Inclusive Impact, Staff Highlights

Meeting the Moment with Eliza Greenberg

By Eliza Greenberg, Managing Partner, New Profit

December 22, 2020

In 2020, the intertwining and inequitable systems, from health and education to legal and democracy and beyond, in this country were laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and the renewed and growing call for Black liberation and justice. As part of this year’s Annual Report, we asked nine leaders from the New Profit community what 2020 and these national reckonings looked like for them, their organizations, and the social sector writ large.

Continue reading to hear from Eliza Greenberg, a member of New Profit’s Operating Council who oversees New Profit’s more emergent functions and strategies including Development, Communications, America Forward, Early Childhood Support Organizations (ECSO) and Future of Work.

To hear from the other eight leaders and to access more content from the New Profit 2020 Annual Report, click here.

What is the biggest challenge that philanthropy/the social impact sector is/has faced as a result of the events of 2020?

This year, we have faced overlapping crises, it seems, at every turn. Though it can feel odd to rehash where we are time and time again, it is part of healing. It’s important for us to acknowledge what we have experienced: a global health crisis, an economic crisis, an educational crisis, and a renewed call for racial justice following the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others. This has been a year where truths have come into sharp focus for many. The truth is that systems in this country were built to explicitly favor some, while denying access to others. This reality has been on full display this year in ways that cannot be ignored. 

With this clarity, comes opportunity.

We have all been called on to examine ourselves—our practices, our beliefs, our narratives, our behaviors—and to do so at all levels of analysis: self, organization, and sector. The question that now remains for philanthropy and the social impact sector overall is whether or not we are game to interrogate our ways of operating and shift what needs shifting to make a real impact. For those of us who have answered yes to that question, the challenge now is to get to working, get to listening, get to collaborating.

What innovations/solutions did you create in response to the events of this year?

At New Profit we relied heavily on our ability to adapt and our deep desire to get close to the problems we are trying to solve and to the people who are solving them. I am proud of my colleagues who have brilliantly adapted, listened to the organizations we support, and laid out a vision to sustain and continue to build through this difficult year, all the while taking care of one another.

Three key innovations are top of mind as we close out the year:

  • Portfolio Support: Our deal support practice is the heart of New Profit. It was our founding principle and the opportunity to work with brilliant social entrepreneurs is the reason why we get up in the morning. Our deal partners and portfolio team adapted our practice quickly in the face of the pandemic and the resulting intersecting set of challenges it poised for our organizations; continuing to support our organizations to build towards the future while triaging near term and new constraints.
  • Inclusive Impact: Our Inclusive Impact work, our flagship strategy for driving impact by centering equity, delivered on its promise to get capital and capacity building support into the hands of Black, Latino/a/x/Hispanic, and Indigenous leaders. And in keeping with our belief that you have to get close to problems to solve them, we launched the Action Tank. Comprised of a cross-sector network of multi-racial proximate social impact leaders, this brain trust is harnessing the engines of philanthropy and policy towards the creation of a more equitable and just world.
  • Culture Building & Taking Care of One Another: As important as the “what” of the work is the “how.” 2020 will go down as a historically and universally difficult year. It was incredible to see my colleagues take such good care of each other this year. They witnessed the fullness and the impossibility of each other’s loves and did everything possible to make space for each other, in ways big and small, formal and informal.

What do we need to do collectively to “Meet the Moment?”

First comes seeing, but the real work is in doing. As Maya Angelou reminds us “Once you know better, do better.” We collectively need to continue to do better. The real work comes when, instead of doing what we always do, we change our default settings and fight through the discomfort, unease, and sense of inadequacy to find our way to something new. In a conversation today with a New Profit partner organization, a leader in education commented “We have to elevate above the framework and create new spaces for frameworks to be imagined.” The mindsets that got us into 2020 are not going to be the mindsets that build a better 2021 and beyond.

2020 forced us to take stock and see harmful patterns that repeat at scale. We have a choice now. We can continue to operate in old patterns or we can begin anew. I find great hope in New Profit’s community of brave, passionate, and clear-eyed partners who choose to do better.

To hear from the other eight leaders and to access more content from the New Profit 2020 Annual Report, click here.