Jenn Hoos Rothberg Transcript

Kirk: Welcome to Let’s Hear It.

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

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And we’re back. Welcome in for another edition of Let’s Hear It. You’ve found us welcome on in find a seat of the couch and Mr. Brown, how you doing? What’s going on today?

Eric: I am doing as well as can be expected as they say these days, I’m a little gravelly, but I’m going to be okay, man.

Kirk: Well, I hope everyone in the world continues to recover from this ever-present thing that we’re all trying to recover from, whatever, whatever your version of that might be.

Eric: I don’t know. It’s like motorcycle riders is two kinds. Those who have gone down and those who are going down. So I would say just stockpile a little bit of cough medicine. Some thera flu or something.

Kirk: Yeah. And I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m aggressively evaluating whether or not I will ever again leave my house, but, but let’s move on.

So who do we have? Who do we have joining us today? Mr. Brown?

Eric: Today? I, I had this really terrific conversation with Jenn Hoos Rothberg who runs the Einhorn Collaborative, which is a charitable foundation. Started by David Einhorn was a venture capital guy. Who really believes that what the world needs is connection, human connection.

And Jenn has been working with David for 15 years, helping to build up this philanthropic organization and in the last year or so, she has been engaging in a project. That is that’s called a call to connection. And it is a, a call for all of us to try to address these fundamental challenges. She says, we’re in a crisis of connection that we have to address if we’re going to unlock any of the other opportunities that we have in our society.

And I, I think. It really rings true. You have to look around and see that. So much of what we are dealing with right now comes from the fact that we are feel alienated, lonely, polarized, partisan, and that so much of our politics emanates from that. And this project is a way to help us think through that, to, to understand it.

I think for foundations, it’s a way to address many of the other issues that they care about. And it’s a very interesting project. And I think we had a pretty interesting conversation.

Kirk: So you can find call to You can find more out about the work of the Einhorn

And you can find Jenn on Twitter at JennRothberg at Jenn Rothberg. And, uh, here’s Jenn from Twitter on July 21st human beings want purpose? We want meaning we want to belong to something larger than ourselves. Gorgeous essay about the human dimensions of decision making via at the New York times opinion section.

This was a wonderful conversation, Eric, and what a treat to listen to it. We’ll come back and talk after. But for now, this is Jenn Hoos Rothberg on Let’s Hear It.

Eric: Welcome to Let’s Hear It. My guest today is Jenn Hoos Rothberg, the executive director of Einhorn Collaborative, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to addressing America’s growing crisis of connection. Einhorn has just released a new report called a Call to Connection: Rediscovering the Transformative Power of Relationships. Now, I have to say that Einhorn Collaborative, which has started by a hedge fund manager named David Einhorn, a famous Mets fan for, for one, uh, you don’t usually associate hedge fund managers with people calling for connection. Can you just tell me how this got started?

Jenn: How it started from the very beginning? So first thing start at the beginning. Yeah. Sure. Well, thank you so much for having me, Eric. I so appreciate the invitation and you, uh, being enthused about the work of Einhorn Collaborative and yes, it is led by and founded by David Einhorn, who I am very lucky to have worked with.

  1. So I’ve been in this role for some time. And, uh, when I met David and I asked him, what kind of difference did he want to see in the world? He said, I want to help people get along better. And what that meant at its core was that the way people engage with one, another greatly impacts how we feel as individuals, how we engage as a society and how we solve our greatest social problems.

So at its core is relational. How we engage with one another, that it is not a nice to have. It is absolutely sacrosanct and necessary, and that’s directly tied to David and the kind of change he wants to see in the world.

Eric: How, and you’ve been, you say this was about 15 years that you’ve been doing this.

Yeah. Yeah. How did you get started? How did you end up sitting in that seat that you’re sitting in? Right. Yeah.

Jenn: I started out on the fundraising side. I have my master’s in city and regional planning. I was really focused on, um, community development, social change. I’m a social capital junkie. I’m just absolutely obsessed with how, when people come together, it leads to greater things.

And, um, and when I was getting my master’s in city planning, I really wanted to do the work. I wanted to engage in the nonprofit work and I was drawn to the nonprofit sector. And so when I was on campus, I got involved with one of the nonprofits on campus and I ended up doing fundraising because fundraising just comes really naturally.

To me, it’s the kind of thing that if you care about mission, you need resources, resources, drive, social change, and doing that work. I got to. David. And, um, we built a really nice relationship and he said, do you think you can come help me do more? Over here.

Eric: Uh, social capital junkie is, uh, yes. Yeah. That’s a

Jenn: technical

Eric: term.

Yeah. I’m sure there’s websites for that or it’s for some programs or

Jenn: something. Yes, yes. Please find me a

Eric: group. you luck with that? Like I said, David strikes me as a icon. Hedge fund type I mean, well, for starters, I, I, I just looking him up of course, finished 18th in the world series of poker. Yeah. So can you tell when he’s.

Does he have a good poker face? Are you sure what? He’s good.

Jenn: Look, I don’t play poker with him. I’ll tell you that. Um, and the benefit of his prowess, uh, poker is that every time he has winnings, they go to some of our great nonprofit partners. So it’s been a great way to bring visibility to some of the organizations that we’re involved in and bring great philanthropic resources to them.

