we should have on this show, and that definitely includes yourself. And we’d like to thank…

Eric: Our indefatigable producer, Harper Brown.

Kirk: John Allee, the tuneful and inspiring composer of our theme music.

Eric: Our sponsor, the Lumina Foundation.

Kirk: And please check out Lumina’s terrific podcast, Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Talent, and you can find that at

Eric: We certainly thank today’s guest, and of course, all of you.

Kirk: And most importantly, thank you, Mr. Brown.

Eric: Oh, no, no, no, no. Thank you, Mr. Brown.

Kirk: Okay, everybody, till next time.