Reflections on the past year from Dodge’s interim president

July 30, 2019

As the interim president of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide a mid-year update.

First, on behalf of the staff, we want to thank the community for its patience and support. It’s been just over a year since Dodge released its strategic plan and set ambitious goals for an equitable New Jersey through creative, engaged, sustainable communities. Since that time, we have transitioned leadership, maintained relationships with our current nonprofit partners as we have built new ones, and begun charting the course for the changes to come.

This has been a period of reflection, learning, and planning as we continue to ask ourselves: What are Dodge’s responsibilities and areas of influence in helping to create an equitable New Jersey? How can we set realistic goals for change? How can we — and philanthropy as a whole — do better for nonprofits and communities that have been historically marginalized? Together, our Board and staff are building on the successes and leadership of the past as we look to the future.

On a board-level, our Trustee Search Committee is leading the effort to identify Dodge’s next president and CEO. We are excited to welcome Dodge’s fourth leader this fall, who will help lead us into the foundation’s fifth decade through our new commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity.

We are immensely grateful to our Board for their feedback and support of our work with our consultants at Hillombo and Dragonfly Partners, who are guiding staff in the development of program-level theories of change and framing a broader organizational equity focus. This work has been invigorating, often challenging, and pushes us to explore new terrain.

The Dodge staff has also been focused on advancing our intercultural development and racial equity skills through readings, trainings, fellowships, and internal action learning groups. As a team, we read Emergent Strategy, attended Race Forward’s Facing Race conference, examined and reshaped our onboarding and professional development practices, and began learning about intersectionality and other topics in Critical Race Theory. We’re excited to share even more of the books, articles, and podcasts that are expanding our thinking and bringing us delight as part of our Dodge Summer Reading List (stay tuned).

In addition, we are excited that our grants management team recently launched a new online application system that will improve transparency and community between organizations and the Foundation, and that the Dodge Poetry Program is opening up submissions for Dodge Poets.

It has been my pleasure to serve in this role at this moment in Dodge’s journey to equity and keeping us engaged in working through difficult questions. We are learning to be open to new thinking from ourselves and others, to lean into discomfort, to struggle together, to bring humility to our work, that there is no such thing as perfection, and no quick fixes.

Transformative equity work takes time and must be responsive and iterative. We will be adjusting and adapting our approaches to respond to opportunities and investments that get traction or have the most impact.

We invite you to share information, lessons, and insights with our staff as our collective work and opportunities to collaborate in places, on issues, or projects emerge. In the coming months, we look forward to sharing further updates with you, the community that  informs us, inspires us, and holds us accountable.

Cynthia Evans is interim president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and Chief Financial and Administrative Officer.

Photo at top: Dodge staff recently visited the Franklin Parker Preserve to learn about and explore the effort to rewild this former cranberry bog in the Pine Barrens.