Jacob Harold Transcript
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Kirk: And we’re back. Welcome in. It’s ni. Let’s hear it. Glad you found us.
Kirk Brown. Glad you’re here. Mr. Brown. Glad you’re
Eric: here. How you doing, Eric? You know what this is? This is the [00:01:00] beginning. I think if I’m not entirely mistaken, and heaven knows I might be of season five, .
Kirk: He might be. It’s either
Eric: season. Is it season? Is it season four, five? It
Kirk: might be season four. I’m not sure.
might season. We’re gonna have to go back and check.
They’re all blurring together this week.
Eric: It’s seasoned something, but it’s a fresh season. It’s seasoned. Something of of, and 70, 70 something. Episodes of.
Kirk: Let’s, and clearly we have, we have our own schedule for doing this, and this schedule is what is, which I think is right.
That’s the right way to do it. The right way to think of we’re doing the the best we can, which is more than enough. I think. It’s more than enough. So, yeah. Well, congratulations, Eric. You’ve had a lot of good ideas in your career, but this is by far the best doing. Let’s hear it with by far, your best
Eric: total inspiration.
The, the, the king of passive aggression. Yeah. , make your crazy idea. Make some, make some other schmo. Think it was his, so that he somehow manages to adopt it without realizing that he has been [00:02:00] snookered. Yes, it was my great idea, Kirk. All right. Being season 11, Let’s hear it right
Kirk: cuz you could never
Eric: stop.
Once you get started, you could never stop. So it’s a joy to
Kirk: see you again, my friend. Great to see you again and great to listen to this conversation. This is a very appropriate way to start the season, whatever season this is. This is a really great discussion and take us into this because this is a, this is an outstanding way to kick things off.
There’s gonna, this is gonna set the stage I think for a lot of conversations this year. Actually. I
Eric: spoke with Jacob Harold. , who is the author of the A Truly Painful and wonderful new book called The Toolbox Strategies for Crafting Social Impact, published by Wiley and Hot Off the Presses. And Jacob, her was the c e O of GuideStar.
Mm-hmm. . And then he was the Executive Vice President of Candid when it merged with the Foundation Center. and he is a former colleague of mine from the Helo Foundation where he was, [00:03:00] he ran the, uh, philanthropy or he, he was a program officer in the philanthropy program. Jacob is one of the most thoughtful, intelligent, deep, deep, deep thinkers in a good way about philanthropy and the nonprofit sector.
And he took his however many decades of experience and he rolled it into this really interesting. New book about how do you, what are the tools? Encompass or what are some of the tools in he, in our conversation, he acknowledged that there’s a lot more tools, but these are the nine that he focused on to make social change, and we had what, like the many conversations that we had in the hallways of the Heah Foundation.
I think a fun and interesting and freewheeling conversation about how do you make change. You can
Kirk: find jacob@jacobharold.com where you can actually go and download the book and even download a free preview of it if you want to [00:04:00] there. And you can find Jacob on Twitter if you’re still hanging out in that space at Jacob c Herald.
Uh, this is terrific. Jacob Herald is a true, I think, giant at this point in our field. He’s done so much good and interesting work. Jacob, thank you for coming on. Let’s hear it. And Eric, thank you for doing this. This is great conversation. So we’ll listen and we’ll come back and talk. This is Jacob Herd on.
Let’s hear it.
Eric: Welcome to Let’s Hear It. My guest today is none other than Jacob Herald. Jacob is an author, a social change strategist, and most recently co-founder and executive vice president of Candid. Before that, he was the president and CEO of GuideStar, and now he is the author of an Amazing, and I’m not making this up, new book called The Toolbox Strategies for Crafting Social Impact, published by Wiley Hot Off the Presses.
Jacob Herold, thank you so much for coming on.
Jacob Harold: Eric. It is great to be here. It has. Too long [00:05:00] since you and I have sat down to plot and scheme. I was thinking probably been a decade. . You now have gray hair. I have gray hair on my head and my beard .
Eric: I have less on my head.
Jacob Harold: So time has passed, but, but here
Eric: we are.
Here we are. And you have, I’ve been told you’ve been sitting in a room for three, the last three years and you’re finally, now I’m relearning
Jacob Harold: how to talk. Um, I mean, you know, like all of us, I’ve been home a lot since the pandemic. Um, you know, I also had the complexity of the merger, which. Led to shifting where I was at any given moment, which team I was working with, what I was working on.
And then for the last 10 months I’ve been sitting in this room writing and marketing the book. So I’m, I’m Reremembering how to talk to people. ,
Eric: that’s, well, you know, I think there’s no better place to learn how to talk to people then on a podcast , because, you know, What could possibly go wrong? . Oh, oh. Uh, another thing that I did not mention in the Open is that the [00:06:00] nonprofit Times named you to its Power and Influence Top 50 list, seven years in a row.
That is awesome. Amount of power and influence. What did that feel like? Did you get a different, they sent you a little different thingy every year. And do you have them on the shelf? So ,
Jacob Harold: I do have, you know, a little, what are they made out of? Loose. A little Lucite sculpture from each year. I have not unpacked them from the, my old candid office.
Whoa. Um, I’m not sure if my wife wants them displayed in our house. I
Eric: got the, like, so, okay. So that’s power and influence. , you’re so powerful and influential that you don’t even need to unpack the Lucite award. If, like, if I got one. Well, I’m, so if I got one for, for, for, let’s hear it. Let’s just, , I would, I would probably, I would have multiple copies made and, and have them put all around the.
Because that would be, I,
Jacob Harold: I’d support that. Some of them are better than others. I would say ,
Eric: that would be a visible sign of grace actually, when Paul Brass, our [00:07:00] former boss at the Hewlett Foundation mm-hmm. , when he got his, I think I stole it. And I would , I would, I put my name on it and then like, if I had someone on my team I liked, I would put their name on it, let them hold it.
