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One Week at Next Generation

Tom Steyer made a very good point this week.  We were in New York meeting with investors and business leaders.  The subject was climate change, and the moral responsibility that corporations have to take on global warming.  Tom said, “The most successful companies in America are about more than maximizing profits.  They are values-based organizations that both make good profits and do the right thing. They are rewarded through loyal customers, loyal employees, and partners that want to work with them.”  

He is right.  And the culture we have created at Next Generation has demonstrated loyalty and values-based success.

We had a remarkable week at our “Little Nonprofit That Can” – one that would be remarkable for any nonprofit, but was all the more amazing to me, having spent about a quarter of a century in the field, for an organization that is less than four years old.  As Next Generation staff worked their magic this week on two coasts and in middle-America, Tom’s comment kept coming back to me. Let me recap the week:

  • On Tuesday in New York we released the first report of the Risky Business Project, “Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States.” This report, for the first time, looks at the risks different and critical sectors of the American economy face due to the quickening pace of global warning.  The report’s findings are stunning and sobering, and it received wide-spread media coverage, including Justin Gillis’ science report here from the New York Times, and a strong editorial here from the Financial Times. It was only 18 months ago that Kate Gordon, Tom Steyer and I began discussing this idea, and to take a project like this (the model contains 16 terabytes of data!) from concept to completion is quite an accomplishment.  We have truly outstanding partners working with us, from Mike Bloomberg and Hank Paulson, who along with Tom are the Project’s co-chairs, to our Risk Committee of Henry Cisneros, Gregory Page, Robert Rubin, Olympia Snowe, Donna Shalala, George Shultz, and Dr. Al Sommer, to the Rhodium Group who conducted the hard-core analysis. This is just the beginning of the Risky Business Project and we will be telling you more about our plans soon.
  • On that same day, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of our Too Small to Fail initiative with a series of announcements at CGI America including new projects with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Scholastic Inc. and Reach Out and Read.  This is part of our effort to close the “word gap” between kids in upper-income and lower-income families.  The announcement by AAP received major attention in articles like this in the New York Times.  Our partnership with the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation continues to prove to be a dynamic one, and we are developing exciting new projects together.  We also released four new videos from Hillary Clinton, Cindy McCain, Bill Frist, and President Obama on the word gap. Go watch them here.
  • Next Generation’s Jenya Cassidy participated in a White House Summit on Working Families as part of our ongoing work to support working families as they try to both provide and find the time to raise healthy, successful kids.

Now, to get under the Next Generation hood a little bit and back to Tom’s comment.  Next Generation is an incredibly lean organization, with a total of 24 employees and four interns in two program areas, communications, development, and operations.  We have outstanding leadership both at the Board level and through Kate Gordon, Ann O’Leary, and Matt Lewis.  Together, we have developed a culture that is hard-charging and entrepreneurial, but also nurturing and supportive.  For instance, we take great pride and place high value on developing our young staff and interns.  They are given major responsibilities and are expected to perform at a high level – and indeed they do, as demonstrated by being able to contribute substantive work to our projects and flawlessly pull off major events as they did this week.  Meet the Next Generation team here.

Believe it or not, there are a number of significant activities I left out of this summary – including a late-breaking commitment of a major new partner (stay tuned, as they say)!

I am deeply proud and appreciative of the hard work and team spirit of the Next Generation family.  As Tom noted, a strong company culture breeds success and attracts partners and talented collaborators – the Next Generation team is living proof of that.

As Ann O’Leary put it – “We are a little band making big music!”


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