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Shift Happens


Shift Happens: A Series on Leadership and Change

Introduction by Dwayne S. Marsh, President and CEO, Northern California Grantmakers: I grew up in a semi-segregated Richmond, Virginia at a time that its heritage as a part of the South was very strong. Realizing the aspirations of those who came before us and the promise of democratic freedoms is my life's work. In a three-decade career spanning nonprofit, government, and philanthropic service, I have never once felt lost for purpose. My life's experience, the gift of a legacy of public service of my family and mentors, and my determination to forge a future that remedies past injustices drive every decision I face.

At Northern California Grantmakers, we are focused on the pursuit of racial equity in everything we do, whether it be teaming up with nonprofits, leveraging government, activating the corporate sector, or deepening philanthropies' reach inland to the Central Valley. In my first few months on the job as the custodian for NCG's vision, I sat down with a handful of colleagues to find out how they're thinking about the future.

Given the kind of year we've had, we're looking to understand how 'shift happens', and the decisions we can make now to shape the future we are entering. Stay tuned for additional episodes we'll release soon featuring:

  • Pia Infante and John Esterle, Co-Executive Directors, The Whitman Institute
  • Allen Fernandez Smith, Head of Philanthropy, West Region, JP Morgan Chase & Co.
  • Lateefah Simon, President, Akonadi Foundation
  • Daniel Lee, Executive Director, Levi Strauss Foundation
  • Crystal Hayling, Executive Director, The Libra Foundation
  • Sandra Hernández, President and CEO, California Health Care Foundation

Episode 5: A Conversation with Crystal Hayling

Crystal Hayling joined our CEO Dwayne S. Marsh to discuss power in democracy, voter suppression, what it takes to truly invest in grantees, and even a little about ukuleles.


Episode 4: A Conversation with Allen Fernandez Smith

One of the rewarding aspects of the career-spanning work that advancing racial equity presents is the opportunity along the way to meet truly quality people. I've had the privilege of knowing Allen Fernandez Smith for nearly 20 years and the pleasure of watching the unyielding arc of a commitment to justice permeate his work in the nonprofit, public, and philanthropic sectors. Take a listen to this conversation and you'll quickly hear what I mean.


Episode 3: A Conversation with Sandra R. Hernández, MD

In this episode, Sandra reveals secrets to orchid cultivation (a flower her daughter calls ‘bougie’), how not to lose sight of issues like Black women’s maternal mortality while dealing with a pandemic and racial reckoning, and how to change systems that don’t give in to change on their own.

Episode 2: A Conversation with Daniel Lee

This episode reminds us of why the field will sorely miss Daniel Lee, the outgoing Executive Director of the Levi Strauss Foundation. NCG's CEO, Dwayne S. Marsh dive into structural racism, imposter syndrome, internal culture, corporate voice, leadership transition, and democracy. Daniel’s observations will continue to have resonance for all of us in northern California philanthropy for many months to come.


Episode 1: A Conversation with Lateefah Simon

March 2021: Today's episode kicks off with Lateefah Simon of the Akonadi Foundation. Talking with Lateefah reminds me that Black History Month (which always feels too short) and Women's History Month are actually the same thing when we're talking about Black women's history. Talking with Lateefah gave me just the boost of energy I needed as we look to re-invent more than re-build in the coming months and years.