And so it was . I, I thought it was kind of nice to be able to, to share power and I. That that, I mean, that
Jacob Harold: was generous of Paul and I. I will say though, speaking of your team, changing the names of things, one thing that I remember from our time at Hewlett Yes. Was, you know, people would call and ask Paul breasts to speak at a conference or be on a panel and Paul would be busy of course, cuz he was president of a multi-billion dollar foundation.
He would say, uh, let’s send Jacob. And, you know, this happened over and over and over again, until your colleague Megan made me new business cards where she changed my title to Constellation Prize,
Everything else was the same. Same bba, same phone number, but really Jacob is the Hewlett Foundation, constellation Prize, Jacob Harold. [00:08:00] Plan
Eric: B . Yeah, I, well, I think that those people probably got a very nice consolation prize. I, I hope so. I hope so. Uh, so I wanna talk about this book. You, you’ve been around the block, uh, as where you were at Bridgespan, you were at the Heah Foundation as a, as a grant maker.
Then you went on to be c e O. At GuideStar. And then you talked about the merger with Foundation Center, which became candid again. I’m sure you saw all aspects of that. The business of nonprofits and you know, so many different angles at it and you are a thinker of big thoughts. And I know I know this for a fact because I ended up inheriting your.
on which there was a whiteboard that had the wall of wallow thinking, I believe it was at little did I know at the time that that wallow thinking would end up being synthesized into a book that made my head hurt. And I say that with, [00:09:00] with maybe the highest compliment I can pay something if it makes my head hurt.
That’s actually a good thing. There’s a maybe some kind of. I don’t know, psychologists might have enjoyed looking into that, but y you’ve written a book about what, what you call strategies for crafting social impact that combine to my mind, uh, what you’ve learned over the years. Is that , is that a fair assessment?
I, I
Jacob Harold: mean, it absolutely is. And you know, my, the particular course of my career has been unique in some ways, and one is that I’ve just been really blessed to get to see a lot of ways of thinking about. Creating Good. I worked as a community organizer. I studied complex system science in China. Um, I went to business school and then when we were at the Hewlett Foundation, we were so lucky because we would have a world famous behavioral economist come and give a talk at lunch.
Eric: Exactly. And then I remember that. And when you got into your, your chapter of behavioral economics, I went, I went straight to it. Okay. Sorry, I [00:10:00] interrupted. Keep talking cuz you’re, but, but sort of.
Jacob Harold: Exactly. Right. And then, and then, you know, you and the communications team ran these great communications trainings and Andy Goodman would come and tell us about storytelling.
And then, you know, the next week someone would come in with, Uh, you know, a great analysis of new mathematical models for thinking about social change. And then we would cross the street and go over to Stanford and hang out at the design school. And like, we were just so lucky to get to experience these different ways of thinking about doing good in the world, and not everybody had that privilege.
And so I, I wanted to share that. But there’s a, there’s a twist to all this though, which is, Even as I was so excited and, and blessed to get to see all these different approaches, I was also frustrated that so many people in philanthropy had their one thing and they viewed everything through that one lens and it just doesn’t work.
The world’s too complicated for that. We need multiple lenses and, and so I simultaneously wanted to celebrate these tools as a group [00:11:00] while also gently criticizing those who only look through. View of the world.
Eric: That’s funny cuz I was thinking, I was looking at, I was looking at the books and I was looking at the chapter Hanks like, where’s communications?
And then I started reading, ah, I’m busted, um, . And it’s not
But the other thing is, okay then here’s how I redeem myself and my ilk. Uh, which is that communications flows through. Everything that you are talking about in your book and, and perhaps, if you don’t mind, I’m just gonna run down the list of things. Great. Yep. Because we certainly won’t have time to get to them all, but you have chapters associated with the following.
subjects or approaches, I guess you could say are tools, storytelling, mathematical modeling. Wh which, that made my head hurt, but not in a good way. Uh, there are a lot of formulas that I didn’t understand. Behavioral economics [00:12:00] design thinking, and I have things that I have feelings about that community organizing game theory, which I found fascinating.
Markets, complex systems and institutions, and what you have done in such an amazing way is to help us all understand the roles that each of these things or approaches. Plays in social change. And I, like I said, we won’t go through all of them, but to my mind, I believe that understanding what it is you’re trying to achieve, who it is, if they do the thing that you are hoping that they do, you will feel good or you will feel like you got closer to your goal, what those people care about.
Or in some instances, the people who represent institutions, how do we communicate or. To those people in one way or the other. That’s what communications is to me and to, so it feels to me like communications flows through each of the aspects of, of Oh, [00:13:00] the components of, of your book. So then I felt better.
Jacob Harold: and I think that’s right and it’s not, and it’s. It’s more than just communications that flows through. I would say ethics flows through and there’s a chapter before the tool chapters about ethics. Yeah. I would say leadership flows through, um, and then, you know, strategy sort of writ large flows through and there’s a, there’s a chapter on, on strategy where we talk about questions like, you know, who’s your target and can you, can you be clear?
How do you learn along the way, et cetera. Right. Um, so there are these sort of cross-cutting, uh, elements in addition to these tools. And one thing that’s important is, You know, nobody can wrap their mind around all nine tools all the time for every situation. It, it, it’s a, it, it’s a menu that we can choose from according to what’s most relevant for what we’re trying to accomplish.
There are some core things that we can’t give up on, like clarity, like compassion, like having the courage to actually have some ambition, but the humility to recognize that we’re not gonna be able to know all the. Those things are not [00:14:00] negotiable, but what it, what we can be flexible about is what’s the mental model we use for how the world works, or what is the best leverage point for achieving the change we want to see,
Eric: well, you have this quote in here, which either I think you might have been cribbing from Yoda, although the syntax is a little too good.
You say if you have a goal, but no logic, you have only, you have only desire if you have resources, but no logic. You have only potential if you have logic. But no goal. You are only a. Strategy is the logic we use to allocate our resources to achieve a goal. Was that Yoda? Did you take that from Yoda?
Jacob Harold: I, I, you know, I’m, I’m sure I was subconsciously influenced by Yoda.