Eric: I’m always interested in how we we’ve had this long talk in, in philanthropy, around how people who come from tech or they come from the, the business community think that they can apply business models to the nonprofit world and, and to frankly, building social capital rather than financial capital. Do you have any thoughts about whether that, when that makes sense and when it doesn’t and what you do about

Jenn: that?

I mean, if you’re asking, yeah. If you’re asking me if that’s one of the charges that I get from my trustee, it it’s not, I mean, really. Um, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t believe that there are healthy. Business practices that can and should be embedded into healthy nonprofit practice, like any business.

And we believe in investing in the core capabilities of our nonprofit partners so that they can actually achieve meaningful, measurable, sustainable results. And I am really lucky that David has enabled. His, uh, foundation team to construct the kind of philanthropic investments in organizations that enable them to build those core capabilities.

Um, and I think there’s this misnomer that we know better because we come from business. I, I don’t get that, but I do believe when I started. Um, there was a lot of belief that, you know, just this idea of buying outcomes, buying programs, and I’m a real believer in the, the buy build framework that people come into philanthropy often and say, I love what’s happening in that school.

I want to pay for it in that school and pay for it in three other schools. What’s the cost of it to be in that school times three, I write you that check, and then you don’t do it two years later. And the program goes away from those schools. Everyone knows that. Um, the problem is a lot of people come to philanthropy with that.

Assumption that you could just pay for outcomes. The distinction of where we’ve been over the last decade plus, and what David has enabled at Einhorn Collaborative is that we believe in building institutions, which means that when you build and invest in nonprofits, by providing that flexible kind of capital, that builds capacity to.

Measure outcomes have a learning culture, invest in people’s, uh, paychecks to be equitable. Those kinds of things. That’s what leads to outcomes. Um, and if you are willing to spend the time to watch the journey of a healthy nonprofit organization, build those core capacities, you will see exponential results return.

And I think David has been open always and watched that kind of we’ve watched as a team. Those kinds of, uh, impacts.

Eric: I had a very interesting conversation with a prominent hedge fund manager. And he said, my, my strategy is to put all my eggs in one basket and then watch and help build that basket. And he invests in leaders and he makes sure that they have everything possible that they need in order to succeed.

And he said that that’s his investment strategy as an investor in the private sector, which is you pick. Leaders, you find people who you think can lead an organization or a company. Well, and then you ha make sure that they have everything they need to succeed. I think that there’s a lot of alignment with what you might call trust-based philanthropy or new approaches to philanthropy, which is rather than try to, to prescribe or particular outcomes.

You, what you do is you find people who you think can get things done, or have a vision, or. Good at leading people or understand a community or those sorts of things. And then you help them do their thing. Because we have a 10, we, and I’ll use the Royal. We, uh, assume who graduated from philanthropy, tend to think that we know better.

And as you just said, how could we yeah, look,

Jenn: I have the benefit of having been on the other side and being a cracker Jack Grant writer. And so if you’re really good at writing grants and helping funders hear exactly what they want to hear and get exactly what they. I’ll call it an illusion of alignment, where the nonprofit is telling the funder what they want to hear, the funder hears what they want to hear to get to some transactional, um, exchange of resources or the funder says, yeah, I’d really like that program in blue instead of green.

Sure, sure, sure. We can make that happen for you. Snap a shot of it. Anyone who’s been in development. Sort of that game and everyone who works on my team has been in a fundraising capacity because you cannot be a great grant maker if you’ve not been, um, on the other side of what it is to actually drive social change inside the nonprofit sector.

So that’s one for sure. And then I think the, um, we are generalists. We are not experts. I, um, the moment that you in a funding capacity start to believe you are the expert is the moment that you really become blinded to the kind of, um, change you want to see. So for us, it’s really about this mutual alignment of what skills tools, resources, capital are the dollars, but also networks, relationships that we can bring to the table.

we bring one piece, but then all of the expertise are really understanding what’s happening on the ground. We are always going to be 30,000, a hundred thousand feet away from that. And if we start to believe that we know we will get it wrong every time. So we’ve got to set the table to recognize the mutuality.

So it’s trust based, but it’s also that we’re sitting on the same side of the table and looking at the problem together instead of putting the problem between us. It’s in front of us. And that means that we have shared work together. We mutually respect what each of us brings to the table, and then we can accomplish change that we couldn’t ha that couldn’t happen without the other.

Eric: I, I love this concept of the illusion of alignment, ‘cause it’s really true. It, it it’s, if you’re a funder and you’re in, within the sound of our, our voices here, ask yourself what makes you think. You, you know, or what makes you think you’re actually in alignment? What are you, what are you seeing that proves that you’re in alignment rather than that someone who has, has to.

Be able to articulate something that you care about tells you what you want to hear. It’s I, I, I say this almost every show, but my old boss, Paul bras used to have this thing on his desk where the little plaque that said with money in your pocket, you’re handsome. You’re funny. And you sing well too. Yes.

Yes. And, uh, and it, he, he understood the fallacy of that. Obviously you came straight into philanthropy from the fundraising side, and it seems like you came in at, or near the top of the decision tree in your organization. Obviously you have a donor, but, uh, what did you do to learn over these 15 years?

Because you’ve been kind of rocket ride to the top of your organization.

Jenn: Oh, I appreciate that. Um, I look, I was the first full-time employee. So this is it’s different than the institutions that you’ve worked at. Eric. This is, um, first generation high net worth individual that seeks to be philanthropic while living and I had the great benefit of, uh, being long.

