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Member Spotlight: Joycelyn Macbeth, Program Associate at Blue Shield of California Foundation

Monday, July 18, 2016

Joycelyn Macbeth is the Program Associate at the Blue Shield of California Foundation and a member of NCG's Bay Area Health Funders Group (BAHFG). As a part of our Member Spotlight series, Joycelyn told us a little about herself, why her ideal superpower is important and how to reach her for collaboration opportunities. She invites you to join her at the upcoming BAHFG program on September 8thMovie Night | The Rising of America screening featuring the film producers for a post-film discussion.

How’d you get started in this work?

I grew up in Oakland, California, in a multiracial family whose house sat on the line that separates wealth from working class. The social dynamics that played out in my everyday life growing up gained some clarity in early adulthood. As a college student, Professor Yen Le Espiritu’s introductory ethnic studies course was pivotal; it jumpstarted a pride and recognition in those who came before me, and a hunger to reverse the narratives about myself and the communities to which I belong who are consistently stereotyped and pathologized. The connection between communities of color and stress factors pointed me toward health disparities work as a way to affect social change by creating the conditions for it. I am not cut out for frontline work, but I am academic-minded, curious, and I can write. As philanthropy sits some thousand feet above the ground, it has been an environment in which I can use my skills to help guide change.  

What’s kept you there?

Philanthropy is filled with amazing people. Smart, forward-thinking, personable, humble, and balanced. I enjoy working with colleagues as much as catching up about life. We spend a great deal of our time at work, and it’s important to me to team with others whose value systems, world perspectives, and personalities are a match. At a higher level, there is much change to be made and though the pessimistic side of me wonders whether it will ever happen, the ‘it’ being the removal of inequity and the ‘-isms,’ there is nothing else I would rather commit to.

Tell us what you do in your work (pretend I’m a fifth-grader)

I assess projects against organizational strategy, need and timeliness given current politics in our environment, and for technical ‘soundness’ to ensure Foundation funds are put to good use. I have also guided the Foundation’s development of a practice for impact assessment – tools development, change management, and facilitation. I sit between leadership and support staff, and so learning to ask the right questions, find the answers and build a case for my perspective, then contribute by sharing a point of view have been key.

When and where are you happiest?

Saturday is my favorite day of the week – day-hiking in the bay area with my husband and then out to Indian food is an ideal day. Life balance is about having the discipline to disconnect from technology and the daily stressors, so mini vacations - even if it means lighting some candles at home in my PJs - are essential to healthy living! Now, let me go find a candle.

What talent or superpower would you most like to have?

I would go back in time to sit at the dinner tables of my ancestors, to hear their stories and to witness their family dynamics. I would be able to thank them for the life they have given me.

What’s the most exciting thing happening in your sector?

The issue of equity as related to race has become front and center in many conversations in philanthropy. I know it is only the beginning, but I am grateful it is on the table. I only hope we tread these discussions respectfully and thoughtfully, with intentionality around who is listening and who is leading.


Do you have questions for Joycelyn or ideas for collaboration? You can contact her at:

LinkedIn: Joycelyn Macbeth

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