I have been for many, many decades. But no, that, that was just my, that was my frame.
Eric: it, I it, I may ink it on my arm or something like that. Like,
Jacob Harold: I mean, , thank you. It, I, I would be honored .
Eric: But, uh, so although you say that, so strategy is the logic we use, and yet you say that [00:15:00] strategy is a component. Of social change, but not the, I don’t know.
It is, it is not the, the, the central organizing principle per se. Is that correct? And can you kind of locate strategy in the context of your entire view of housing?
Jacob Harold: Yeah, I mean, so you know, the definition I have of social change is work we do to make a better world, which is a very general definition, but you know, it, I think it actually captures the essence of it strategy.
How we do that is the logic that we use to organize our activities or our resources to actually achieve the goal. And, and that’s the thing, there’s a lot of social change that is work to make a better world that doesn’t get anything done. It’s still work. It’s not impact, but it’s work. Right? And you know, without that logic, I think you might get really lucky.
But usually, , you know, you’re not gonna get that far. Uh,
Eric: were there things that you considered that you did not include? Oh, for sure. Yeah. Ways of approaches to work and things like that. And why?
Jacob Harold: I mean, so, um, and there, there were a bunch of ’em that I ended up including [00:16:00] in various ways. , but they did, I didn’t call ’em their own tool.
So military strategy is a, you know, throughout human history, there’s probably been more attention on military strategy than maybe any other kind of strategy. You know, art comes up throughout, but I, that could deserve its own chapter for sure. Um, uh, religion and sort of contemplation could deserve its own chapter.
And then some of these cross-cutting things like, like evaluation or communications, I think. Absolutely could. So yeah, I’m already kind of thinking, you know, could there be a sequel where I have, you know, another set of tools. Another one that I thought about having as sort of an independent tool, but instead I tried to weave through, was basically.
for lack of a better term, critical race theory, but really more broadly just applying and understanding that identity matters in politics and in and in life. You know? So, so there’s, and I would, I encourage readers and everyone to add their own tools. The book is systematic, but it’s not comprehensive. So you’re already thinking about
Eric: the second album?
I’m thinking
Jacob Harold: about the second album. Oh, the, all the song, the sophomore effort, yeah. . [00:17:00] Eric: I, you know, I’m not at all surprised that you wrote this book. I could see. Back in the day, even early on before you were a big shot, c e o, the wheels were turning. But was there a moment where you realized that the, that the, the gears had fit into place that, that you now had what you thought you needed in order to try and pull this together into a single approach?
Jacob Harold: So, you know, the interesting thing is, I first wrote a proposal for this book when I was at Hewlett, not. before I was a ceo and it, and, and so I had the basic framework and the idea, what I didn’t have was the time and I didn’t maybe yet have the confidence to put it down as definitively as I maybe wanted to.
So, you know, going through the almost decade of be, of being c e o of GuideStar and, and helping to start candid. Gave me a lot of that kind of trial by fire, I guess. But it also gave me the time and you know, towards the [00:18:00] end, towards the very end, you know, I had more flexibility at Candid to get, to really start writing.
And then this year once, you know, I was a full-time writer, but it’s been percolating for a long time, you know, and, and I think that actually on the one hand, I wish I could have, you know, gotten it published 10 years ago. But on the other hand, I think it made it better that I’ve been thinking through and kind of massaging the ideas.
A long time. Well, I want,
Eric: we’re gonna take a very quick break and be back with Jacob, Jacob Harrod in the second half. Talk about, uh, a million questions. We’ll see if we can see how many of ’em we can get out, but we’ll be right back with Jacob Harrod, you’re listening to, let’s Hear It, a podcast about foundation and non-profit communications hosted by Kirk Brown.
And. Eric Brown, let’s hear. It is sponsored by the Communications Network, which connects, gathers, and informs the field of leaders working in communications for good. Because foundations and nonprofits that communicate well are stronger, smarter, and vastly more effective. You can find, let’s hear it online at Let’s hear it cast.com or on Twitter.
[00:19:00] Let’s hear it cast. Thanks for listening. And now back to the show. And we are back with Jacob Harrell, the author of The Toolbox, strategies for Crafting Social Impact and former c e o of GuideStar. Former co-founder of Candid, my former colleague at the Hewlett Foundation, uh, Jacob, before the break, I mean you were talking about, about how you, these ideas had been percolate.
For 10 years. But in, in the book, you also kind of recognize the, as you say, the sort of the narrow sightedness of, of having a, a particular investment and a particular strategy. You said that you had fallen into some of those traps when you were a Hewlett. So in a sense, perhaps it’s a good thing you didn’t write it back then, but can you talk just a little bit about where you felt.
What, what you learned in the, in the period since then. Like at the time you, I think you were really [00:20:00] excited about behavioral economics, for example, and saw that as a really important tool, which it is. But wh where did you start to see that we have a fixation on particular strategies that that, that can narrow our view and limit our opportunity for, for achieving real change?
I mean, the truth is
Jacob Harold: I first saw. Um, right after college when I worked as a grassroots organizer and, you know, there was a, a philosophy, almost a strategic ideology within the particular community of organizations I was working in, that this was the way to make social change. You organize power and you pressure those who have.
Have power to do things better. And I’m convinced that’s one of the most important mechanisms of social change one of, and you know, history certainly plays that out, but it was also clear to me as a 21 year old that I wasn’t the only one. Um, so, you know, I, that I think that, Vampire like character of being afraid [00:21:00] of silver bullets, you know, had been around for a while.
And then when I was at the, you know, the, the, the privileged position of being at a foundation where lots of people are coming and making their pitches. You, you begin to see the pattern of, you know, everyone has their one. , they’re one frame. And then I saw it reflected in the airport bookstore where, you know, , every book is like the one thing, you know, the one new lens.