The journey with him in the process to figure out what do meaningful philanthropic partnerships look like? What is it that he would want to do? Um, so it’s not that I rocketed to the top. There was just, I would, there was only one seat so you rocketed to the bottom? The top? Yeah, I maybe the bottom, right. Um, I think over time then it was.

Uh, realizing we needed to build a team and, uh, being able to hire people who had been in the sector for longer than me, who are older than me getting to realize that, uh, we had to build a team of people who had actually been doing the work on the ground closer to the ground, um, that has bolstered our work in, in unbelievable ways.

And, but we’re still a relatively small and scrappy team because we primarily make. Larger investments and fewer things in a deep partnership way with the organizations on the collaboratives that we support, because if we want more relational in the world, we must practice it. And that means that we are not the kind of shop that.

There’s tons and tons and tons of grants that are going through cycles and RFPs. We invest deeper, longer, more relationally.

Eric: Well, this notion of relationships obviously is at the center of the mission of the organization. Which is to address America’s growing crisis of connection. Good. Heavens you don’t have to look up right now to see that the pandemic is a metaphor for these trouble times where we’ve isolated even more ironically, because of a per close to you have to have be close to somebody in order to communicate the, the virus and, and it causes you to be pushed further apart.

What, how does that affect your work? I mean, it feels like we’re as atomized and separated and UN disconnected, as one can imagine. How do you think about your work in those terms?

Jenn: Yeah, th this, um, this problem of the crisis of connection existed well before the pandemic and then the pandemic just gave us a perfect illustration.

Of how much we need each other and you’re right. This term, um, social distancing. Our surgeon general of Eck Murphy, which is, we said physical distancing and not social distancing, but all of a sudden people recognized like, yes, you’re right. We can’t be together. And you had a spiraling of more of the challenges that we were witnessing prior to the pandemic, because like I said before, we need each other.

The problem is, is as much as we need each other, we’re in a moment right now where we’re not trusting one another. So that lack of trust you brought about trust based philanthropy, well, trust based anything right now, trust of your neighbor, trust of your institution, trust of your government. Trust is down and trust is down.

Skepticism is up. People are hurt. People are longing to be part of things. And yet in that yearning and long. Um, in their hurt and pain, um, feel that they can’t find a place where they’re fully seen, heard, and valued. And if you don’t feel seen, heard, and valued, then you retreat. You, um, so it’s self perpetuating, unfortunately, and we, we believe that we need a shock to the system.

We need to waken up and recognize that, yes, this can’t, this is happening and we are in a position to be able to see. These challenges with almost a new set of glasses on a lens of disconnect or a lens of connection. And when you start to look at the things in your life that are painful or hurtful, and you say, well, where are my connections working or where are they not?

And could I use connection as an Ameran? The research, the science demonstrates that it is one of the best buffers, one of the best, but we don’t grasp it so quickly because we assume that it’s not what other people want. There’s, there’s this fascinating research that it’s like, I’m not going to go talk to them, because that person doesn’t want me to talk to them and they’re going to think, blah, blah, blah.

And then actually all the research is that someone else is thinking the exact same thing, which is why they’re not talking to you. So now we’re just on other sides of the room and not talking to each other. And if you actually break that apart and you go and you break that and you go have that talk with a stranger on the subway, or you chat with the person in line while getting coffee, you actually Le you find it’s so joyful.

Most times it’s so meaningful and fulfilling, and both of you walk away being like, I didn’t think that that could happen, but now I feel great. And we actually have to break this, this habit or this culture to just assume that everyone, no one wants to be

Eric: interrupted. Well, you’ve launched a project to take these ideas and, and put them into practice and to engage people around the country on this.

And after the break, I’m going to talk more about a call to connection. So we’ll be right back with Jenn Hoos Rothberg right after this. You’re listening to, let’s hear it. A podcast about foundation and nonprofit 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 lets hear it or on Twitter at let’s hear at cast. Thanks for listening. And now back to the show, and we’re back with Jenn Hoos Rothberg, the executive director of Einhorn Collaborative, and you have just launched this project called a call to connection, rediscovering the transformative power of relationships at a time right now, when we are as atomized and disconnected as possible.

You’re trying to take that on how, how did this come about? I can understand why you did. But how, how did you come up with this approach and tell us more about what it is.

Jenn: Well, this almost has to do with you Eric, in some ways, which is that, you know, for my, so I’m going to blame you. Okay. Um, you know, in, uh, in a positive way, The I, so I came to this work as a fundraiser and then immediately became a grant maker and thought that good philanthropy was just about doing good grant making practice.

And after a decade of that work and really going and talking to our grantees and our peers, many of our grantees said, you know, could you tell the articulated story of why we’re part of your portfolio? Could you shine a light on the work that we’re doing? Like you’re in a position to be able to do that.

And I was so hesitant to do anything really related to communications, uh, in philanthropy. Sometimes, it just felt like, I don’t know, I was always sort of questioning the motivation of communications and philanthropy to, I don’t know, be blunt, go ahead. Be blunt.

Eric: And, um, we do blunt.

Jenn: Okay. And, um, and that’s the same thing about look like convenings, you know, like philanthropy so quick, like we should convene everyone.

And then you, you, you know, you do a survey of your grantees. Yes, yes, please. And then you ask, you know, anonymous questions. They’re like, no, I feel like constantly, I’ve got to jump through hoops because you fund or invite me and I got to be there. So as someone who knows that so much, I was always hesitant to engage in the other tools of the trade, but we went through a process where we, uh, rebranded and launched the foundation in, uh, October 20, 20.

