Civic Engagement, Staff Highlights, Systemic Solutions

Meeting the Moment with Yordanos Eyoel

By Yordanos Eyoel, New Profit Managing Partner

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 Yordanos Eyoel, a New Profit Managing Partner who leads the vision, strategy development, and management of New Profit’s Catalyze Investment portfolio. In 2019, she launched Civic Lab, as part of New Profit’s Catalyze Investment portfolio, to investing organizations led by visionary democracy entrepreneurs that are working to create civic trust and an inclusive democracy.

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?

The social impact sector operates in a highly silo-ed and structurally fragmented fashion with an overemphasis on certain issues such as education or poverty alleviation. One of the most poignant lessons of 2020 is that our systems are interdependent on one another. A health crisis will unquestionably impact our economy, our education system, and our democracy. We have to take a multidimensional systems view into our approaches to mirror the complexity of the human experience. How can we make the social impact sector more human rather than issue centric? This is a challenge to our modus operandi, but out of this immensely painful and devastating time in our history, we have the opportunity to reinvent our sector.

We have to take a multidimensional systems view into our approaches to mirror the complexity of the human experience. How can we make the social impact sector more human rather than issue centric? This is a challenge to our modus operandi.

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

The events of 2020 pushed us all to reconsider the ideological and structural foundations on which our country was built. The pandemic and the renewed call for racial justice following the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others put a spotlight on who the systems in our country are failing. And while the election demonstrated the resilience of our electorate and election workers, the deep political and cultural fragmentation highlighted the urgent need to build civic trust.

In response to this year’s historic events, our work focused on supporting and equipping the entrepreneurs and organizations in our portfolio and across the social impact sector who are on the frontlines of addressing systemic inequities. Below are a few highlights of our work:

  • Nonpartisan Civic Action Guide: Nonprofit organizations have an unparalleled opportunity to provide a civic home to their constituents by informing, activating, and supporting them to exercise their civic power. To provide guidance, I developed a non-partisan civic action toolkit that was distributed to over 200 organizations reaching 40+ million people.
  • Democracy Entrepreneurs Roundtable: The pandemic posed significant challenges to democracy organizations during an unprecedented election year. Recognizing the need for community, learning and collaboration, we hosted a virtual roundtable with 50 leading democracy entrepreneurs to radically imagine what a healthy, robust and inclusive democracy would look like.The roundtable discussion included breakout working sessions where democracy entrepreneurs had the opportunity to learn from each other and engage in active problem-solving discussions. It also included an open discussion with Hahrie Han, Political Scientist and the Inaugural Director of the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University and Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project.
  • Support to Build Adaptive and Resilient Organizations: Providing capacity building support to organizations is the bread and butter of New Profit. This year, we quickly recognized the need to reorient our efforts to specifically respond to the significant organizational disruption caused by the overlapping crises. In addition to our core capacity building pillars such as Adaptive Leadership coaching and board development, we also incorporated new areas such as scenario planning, financial contingency planning and crisis communications. Additionally, we virtualized all of our cohort programming and partnered with The Monitor Institute by Deloitte to develop social-sector scenarios.

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

  • Invest in building an inclusive democracy, which is the foundation for any transformative change
  • Support proximate leadership that uses a systemic lens to address the interconnected and complex issues we face today
  • Be open to interrogating and even forgoing old playbooks (even those that may have produced successful outcomes in the past) and give space for new vision, approaches, and practices

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