Um, and, you know, they’re just not very synthetic. They’re, it’s very much like, here’s the, the one thing as opposed to here’s the many things in a complex world. Um, but it wasn’t in some ways until I was a CEO where I, I really saw the, you know, the rubber hit the road in two ways. One, as a CEO. , you’re kind of in charge of everything and nothing.
And it is the only way you can succeed is if you are weaving together a variety of different skill sets and different approaches across the functional areas of an organization. Um, and so that was just kind of very practical every week when we’d have the leadership team meeting and you know, you’ve got operations and technology and finance and program [00:22:00] talking about the different aspects of the work, bringing their own lenses.
So that’s one. And then two is that unlike at a foundation, When you’re running an organization, you, you kind of don’t have excuses when things don’t go wrong and you can’t kind of dodge some of that responsibility in quite the same way that we, of course would never do at the Hewlett Foundation, but certainly not.
But other, other foundations, you know, have certainly been accused of, um, being the least accountable institutions in American society, that being both their greatest strength and their greatest weakness. But, you know, an operating nonprofit, especially one like GuideStar that was rely. on earned revenue for the bulk of its income.
It just has to deal with reality, you know? And reality does not yield to overly simplistic frameworks. I
Eric: would love to get a sense of what you think of philanthropy once you stepped out of it, stepped out of the inside of the whale, and where do you see. . I mean, right now we’re having a, a great big debate.
I mean, we’ve always had this debate about the, the role of [00:23:00] philanthropy and in many senses how overprivileged it is. But ha have you taken it, have you learned anything new about philanthropy from not working inside a foundation? I’m sure I have.
Jacob Harold: I, I, I, I don’t know if I can distill that into a simple answer.
What I can say is, you know, my experiences working with foundations, Since I left one, have been mostly positive. Um, you know, there have been a few cases where I spent a whole lot of time and wasted a lot of, you know, staff energy. Pursuing something that was just a total waste of everyone’s time. But for the most part, you know, the, the folks I work with are really trying their best.
They’re often very smart. They’re making connections, they’re providing capital. They’re trying to get better. I mean, the fact that the foundation community really changed the way it did grant making during the early part of the pandemic, um, shifting a lot of project grants to general operating support, you know, releasing other kinds of operational restrictions.
What’s just a sign of the, the, the community. trying to do better and is willing to move. [00:24:00] Usually it’s too slow, but it is capable of that kind of change. And similarly, I think the, the way that the racial reckoning has shown up in philanthropy and the way it has made its way through different institutions and forced a recognition of historical patterns of, of injustice.
I, I think it’s really healthy. That doesn’t mean we’re done, but like at least I. We’re showing a sense, a possibility of improvement. So I, you know, I’m still on team philanthropy. I’m still pro philanthropy. . I, uh, I am, yes, I kind of figured,
Eric: um, I wasn’t trying to get you to say something nasty,
Jacob Harold: I promise, but, you know, that that doesn’t mean that we can’t both, you know, point out the places where philanthropy really needs to do better.
Um, and you know, that to me is also separate from a broader question about inequality in society, which philanthropy ends up being a consequence of. I don’t really think it’s a cause of that inequality, but it is definitely a consequence of it and it ends up intertwined with, with, you know, the very real issues of inequality and in particular wealth inequality.
So, I mean, we have to address those things, [00:25:00] um, and we have to go faster. Um, and there are a lot of things I wish philanthropy would do better, but I. Further convinced of the goodness of philanthropy, .
Eric: Okay. That was a nice answer. Well, well done. When you were, again, I was, I’m, I’m just looking right now at the, at the list of things that you, that you have devoted a lot of time to, do you see how they fit together?
I mean, this probably isn’t even a fair question, but to. Mind, is there a, a way to bring all these things together, or do you just, are they just tools learn, take them for what they are, take them in and, and let them play out however you, however you might synthesize them, or do you, or do you see things fitting together in a certain way or potentially in a certain way?
I mean,
Jacob Harold: the short answer is no, I don’t, I, I just think the world is too complex. It’s changing too fast. There’s too much ambiguity and volatility around us for anyone to have the perfect. For anyone to see how it all [00:26:00] fits together. If we acknowledge that reality, we can either throw up our hands and say, oh, well, we’re screwed, or we can say, and yet we have this abundance.
Of ways of thinking, of ways of acting, of, of resources, of people, of history, of culture that we can work with. And you know, that to me is exci is even more exciting in a way. So it, it, it’s, it’s not a hopeless statement that, no, I don’t have a blueprint, I don’t think anyone does. Um, in fact, it’s a hopeful statement that what we do have are tools and that is.
And history has shown this over and over again. That’s enough to transform things. And now we have more tools and we have more clarity around them. And we have millions and millions and millions of people who are employed full-time to make a better world. And like how amazing is that, you know, in the nonprofit sector, but also in government, also in the business world.
And like we as a society have figured out how to make it a profess. to make the world better. And you know, that is this incredible victory that humanity has somehow rung out of history. And [00:27:00] we haven’t celebrated it. But it’s hard because, you know, there’s people, millions of people like us who’ve made this a career.
and yet, you know, we still have tr trouble explaining our job at Thanksgiving dinner. Um, , there’s no kind of professional name to describe what millions of people do. My hope is that now that that’s solidified, we can begin to solidify, you know, some of the techniques. Just as you know, people have figured out how to be good doctors over the centuries.
Um, people have figured out how to be good carpenters over the centuries. And you know, I think whatever you call this work that we do, whether we are social change agents or social change professionals, or what, I, I’m pretty unsatisfied with all the terminology that, you know, it is a, it’s not just a calling, it’s a job and there are ways to
Eric: do it better.
The solution to the Thanksgiving problem is just have Thanksgiving with your
coworkers. .
Jacob Harold: Maybe I should try that. Yes.
Eric: Don’t invite your parents. Don’t . I’ve told the story a million times. My father-in-law called over to HP once when Meg Whitman was installed as [00:28:00] CEO because he wanted to ask me about my new boss, and they told him that Eric Brown didn’t work there and he called my wife and said, I think your husband’s been fired.