As Einhorn Collaborative, we changed our name intentionally focusing on collaboration, and we really focused the mission around this crisis of connection, which was when we really studied the root cause of the problems that we were trying to solve. We could sum it up in those terms, alienation, loneliness, polarization, partisanship.

Really at their core is this breakdown and connection. Um, and we had a great partner who was helping us with our strategy about communications. And he said, you are really Rafael Bera from uh BBMG. And he said, you know, like, you need to actually tell this story and I’m like, no, no, no. And he’s like, you had.

Your grant making is great and communications can help shine a light on the kind of movement and social change that you’re after. Um, and so Rafael was helpful in pushing us in that direction. And then I heard enough of it from our grantees saying, could you help explain why? Why does interfaith youth core.

Um, where college students come together across dev faith divides to do service together, to do social change and nurture science program, which helps moms and babies bond in the earliest days, weeks, month in life. What do those two things have to do with one another? So what could have been seen as a siloed strategy?

We understood at Einhorn Collaborative were so integrated because at their core it’s about relational pluralism, upending, this crisis of connection to develop empathy, compassion, collaboration, teamwork, to solve those social problems. So we started to do some communications. And then when we came up with a crisis of connection piece, we started to get questions from others saying, what do you mean by the crisis of connection?

Like, what is the, what is the core of this crisis you’re talking about? And we knew from our work that there’s tons of science, there’s tons out there. Um, we had great partners who could point to that, and yet we didn’t have the I’ll call it the thing to hand to you to say, here’s the thing that we mean when we talk about the crisis of connection, how do we bring you into the fold of how we’re thinking about it?

So we talked to two great partners. One was the greater good science center at UC Berkeley. Who’s been a partner of ours for. The last decade plus, and a newer partner of our sacred design lab. And the reason why we brought sacred design lab in is that we realized that it’s not just the science that convinces people, that it’s the call to connection.

Like actually, most people don’t make decisions though. Funders want the science, but most people are not making decisions based on the data and science they’re making it based on a set of feelings and stories and wisdom traditions are some of the best to point to. How human beings have come together for millennia.

Faith traditions have figured this out, how to connect to purpose and belonging, connection and community. So we ask sacred design lab and Casper tulle who leads that effort and his peer, his partners, um, along with greater good science center to meet, to. Pull together, the science, the stories, the wisdom traditions to put together this primer.

And that was a year ago. And we did it in a collaborative way. We brought many experts from across different facets of our work to inform the process. You can’t, you can’t name yourself, iron horn, collaborative and not do things collaboratively. So these things, this wasn’t just, someone went in a room and wrote it.

We had lots of input and engagement. You could, but you shouldn’t . Yeah, you really shouldn’t. It’s true. It’s true. True. So, uh, and, and then this collaborative artifact, uh, emerged, and we decided we wanted to come up with creative ways to be able to share this with anyone who’s in a position where they create community, whether that is a foundation leader who creates a culture and investing community, whether that’s a business leader, whether that is someone who’s bringing people together in local problem solving.

Relationships are core to that work. They’re not just a means to an end. They are an ended rightfully in and of itself. And that was the purpose of the

Eric: primer. Well, you know, I, I think about how challenging this is, because it is really easy to mess things up. It’s easy to divide people and we see it in.

In politics. We see it in all sorts of ways, how easy it is to mess it up. It’s really hard to get people to connect and to come together. What are you calling on people to do? What is the, what is the call to action?

Jenn: Well, the first call is to start to see your work through the lens of connection, where if there’s upset or irritation or you feel that something’s not working.

My first question to you is have you tended to the relationships? I’m a big believer. This isn’t just like you, you have good relationships or you don’t. Human beings are messy. We constantly mess up relationships. How much do we invest in repairing those relationships? How much do we actually go and say, Hey, in that meeting, you said something, it sort of irked me.

Could we just touch base on that? Instead we let those things fester. It changes the way we think about that person. We don’t then work well with that person. It changes our satisfaction and engaging. and then people leave their jobs. So part of this is, um, I am, I’m calling people to look through the lens of connection in the work that they’re doing.

This is not having, I’m not asking people to invest in the things that we invest in, though. I’d love for people to join us, um, in organizations, nonprofits that do this work well instead, this is being attuned to the culture inside whatever community you’re in a position to nurture and tend. Think about what are the ways in which you create a culture that has the container that’s attuned to connection?

How do you give permission to talking about the relationships when they’re working, when they’re not, um, how do you enable forgiveness and repair wherever you’re engaging and that, you know, we, we brought up trust earlier. Trust takes time. So how much time are you engaging? We’re all so busy. well, I would say that taking time to build trust is going to make some of those other things work much better.

Um, and the science demonstrates that the stories and the primers show that, and then you have to like go against your productivity, pinging, constantly telling you you’ve got your next thing to do and ask yourself, how can I actually create space? And then I’m inviting people to create space for it.

Eric: So the science, I know science is some people who really care about science and other people care about stories. And I think that some combination of the Bo of, of the two is important, uh, connection is better for your health. It’s better for, uh, I mean the science shows that it’s a good idea and yeah.

