The kickoff of NCG's inaugural Communications Cohort is just a few days away. In advance of the launch, we asked Cohort faculty member and Communications Director for NEO Philanthropy, Robert Bray, to answer a few questions. He has shared how he procrastinates and why for him, the personal is the political.
Q. What are you hoping to learn by participating as faculty in this experience?
A. Communications staff at non-profits and foundations in 2019 face professional challenges that did not exist when I was “mid-career.” Yet over the years I’ve gained wisdom about the importance of what I call “core communications practices,” those strategies and tactics that stay consistent no matter what challenges present themselves. I want to learn how to help apply this earned wisdom to the realities of the cohort participants today. In the process I want to learn what values, goals, aspirations and fears shape the work experience of the participants.
Q. How has your understanding of your own identity changed in the course of your life?
A. I’ve worked at the intersection of social justice and strategic communications for the past 35 or so years, about 12 of those in philanthropy. Being gay and coming up in my career during some of the most intensely challenging attacks on LGBT people and people with HIV, I’ve learned the true lesson that the personal is the political and the importance of compassion, justice and perseverance. I’ve also realized that what I bring to the work is driven by the experiences of my life and those working at the same intersection.
Q: Experience you'd most like to forget from your mid-career? (i.e. greatest learning opportunity?)
A. Not understanding the importance of life-work balance. Like many in my field at that point in my career I plunged into the work and the long demanding hours without regard to my personal well-being and relationships. I’ve learned that important lesson since. We’re in this for the long haul, and to get there we must engage in self-care and be mindful about what sustains, motivates and heals us.
Q. Favorite form of procrastination?
A. Looking at topographic maps and fantasizing about my next high altitude hike, probably in the Sierras. Geeking out on elevation gains, wilderness permit processes, trail routes and camping gear can blissfully distract me from other tasks happening right at my feet at home and the office.