Exactly. One of my favorite stories of brand confusion, . Uh, another imponderable question that you will answer better than I asked. How do you think people should or could use this book? Well,
Jacob Harold: one, I would say this could be the first book that someone reads about social change strategy, but it’s probably gonna be the second, you know, it’s probably gonna be the third
It is more sophisticated, but that’s cuz I believe people can be sophisticated and that humans are fully capable of at least trying to wrap their minds around complexity, not doing it perfect. Doing a good enough job to get stuff done. So what I would hope is that people would read it and seed their minds with ways of thinking that will show up in ways that they can’t necessarily predict.
One thing I would urge people not to do is read the book and think, I have to apply everything in this, all nine [00:29:00] tools all the time. That’s impossible. Instead, I’m trying to think about how to launch this new program, and I’m pretty sure. , behavioral economics and mathematical modeling are gonna be the two things that really matter, or it’s really gonna be about storytelling and complex systems and you know, to.
to use those to help to guide you. Um, and I’m actually built, I’m writing up a field guide right now to help people with sort of a series of worksheets essentially to apply this. Um, but I also think, you know, and we learned this from the psychologist who would show up at the Hewlett Foundation, that it is possible to seed the mind with ideas that show up later.
Um, and that we have to seed our minds with ideas from strategy. Um, if we wanna ta tackle complex problem,
Eric: Yeah, I, I agree. Uh, I, it, as I was reading this, I was thinking this a, it’s a great textbook for social change, a course on social change. If there are any professors out there, , get the book and you’ll [00:30:00] see it will do a lot of your work for you because, It’ll help you teach your course.
It can help you teach any one of these courses of the nine. But, but, uh, certainly in social change, helping to understand how these pieces might fit together in, in the context of a particular strategy. For example, uh, the other thing then, I was thinking that I’ve never done mood altering acid or anything like that, but I think microdosing, uh, some kind of, uh, psilocybin or something like that and reading the mathematical modeling.
Chapter might be an an interesting and entertaining exercise, ,
Jacob Harold: and maybe there’s a way to just microdose the book. You know, just read one chapter, .
Eric: It’s like you, you’d have a hit of Mickey Mouse acid and what, and look at the, the symbols on the mathematical modeling page come to life and maybe they’ll make a picture and then you will see God, and that will be that.
So I think that there are some, potentially some, uh, applications to this book that you have not yet concentrated, but that might be one . Like I said, I’ve never done that. If, if I were to do it, that would be, I think that’s how I [00:31:00] would do that. As, as we kind of wrap up here, most of the folks listening, or many of the folks listening are communications people, but almost everybody is working on social change in one, one way or the other.
If there are a couple of lessons that you would leave people with, maybe they’re inside the book, but maybe they’re just the product of your many decades in, in this business, what, what do you tell them? How do you mentor people who come to you and say, I just, I’m, I’m curious to learn more. What do I need to know or how can I approach my work to make the best of it?
Jacob Harold: Um, I mean, I, I sort of off the top of my head, a few things I’ll mention. One is just the image of a spiral. And I talk about this in the strategy chapter, but it’s not just, you know, A circle of learning and doing, it’s a spiral that’s going somewhere. And that, um, you know, it’s very helpful to imagine that point at the end of the spiral and to hold onto that goal tightly, but to hold on loosely to how you’re gonna get there and to be ready for that, that ride.
Um, and, and to know that that’s possible. That, that’s one thing I’d mentioned. You know, [00:32:00] another is to take some solace in the fact that. Now millions of people whose job it is to make the world better. Um, and that, you know, we’re not alone. And in fact, society is empowering us in some pretty cool ways. And then third, and this is sort of riffing off of the values at GuideStar, adapt to just a bit, is it just alliteration?
Forgive the alliteration, but courage, compassion, collaboration, curiosity. clarity, if you bring those C words to your work, and those are both moral and strategic, right? You know, a word like clarity is, it’s somewhat moral, but it’s really more a, a strategic word. Same for collaboration, um, and curiosity.
And, and, but then that’s infused with the kind of moral power of compassion and courage. I, I just kind of think we can’t go wrong in a way, but you, you, this is one place where you do need them all. Like, if you are not curious enough to wanna learn new ways of thinking, to hear what your constituents have to say, you’re gonna run into a wall.
And if you’re not [00:33:00] courageous enough to try and do something meaningful, you’re not gonna accomplish anything meaningful. . And if you’re not compassionate, you’re a jerk. And if you’re not , and if you’re not clear, you’re just gonna confuse everyone around you. And if you’re not collaborative, then you’re probably not gonna get anything done because the world’s too complicated to get much done alone.
And so those five Cs are, to me, those are must haves. Which of the nine tools you want to apply, you know, that’s up to you and your
Eric: sense of the. . Well, I, I have to say Jacob, that you are each one of those Cs I, I I and I mean that sincerely. You are. I am not just blowing smoke cuz, cuz you have been, uh, one of the most thoughtful and, and caring.
Colleagues of mine over the years and, and I’m not at all surprised that if you were to tie it up into a nice little bow, that that’s how you would do it. I, I really appreciated this book. I’m gonna go back and read it a few more times cuz it is, is one of these things like a lot of. Things [00:34:00] that you learn over, over the years, you, you have to spend some time with it.
And I have to read it really fast in order to interview you . So it’s possible I didn’t go as deep as I, I might have, but it, it’s really terrific. It really does in many ways bring together all of the things that I’ve learned over the years and that’s why I was so excited to have a chance to talk with you about it.
And I’m really excited to share this with folks out there because it, there, there is something in there that will absolutely, positively. Help you do your work better and to make the world a better place, as they say on Silicon Valley. So
Jacob Harold: thank you. Well, thank you. I don’t know if you saw, but your influences in there in various ways.
Uh, is it now? And, and you know, one thing we didn’t talk about, and I know you’re trying to wrap up is you
Eric: know that No, it’s okay. We, we have electrons
Jacob Harold: are cheap. Yeah. Is that, you know, it’s full color. It has photography, it’s got lots of diagrams. There’s a, you know, clear color coding for the nine different tools, you know, visual design.