You know, we don’t always do things that are good for our. That’s my love of bacon, for example, but still , uh, it helps me to know that there are ways to be better, obviously right now we, you know, we’re so polarized we’re so Congress is a, just a catastrophe. We can’t get anything done. And social media so-called social media, which is ostensibly allows us to stay connected to more people feels like it’s fueling a more divided and divisive culture.

I’m, uh, I’m going to ask you to be an optimist, but I know you’re an optimist or else you wouldn’t be doing this work. How do we cut through the most challenging aspects of the things that are dividing us?

Jenn: Well, look, there’s a difference between connecting and connection. right. So I would push people to say, like, there’s a, there’s a statistic.

That’s in the, in the primer that says that in 1984, people had three close confidence that they could call upon. And 20 years later, the number is down to two. So, um, my mom always said to me, you don’t need to have tons of friends. You just need to have a few. So I would start with what are the close in relationships in people’s lives that you can start to develop and nurture.

That’s not answering your question about going up against. The divisiveness, but it is speaking to like, what is the thing that I can do right now? And as people feel divided, they’re continuing to feel lonely and loneliness is further fueling many of those choices. So like loneliness, another stat around your health is it’s the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

So investing in connection in your. Benefits you physically, it benefits you socially. It benefits you emotionally, a feeling and loneliness is different than Sol. I’m not saying people like the introverts out there, I’m not asking you to be an extrovert. Um, it’s that feeling where I don’t feel I belong or I have a place that I matter.

I have people in my life who care about me. 25% of people in America today actually feel like they have zero close friends. I mean, just imagine that, think about the moment where you’re like, I just need like that phone a friend. People need that. So we need to invest in that. We need to nurture that.

That’s one, two, I, I can only speak for our sector, but we’re actually going out of our way to partner with foundations who are really different from us, uh, from the political spectrum. And that is. Almost crazy in philanthropy. Uh, but I would say that crazy idea to grow up against divisiveness right now means that funding can perpetuate divisiveness because the organizations that we choose to fund it’s on us as funders.

To actually change our own behaviors. If we want to change some of the behaviors that are happening in our social change sector. So we asked, um, a group of foundations across political ideologies to join us in pursuit of investing in how we build a more America. We, so that’s a funder collaborative called new plural.

It started with a few of us. Uh, we now have 15 funders who are pooling resources and investing in culture change related to how Americans engage with one another across divides that’s political divides, racial divides, uh, generational divides. Um, and we know there’s a lot of remarkable structural work that’s happening for the health of our democracy.

We see this as a compliment to focus on the hearts and minds, work of how we ignite a culture of relational and pluralism. The relationships that people have with their neighbors who are different from them actually changes the way they feel about how divided we are. That culture matters. And we’re in a moment of something called affective polarization, where we would rather have people die of the other political party than to have our children marry people of the political party.

I mean, it’s really remarkable how, how bad it’s become our senses. That relationships is, are not the. Full the full sum of what’s necessary, but is it is a baseline requirement of what’s going to be required to get out of this divisiveness.

Eric: It it’s really amazing. Well, all of us each and every one of us can make a deeper connection and will make us better and make us help healthier and feel more connected.

So every single human being walks, the planet can, can do something. The other thing, I mean, and then the flip side of that is I, I saw Twitter poll the other day from. Who with whom? I probably agree politically. Who said, who do you hate the, which of these four senators do you hate the most? And I’m thinking to myself, don’t do that.

Yeah. why did you do that? Why did you just make me feel worse and angrier and more divided? Yeah. You come up with something better to do with your time than. Do click bait on Twitter, that taps into your Pal’s hatred. I mean, we just have to, you know, just stop, not do it. So stop doing that crazy stuff is a good start, but, or feeding it or engaging in it.

But you’re right. This, this notion of connection is something that we all have a need for physically and emotionally. And I can only imagine how much better we would all. Just each of us, if we were to do that more and all of us are capable of it, I love what you’re doing. Engaging philanthropy on this.

Again, this is, this is squishy stuff that a lot of, you know, monitoring evaluation. People probably just spin in their sleep thinking that, oh my God, look, please don’t let make us do a program on connection because I can’t measure it, but you

Jenn: can, you can measure it. It’s not. So I know they think you can, it’s so squishy, it’s measurable and hard.

And one of the big calls to connection I would make here from funders is, um, all of those things that you think are meaningful and measurable, we can point to meaningful and measurable things around social cohesion that drive healthy democracy that drive healthy outcomes. And yes, uh, the, the level of empathy that you have, those things are measurable, but then I.

What do we need to measure? What is most important to measure right now? And I’d say the behavior of engaging with funders who disagree so much on some things, but can agree on this and can work together and pool resources and do shared decision making and shared work to invest in building bridges across Americans.

That to me is measurable and we can actually demonstrate it. And, uh, and so I want to upend this belief that this is kumbaya and soft. this is hard, it’s meaningful, it’s measurable, it’s sustainable, it’s investible. Um, and we’d love for people to join

Eric: us. So I didn’t mean to push your buttons, but we certainly went out on a can tell,

Jenn: can you tell no, I’m so easy when it comes to stuff like that.

Eric: We certainly went out on a high note. I totally agree with the way. Jenn Hoos Rothberg of the Einhorn Collaborative. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you for your work. And I really encourage people to follow up and to learn more about call to connection. Can you tell folks where they’ll find it? Yes.

Jenn: Call to Uh, you can find it. You can see it online. You can download it and you can share it with.