Is an essential part of communication. And you know, I tried to [00:35:00] manifest that in the, you know, in the, the book itself. Oh,
Eric: and speaking of Yoda, there’s a quote on every page, and I have no idea how you found them all. It must have , it must have been quite an experience trying to gather the absolute perfect thing to pop on each page.
But is I think it’s every
Jacob Harold: page. Almost every page. Yeah. Yeah. That. Yeah,
Eric: it’s, you know, read it for the quotes alone. People, even if you don’t read the book, just read the quotes. It’s like a way better than Bartletts. So. Well, Jacob, thank you so much. It’s great to see you, and it’s great to talk to you. And I’m, I’m, you know, congratulations on this really terrific
Jacob Harold: work.
Um, thank you Eric. So great to, to have this conversation and onward.
Kirk: And we’re back. So this is Jacob Harrell talking about the toolbox with Eric. and I wanna list the tools before we get started because, um, there’s a lot to talk about here in terms of Jacob, his background, his career, his approach, and then how that all comes together in [00:36:00] this, uh, book he’s written.
But the tools are storytelling, mathematical modeling, behavioral economics, design thinking, community organizing, game theory. Markets, complex systems and institutions. And
Jacob Harold: Eric, he had us at, hello. The very first
Kirk: tool in the toolbox storytelling
Jacob Harold: is storytelling.
Kirk: Discuss.
Eric: What do you make of that? Well, well, of course, I, uh, embarrass myself as usual by, Talking about how my own special lens communications, I didn’t like where’s the communications part in it, but the, the idea that what, like what he has said is that these, these are many components in social change and in your work, whoever you are out there listening in the wherever’s world, It’s possible that you will be focusing on one or two or three, or who knows, maybe all nine of them.
But [00:37:00] they are all the components of social change. And, and then of course you realize that there’s probably more, and that’ll maybe go into the next book. Mm-hmm. . But the idea that there is, we, we in our own minds have usually see the world through our own special lens. Mm-hmm. at the exclusion of these.
Important lenses is a really important thing to remind ourselves of. You know, we, we tend to just see the world the way we see it, and there are so many other tools that we can use in order to be able to make change. And I think that was the point of the book. That is, and, and of course the other point is that he has given so much thought to each of these things and provided such good analysis and helpful.
Ideas and things like that. And if you , if you’re not mathematical, like I am not mathematical, that section might cause your head to spin in 14 directions. The mathematical modeling versions, cuz there are actual [00:38:00] formulas that I do not understand . But, but, but if, if you’re in this business, you’re going to learn something by seeing something that you hadn’t thought.
and that’s what makes this book so interesting and so cool.
Kirk: Well, and Jacob has had this incredible career. You know, he gets. Started in philanthropy. He had done other things before, but he, you know, comes to the Hewlett Foundation where he’s leading a 30 million grant making initiative. Right. This is not chump change that he’s doing there.
Right. And then, and then he, and then he leaves from that. And I always, and I always think it’s so interesting to think about these transitions, you know, leading Hewlett then to going to GuideStar, GuideStar merges with the foundation. My gosh, I’d love to, you know, put a couple drinks into Jacob and just talk about that.
Right. What a process that it must have been interesting. And then that becomes candid, which requires a $45 million capital raise to make that happen, which he is. As key part party in making that happen. And why can you generate, you know, 45 million to support this new [00:39:00] institution because 20 million people per year use the resources that, that, you know, Jacob is compiling and helping compile with these, with these institutions.
And so he’s had this enormous background with all this work and as I was looking at this, you know, set of tools, it’s nine of them. And they’re not ranked order. He doesn’t say number one is the best. Right. He’s just putting ’em out. No, no, no. But I wondered. If this book had been written 10 years ago, or 15 or 20 years ago, what tools would’ve been in the toolbox?
And I think storytelling is the number one tool. I think that’s actually something that’s emerged for philanthropy at scale. Something that’s thought about deeply just in the last 10 years. What do you think about that?
Eric: Maybe so, but storytelling in a vacuum doesn’t get you where you need to go. Sure.
Yeah. And that’s the point. I think that’s the point of the book that you have to understand what markets the, your work is existing in. What are the complex systems that lead to change in those. In those contexts, who are the institutions that matter the most [00:40:00] in, in terms in the, the concept of design thinking.
So what is your audience, how do you think about creating programs or projects or products that that audience or whoever it is you’re attempting to reach, can use community organizing? Of course we have, uh, we really understand how do you help to aggregate power in ways that it hadn’t. That didn’t have access to it before and so on.
So I think storytelling is one of those things that informs all of that. But you could go out and tell all the stories you want, but if you don’t understand how change Right. Gets made. Yep. Who cares. So I think that’s, that, that’s kind of the point of this book, and it’s the point of, of where Jacob has come after all the, all these years, it’s like, oh, okay, I see how all these pieces could fit together.
They don’t, you don’t need all nine in every single initiative you do or every project that you operate, but you have to understand how these components contribute to social change. Yeah, I, I think that frankly, if you can’t [00:41:00] tell a good. It’s possible that you can’t succeed in many of these areas because you have to be able to communicate to, to whatever audience you’re trying to communicate with in ways that move them.
Yeah. That inspire them to action, that encourage them to engage with you and so on. So I think storytelling, isn’t it? Storytelling is an important component of any important strategy, but in the absence of a real understanding of how. Work. Your storytelling is, uh, a nice . It won’t get you there.
Kirk: Well, and it’s, it’s remarkable because it’s so difficult to get started isn’t, isn’t it?
And I think that that’s sort of what’s in the backdrop of this is that it’s so difficult to get started. We hear regularly in our travels too that it’s harder to find fundable projects than it is to find money. So, you know, connecting good work to Good Resources Act is actually maybe surprisingly one of the most difficult things to do.