Eric: Well, thank you again. It’s been really, really great talking to you.

Jenn: Oh, it’s a thrill, Eric. Thanks for having me.

Kirk: And we’re back. That was Jenn S Rothberg from the Einhorn Collaborative. You can find

And, and Jenn describing her work with Einhorn to help people get along better. So I know we try to do this breakdown in just a couple of minutes, but I feel like we need a two part breakdown because once again, this was a master’s class. Once again, once again, you have interviewed somebody who’s caused me to question all my life choices, because this is clearly what purpose direction, creativity, intelligence, where it gets.

Eric: But now, now Kirk now, well, and you know, doing this is supposed to make you feel better, not worse. That’s right. Perhaps you just have to find a different therapist, but you gave

Kirk: us, and maybe that therapist name is Mr. Brown, but, but you gave us

Eric: not charging you enough. You clearly,

Kirk: clearly. So you gave us a two.

Discussion. And I think we need to deal with them each in turn, because the first part of your conversation was really about the art and science and practice of philanthropy. And then the second part you related to, to the work of the Einhorn Collaborative. But so tell me about your conversations with Jenn as she reflected on creating meaningful, measurable, sustainable results.

Ed, one of my favorite. Things we’ve heard date on the podcast, the illusion of alignment, getting beyond this transaction, ex this transactional exchange of resources, but actually really developing meaningful relationships from a philanthropic standpoint. Tell me a little bit about that, because that was a great, I love that part of your conversation.

Eric: Well, I, I agree because it’s, Hey look, folks, peer tope marketing is the best kind. Don’t take it from us. Take it from someone who actually does this for a living, that there are ways to do philanthropy and there are ways to do philanthropy. And I think that what she’s doing is approaching this, this work with the kind humility and care that we all need to do.

If we’re working. In philanthropy. And what she is saying is that, I mean, she said that, you know, the moment you think you’re the expert is the moment you become blinded to the change. You want to see that in philanthropy, what we are doing is we are investing in people who are doing the work. We are helping to build strong organizations and strong leaders that, that we need to work together to.

Address challenges or to engage in solutions. I mean, she said, you know, she wants to be sitting on the same side of the table and looking at the problem.

Kirk: I love that is, is the problem between us or is the problem in front of us. That was such a beautiful way of saying that. I thought that was incredible.

Eric: Yeah. So that’s and the fact that she began as a fund. Was is certainly a huge advantage because then you understand the hoops that fundraisers have to go through what foundations or donors do to the organizations that, that they engage with. I mean, she’s like, if you want to do it blue, we’ll do it blue.

You want to do it? Green we’ll do great. We always said this before on the podcast, in the past, which is that this notion of twisting these organizations into a pretzel. In order to get, I don’t know, whatever you think you want to get out of the world is a challenge. And it’s, I mean, it’s just a waste. It’s a waste of energy and talent and resources.

And that her, her approach has been to engage as a collaborator. And I I’ve worked with a number of other organizations that are trying to do just that. And I will sort of like a quick little wink and a nod ahead to what the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation has done for the last 50, over 50 years. And as they wind down as an organization, we’re going to learn a lot working on a project with them to talk about what they’ve learned over all these years. And so much of it is about investing in organizations, getting out of the way, making sure that they have the tools they need to, to succeed. And that’s exactly what Jenn is doing.

So before she. Launching a call to connection before they really started focusing on the problem of disconnection, the, or what she calls the crisis of connection. I think she had to get the understanding about how to do this sort of work straight and has been working with David Einhorn for 15 years. And I, I think that she is demonstrating to us all how you can do philanthropy.

Kirk: Well, well, and I love that reflection on making larger investments in fewer things and investing deeper and longer and more relationally. She did say one thing in passing. That was actually potentially some fighting words. And I was thinking to myself, man, this is, this is a collaborative congenial, you know, we’re trying to build the field, you know, and here we are, we’re throwing some heat.

So Jenn said that they are generalists, not experts, and that they are relying on the field to prevent expertise. And that definitely struck me. I, that sounded right to me, but I also think that there’s a difference of approach in different philanthropies, because I think at some philanthropies you really have to be an expert.

At least that’s the internal feeling like we have to be the experts in the field to figure out how to, to, to correctly allocate these resources. So what do you make of that? Because she described providing the skills, the tools, the resources, the relationships, you know, if we think we know we’ll get it wrong every time, like.

That’s music to my ears. But what do you think about that balance between Regenerist versus we’re experts and, and where that sits? Because I think it there’s something in there. This notion about funding relationally. I made this other note around this can foundations actually have real relationships, you know?

Right. Is the power is the power imbalance, so profound. Can you actually find your way past that? And it really feels like Jenn has quite authentically done that. And I feel like that should be bottled and marketed because that’s a priceless resource. What she’s been able to do there.

Eric: Well, let’s put it this way.

If you don’t have high levels of trust between the donor and the grant. Then the information you’re going to get back is going to be suspect building that kind of trust takes time. It takes deep relationships. And I do think that it’s possible. I, I definitely think it’s possible. It’s not easy. And the fact that as Jenn said, they make very few grants, but they go deep is a great way to build that level of trust because you you’re not spread so thin that you can’t actually build the kind of relationships needed to.

To engage in that way. And so that’s, I think, I think that’s a lot of it. It is not easy. And the other thing about picking a few organizations and ensuring that you engage with them deeply, it is antithetical to much of what philanthropy does because you want to get invited to 17 different kinds of parties instead of just the two.