So I almost feel like there’s a [00:42:00] missing first tool here, which is just getting started. You know, you just need to get started. And then, and then what I took these tools to be were invitations to poke at your approach, you know, test your approach given this different kind of thinking. Because you’re right, like he talks about communications flows through everything.
Ethics and strategy flow, everything. Well. An inherent aspect of, of strategy, I would say would be to actually run your thinking against these different considerations and just ask yourself these questions. You know, are we telling stories persuasively enough? Are we actually clear about the evidence space, the math behind all this?
You know, the behavioral stuff. So I loved it from that standpoint and even from a pure communications approach, right? You’re sitting in the comms team for a foundation or a nonprofit. I actually feel like you could grab these tools. And think, okay, well, in what way are we actually leaning into these tools as communicators?
Because these are all parts of things we should be trying to activate if we’re trying to encourage social change. .
Eric: Yeah. Oh, I, I totally agree. And uh, again, for somebody who [00:43:00] doesn’t have a facility with say, mathematical modeling, you’ll take a look at that chapter and it’ll make your head spin. You might get a little nauseous, and then you’ll go back and go, okay, there’s, I actually got something out of this
And there’s just so much that we can learn. Mm-hmm. the I, but I wanna tell you the thing that I, that I came away from my convers. Jacob feeling good about, Hmm. That, so a lot of times I, I, you know, read the paper, I look at my work or I look at the world and I go, oh my God, there’s so many nonprofit organizations out there and they’re doing so much work, spending so much money and time and effort.
And I think to myself, is this actually even remotely efficient? ? Is this how. Societies should be set up in which you have to create all these rump groups that are pushing at the edges to try and make things better. Why don’t we set up a system in which that stuff gets addressed in the first place? Hmm.
And I think that, and I get a little depressed. [00:44:00] Hmm. But then Jacob, he, he said that, Basically, there are millions of people out there. He takes solace in the fact, right, that there are millions of people out there who are trying to make the world better. Yeah, they’re paid for it. We have established an infrastructure for it, and that that’s going to produce something of, of real value.
And I, I extrapolated that a. To mean that we’re actually going to discover and solve and address things that we hadn’t thought of. Yeah. That you can’t set up to address that. Having all of these millions of people out there, and I think basically everyone is listening to this podcast, is working in the nonprofit social change sector.
Right. That you are out there. Working to, to make the world better, however you wanna define it, and you are gonna do something that you hadn’t thought you were gonna do. Yeah. And, and that there is just no way [00:45:00] to plan for that other than to have this. Universe of people who are working in that way. And so rather than having a system in which you have government solving problems and businesses making money, and never the twain shall meet, and that’s kind of it, we have this incredibly rich third sector or fourth or fifth sector in which people are just, they’re they, they wake up in the morning thinking, making positive change.
And I, I honestly hadn’t thought about it in that way. And that was the thing I took away from this conversation and that man that actually put a little spring in my step, like, oh, wait a minute. We don’t, in this ridiculously, weirdly messed up. Society in which we have to try and plug holes from the outside and waste a lot of time and effort that this is actually going to make us better, that we’re more than the, whatever the sum of our parts.
Right. No be, that’s, that’s, that’s my optimistic
Kirk: feel for the day. Well, and this is the benefit of [00:46:00] people like Jacob who get to look across the entire field and come to those conclusions, right? Because he’s seen the depth and breadth of it in so many different ways and, and I would see you and raise you on that.
It’s not even just that millions of people are doing it, but it’s a. Occupation. It’s a real profession, and there’s a real rigor to it. There’s real rigor, and I think that that’s what the toolbox really brings us to. It’s like actually there’s rigor to what’s happening. Even if you’re just sitting on one part of it, I’m the community organizing part of it.
Or you know, we work more on the complex systems of the institution’s piece, or we’re in the com shop, so we’re really, we’re really the storytellers. There’s real rigor to what’s behind this. And I think that, you know, when I first got started in nonprofit work, that idea was not so obvious. It was almost like nonprofit was the island.
You knew there was rigor , right? It was the island you hung out on, you know, if you were like trying to stay away from a day job. So I have a new great idea for you because I know you just have tons of time. So, so did excellent. Didn’t, didn’t you say that one of our, your close friends and one of our dear listen, Did you say he’s a playwright or something like that?
Did you [00:47:00] say? Yes.
Eric: Marty ela. Hey Marty. So
Kirk: Marty and Eric, you guys need to work on something together because you, you, there was this great little exchange right in the middle, this nugget where Jacob was talking about first, you know, you don’t wanna fall into the trap of just like, Be just in one silver bullet of methodology.
Right. You can’t just fall into one. Right. But then he said, and one of the things you come to when you’re at a major foundation and everyone comes in with their pitches. Yep. And you just get so used to getting pitched and pitched and pitched and pitched. In fact, that’s your job is to sit at a chair and have people come in.
The stakes are so high. Those people, the fact they even got your time, they. Hours preparing. They’re gonna, this is like the 30 minutes, the 45 minutes. This is literally like Hollywood pitching at its highest art. You know, coming in and trying to pitch a network, trying to pitch Netflix. Like if you’ve done nonprofit fundraising, you know exactly what it is to go into a, a development staff person and try to ring a bell and try to get an [00:48:00] idea.
Up the chain because it’s gonna take multiple rounds of conversation and multiple people to say yes for any penny to hit any strategy in the philanthropic space. So I want you guys to write the one act, the short story, whatever, about all of those pitches. Just pitch a pitch after pitch after pitch. The short story, the the little, the play, the like.
Like what is that like? Because it’s gotta be some of the coolest human drama that you see. And the, and the truisms, the nuances that, it’s almost like if we could just record a year’s worth of pitches that have been made to every foundation, everywhere, and then play them back for everybody in philanthropy and in nonprofits, I bet the quality of those meetings would get so much better because we’d realize coming in, there’s so much stuff you don’t even need to say.
There’s so many like ticks. There’s so many like blind spots that people bring. But what do you think about that? Like what was your experience having been pitched? 30 trillion people over the course of your tenure at a major foundation, what does that turn into over time when you’re, when you’re so used to having people come in and just pitch you on [00:49:00] so many, so many different ideas.
Eric: Wow. That’s, that’s a terrible idea. Chris.
That’s all I have to say. . Yeah. I mean, when you work at a foundation, people come to you with great ideas. Yeah. Some of which you can fund and some of which you can’t. Yeah. You always learn from them if you’re, if you’re worth anything at all. But, uh, I don’t, I don’t . I think if we, if we took a, um, if, if we put a database together of all the pitches in the world, I’m not quite sure that it would save a lot of time or produce any additional value.
I, I do think, however, that the idea, and we’re seeing Mackenzie Scott doing this and other. Foundations are doing it, which is you find people whom you trust, who you think are, have talent, and you give them money and let them go do their thing. Mm-hmm. , and then you don’t have to listen to the pitches because it’s really not up to you to decide one way or the other.
Mm-hmm. , you find people who are talented and, and give them the space they, they need. , uh, to be able to try things out [00:50:00] and you hold them accountable for clarity of their approach. Mm-hmm. or the way they think, but you don’t make them say you have to produce X number of social impact widgets in order to justify another round of funding.
Mm-hmm. , because I think that that ends up producing work that doesn’t go as far as it needs to go. So in that sense, I think that we should probably dispense with a lot of the pitching. and identify the people who are, who you think have the opportunity and the ability and, and whatever, the access to, to try things and, and fund them.
I, I’m a big, I’m, I’m really seeing the value in that. I think that there’s also room in philanthropy for identifying specific things that you wanna address and putting together a team that works on that. But I also think that there’s a lot of space, and I think that’s really what this book is all about.
Is that, uh, he, he, uh, Jacob says, seed the mind with ideas that show up later, . And I think that [00:51:00] philanthropy has a responsibility to seed the mind with ideas. And you don’t exactly know what those ideas will produce, but you have some understanding that folks. Kind of the right approach can produce something that will show up later, and that ought to be good enough.
And I think that’s, we’re seeing a lot about the opportunity and the potential for philanthropy to, to produce that sort of work. And I think that’s exciting. And if you’re in the, on the receiving end of that, or if you’re, uh, a nonprofit, then I think that. These, this, this, uh, toolkit that Jacob has provided is a great way to, to continue to help you figure out how to, to, to seed those ideas,
And you’ll learn a lot. I certainly did. And as I said this, this book made my head hurt in a really good way. And, and I was, I was delighted to have a chance to talk to Jacob about it. Yeah, it’s a
Kirk: terrific contribution. And you know, as we leave, I wanna come back to those four ideas that he left you with [00:52:00] courage.
Compassion, curiosity, clarity. Those are just, you know, key benchmarks and collaboration. And collaboration and collaboration. Four, five, right? Yeah.
Eric: And five Cs. Very illiterate. Pretty pep party. Pete , but good. That’s how we remember
Kirk: things. Courage, compassion, curiosity, clarity, collaboration. It it, so he starts his book with a quote from Audrey Lorde.
The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s. and, uh, you know, he, he talks about we must apply new approaches to solve old problems, otherwise only the most narrow parameters of change are possible. That’s a warning that should echo in her minds. He says. And, and I think that this notion of courage, compassion, curiosity, clarity, collaboration, running philanthropy, running our work as, uh, as supporters of change, that’s a way that we can actually maybe safeguard ourselves from thinking that the master’s tools.
Jacob Harold: Are
Kirk: the only things that we can pick up to disman up to the house. Uh, the, the last thing, and I, this is my last challenge I give to you and Jacob. [00:53:00] Oh geez. Here we go. Can you please come up with a different name for all of us than social change agents?
Jacob Harold: Okay. I I, I don’t like any of those things. We’re
Kirk: too, I think we’re too shy to declare social, social change agents.
It’s an entirely neutral. Right social change agent. It, it, it doesn’t inherently mean it’s a good thing or a bad thing, right? We’re just in the business of change. But, um, but I think that Jacob’s giving us a tremendous resource here to actually help us think more, uh, systematically and more thoroughly about what we’re doing.
And my goodness, Jacob, what a career, what a storied career, I would say at this point for all the work that you’ve done and continue to do. And my goodness, I’m just so, so pleased, Eric, that you brought Jacob onto the podcast. This was just an awesome conversation to listen. Well,
Eric: it was great and go out. I, I mean, folks buy the book.
Yeah. You’ll need to actually have the book. It needs to sit out there cuz it’s, it’s, there’s a lot to it. It’s the sort of resource that you’ll return to time and again. And, uh, Jacob’s a great guy and like I say, I’ve known him for a long [00:54:00] time. I inherited his office at the Hewlett Foundation, . He left his, his, uh, his wall o thinking, I think it was or something.
It was a whiteboard and uh, and. Put kind of feeble attempts at thinking on it from time to time to add to Jacobs. His work is extraordinary and I, I’m excited to see what he does next because he is the sort of person that philanthropy really
Kirk: needs. So is Jacob Herold. The book is called The Toolbox. You can find it@jacobherald.com.
Buy it, download it, read it. And um, Jacob, thank you for coming on. Let’s share it. Eric, thank you for. That was
Eric: great. Thanks Kirk. Bye everybody.
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 John Ali, the
Jacob Harold: tuneful and inspiring composer of our theme music. Our
Eric: sponsors, the Communications Network and the Lumina Foundation,
Jacob Harold: and please check out Lumina’s terrific
Kirk: [00:55:00] podcast, today’s students tomorrow’s talent, and you can find that@luminafoundation.org.
Eric: Certainly thank today’s guest, and of course, all of
Kirk: you, and most importantly, thank you,
Jacob Harold: Mr.
Brown. Oh,
Eric: no, no, no, no. Thank you,
Jacob Harold: Mr. Braner. Okay, everybody, till next time, let’s hear it.