And I don’t mean to say this, some of my best friends work in philanthropy, but the idea. You want to have a little finger in a lot of things, maybe exciting and interesting and cool, but it may not get you where you really need to go. Mm. And I, I think that folks need to think about that as well, is that, are we spread too thin?

Are we spread so thin that we are never going to really actually get anything done or, you know, go deep enough to make a difference. And those are big.

Kirk: So, this is a great pivot to look at the focus of the philanthropy for the Einhorn Collaborative. And I keep thinking to myself when we’re having these conversations, every single one of these topics that we’ve discussed, it, there’s a wide array of them.

Every single one of them is like the thing you hear it. And you’re like, man, if we could just. Work on that, we’d really be making some progress. And then all of a sudden here comes, Jenn Hoos Rothberg here comes the iron who Collaborative. And they’re like, no, actually it’s human relationships. That’s the thing, you know, helping people get along better.

So tell me about that because it, it, and I want to make a pitch. Let’s start at the end. It, it, we need a whole conversation about philanthropic measurement. And I want to invite Jenn to lead it because because that was clearly a great way to, you know, end that conclude that discussion. Like can you actually tangibly measure the quality of relationships and how that’s impacting outcomes?

And clearly Jenn’s created a whole set of resources that point out how tells the story of what impact that turns into. And is making a really powerful case that this is actually the work that needs to be done. And what do you make about that? I, I think it’s amazing. I can’t even believe it

Eric: well for starters, the moment when I, I suggested that some people might find it hard to measure the, the work was one of my favorite moments, because I pushed their buttons so hard.

I didn’t do it on purpose. She just kind of erupted in frustration, which I, I mean, it was only good fun, but the fact is that it is true. That, so that’s the end part. We’ll go back to the beginning part, which is that this notion that we are in a crisis of connection, I think is, is meaningful. It’s meaningful to all of us.

You don’t have to go very far to. How disconnected we are. You don’t have to go far to see that our politics, and this is just not American politics. Look at any place. Look at, I mean, honestly, look at any place. Yeah. And their politics. When, I don’t know, maybe the, the New Zealand might be an exception. I don’t know if the, if the kingdom of Lichtenstein is feeling very polarized right now, or, but the point is that we are, we are in this moment in human history in which we are deeply disconnected.

Yeah. And, and as she said that, you know, people are experiencing alienation and loneliness and polarization and partisanship and it’s everywhere. And that effect is costing us. Almost every measurable human outcome, whether it’s climate change or human. Or Warren Ukraine just pick your thing. So it is true that we keep moving upstream.

You know, we talked to Aaron Belkin recently about how, if we don’t solve the problem of our governance, then all of the issues that our governance affects, whether it’s a woman’s right to have an abortion or a climate change, or any of these other things are voting or does president the president, the, you have to get that stuff right.

You could make a pretty decent case. And I think Jenn does that until you get to this stuff, which is our, our sense of disconnection as human beings. You can’t ever get to that other stuff anyway. So that obviously this is a great big thing to bite off, but if it has to be done, it has to be done. Oh, and then one more thing.

And so then I said to, is it measurable? Yes, she’s done all the signs. She’s going with ways to measure it and that we should, we should stop pretending. That you can’t measure things that you can measure because you don’t want to do them or because they’re too scary or because they seemingly are too squishy.

Kirk: Well, and I was thinking about, you know, Emily spoke about accessibility, you know, as being this Emily Ladeau. Yes. As a topic that crossed different categories of people and different, you know, descriptors and crisis issues. And then I thought about this conversation, Jenn is putting forward around the crisis of connection and how that does the exact same.

So it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are or what your orientation might be, but this notion of connection and its absence and its impact is so clear. And she said this so quickly, she said, I think that the health impacts of loneliness is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes, a. Did you catch that?

Eric: Yeah, I did. so, so if I, if I, if I feel really, really connected, maybe I can start smoking cigarettes and then like, yeah, you’re right.

Kirk: Exactly. Exactly. You don’t have to deal with anything goes

Eric: 25. No, you’re right. It’s true.

Kirk: 25% of Americans, a quarter of us don’t have a single close friend think about that.

Eric: Yeah. And, and often I, I it’s highly anecdotal, but you see when, when things go. Loaners people who feel disconnected. People who feel alienated, people feel that they’re not understood people who feel that they don’t belong. Who, who often are the at least a flash point for some kind of major problem. Yeah.

And so it, I mean, it rings true. Yeah. And if the science tells it, if the science tells me it’s true, it’s true. But I also, it rings true. And so you can clearly see how this, how this works. , you know, what are we going to do about it? This is I, one thing is, is let’s just talk a little bit about the work that Jenn is doing.

There is this primer and it is, you know, a very, very interesting document about the problem and ways to, to address the problem.

Kirk: And this is what you, this is what you’ll Right. Right. This is it called the

Eric: Yes, yes. Yes, exactly. Thank you. Thanks for clarifying that.

Yeah. And. What she is also doing what they are also doing in partnership with this really great team of people who, who helped to develop it are to give you tools. Yeah. To be able to do this work in your community at your organization in. in other places so that we can begin to address this kind of work.

I will also throw in a plug if you are out there and you are a funder and you have a few coins in the couch, I would say that this would be an excellent investment to help mm-hmm Jenn and her team. And these various colleagues continue to build this out and to engage. Find ways to make those connections in communities, because it’s not the sort of thing.

It’s not just, it won’t be solved by people just going to a foundation website and downloading the thing. It really requires a fair amount of outreach mm-hmm

Kirk: well, and also just to go check out the Einhorn Collaborative site, like it’s a really beautiful set of branding and tools that support this entire.

You know, purpose and even actually renaming the institution, a collaborative yeah. To focus, you know, it’s just something like, oh man, that’s get ready. That that’ll let’s that should sweep philanthropy, because that’s such a cool notion. Right. And again, like establishing that idea of relationship right up front.

And I do love that. Jenn gave us a very actionable intangible thing for all of us to think about this notion of see year work, view your work through the lens of connection. It actually, as a, as, as somebody who manages teams and man, you know, in so much of our work is around organizing, right. And let’s come together and yet, you know, really being trained in what is it to foster connection, tend to the quality of relationships, investing in relationships, you know, creating a culture, the attuned to relationships.

You know, she rightfully points out and yet it’s so easy to forget. It’s probably the first thing that disappears in the, in the pace of a busy day. It’s the quality of those relationships in building the trust that goes with that. And the time that that takes, like that’s the heart of the matter. Right.

And it’s so clearly is, and yet, so, so hard to attend to that. I would

Eric: say. And now here we are in the world of zoom where, I mean, you and I we’ve been in a room together. We’ve spent a lot of time just hanging out and talking about nothing at all. And that helps. Sure. And I feel like there are a lot of folks out there who are listening right now.

Who’ve never met their colleagues. Right. And they don’t understand that level of connection. And, and this isn’t good enough staring at somebody on a screen. Isn’t good enough. And so we now have yet another. To overcome or, or, or work our way around to, to address this. So that’s a thing.

Kirk: So can we talk about one last thing before we go?

Cause I know we’re at time. Anything you want Kirk, so Jed clearly isn’t busy enough. Because she just creak keeps hatching new schemes and this notion of the new pluralists and this idea of pooling resources with really distinct foundations to create real areas where people of all sorts of different sensibilities demonstrate what it is to.

With each other, talk to each other, this notion of new pluralism, she writes very beautifully about it in an interview that’s posted on the, on the Einhorn Collaborative website. But it’s so funny because I feel like so much of the work I’ve done using philanthropic resources has been the opposite. Of fostering connection.

It’s actually been about how do you win given the divides. Right. And what do you think about that? Foundation’s intentionally saying, look, you know what, let’s actually show, not tell what this looks like by pooling our resources, to have conversations with folks that are very, very different than, than who we might think we are.

What do you think about that?

Eric: Well, it’s true. I, you could, you could argue that what we’re doing, isn’t working. So something different. You could also say that, that level, that building trust among people with whom you have some basic differences is an example of the thing that we are, that we need to achieve.

If we’re going to have any kind of future and that you have to start to, you got to show your work. Mm-hmm and collaboratives among foundations are. I know, uh, you know, we’ve done it. And the idea that you would pull your funds and come up with a way to come together, to come up with a one set of grants instead of 15, that you have to understand that you’re not going to get everything that you want, that you, that you don’t have to use your form, that you don’t have to go with.

Do your sprinkle, your special herbs over the grant proposals and, and have your lawyer do your thing and your way. That’s important. Mm-hmm and I, we just need to do a lot more of that. Yeah. I mean, the transaction cost of the grant goes down. I believe mm-hmm, but that’s not the real reason. The real reason is you have to demonstrate the thing you actually want to have happen and that’s one way to do it.

So that’s great. And the fact that she’s getting folks to, to throw in is, is hugely valuable. And I can think of no better person to, to accomplish that than Jenn, because that’s kind of how she. Oh

Kirk: clearly. Well, we need more social capital junkies, like Jenn Hoos Rothberg clearly. So with the mighty thanks to David Einhorn.

Who’s helping make this possible with the let collaborative

Eric: yeah, let’s go max. Sorry. I’m so, I’m so simple. Anything else

Kirk: we should say before we go, Eric?

Eric: I was going, I was going to take a moment to, in, to engage in self congratulation, because as we were talking about Aaron and Emily Ladeau and I was like, we have a really interesting guest I’m learning a lot.

Kirk: Well done. Well done. I’ve got a really good idea. There should be.

Eric: Don’t worry. Your ideas, Kirk. I’m I’m up to here with your ideas. Okay. So what, what’s your excellent idea? I’m sure it’s fine.

Kirk: We should have a podcast focused on social change makers and communications. It just interview really interesting people talk about it.

What do you think about that?

Eric: Terrible idea.

Kirk: Okay. Okay. Well, we’ll talk about that later. Well, that was Jenn Hoos Rothberg. That was let’s hear it. And Eric Brown, once again. Thank you. That was a treat.

Eric: See you next time.

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 shouldn’t have in the show. And that definitely includes yourself and we’d like to

Eric: thanks to Jon Beltrano, our enthusiastic production assistant

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

Eric: our sponsors, the communications network, and the Lumina foundation.


Kirk: please check out Lumina’s terrific podcast. Today’s students tomorrow’s talent, and you can find,

Eric: we certainly thank today’s guest. And of course,

Kirk: all of you and most important. Thank you, Mr. Brown,

Eric: Mr. Brown,

Kirk: till next time.