First Week at the Joint Center

This past week I started as Interim President and CEO of the Joint Center.  Founded in 1970, the Joint Center is a leading think tank on public policy and people of color.  The picture above is from our 2013 dinner, and for a flavor of some of our work see this short “Place Matters” video (where you live affects your health) and these foundational studies on improving the lives of young men of color.

Various supporters got us off to a good start with wonderful words (thanks Cory Booker, Ralph Everett, Caroline Fredrickson, Ben Ginsberg, Fred Humphries, Barbara Johnson, Heather McGhee, Charles Ogletree, Norm Ornstein, Dan Pabon, Chellie Pingree, Rashad Robinson, Terri Sewell, and Brian Smedley).  Several organizations extended special support, including but not limited to the Advancement Project, the Brennan Center, Demos, and W.K. Kellogg.

Along with navigating a blizzard during an NYC trip, the week included great conversations with many stakeholders (e.g., Joint Center staff, leaders from racial equity organizations, foundations, organizations of elected officials of color, and others).  I have many more important stakeholders with whom to connect in the near future.   We also took initial steps to build a vibrant online community, improve our collaborative work, and generate resources for general capacity building.

Personally, I’m thrilled to be at the Joint Center at this critical moment.  While the challenges we face are similar to those of other nonprofits, the challenges are not insurmountable, and are outweighed by opportunities.

I am optimistic about the future of the Joint Center for several reasons.

Legacy organizations often deny that change is necessary.  I am encouraged that the Joint Center board and staff all agree we must revamp the organization.  Already, we have started making some difficult decisions, including cutting spending.   We are rethinking everything – operations, development, talent, the method of delivering ideas, and much more.

Evolving technology has transformed many industries—including the think tank and policy arenas.  The opportunities for increased efficiencies, effectiveness, and capacity at the Joint Center are clear and significant.

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act is a key national issue, and the Joint Center’s Health Policy Institute–led by Dr. Brian Smedley–remains a national leader on health policy equity

Further, increasing diversity, economic and racial disparities, media fragmentation, and polarization create a significant need for a well-functioning Joint Center.  The Joint Center is uniquely positioned to bring together government officials, the private sector, communities of color, racial equity and grassroots advocacy groups, think tanks, scholars, and the philanthropic community to devise new ideas and solutions.

This is a leadership moment for all of us.  The Joint Center represents an incredible and important opportunity—a platform for us to work together to solve many of our nation’s most pressing problems.  My first ask—please follow the Joint Center on Twitter,  Facebook, and/or through email updates. More soon. I look forward to your ideas, and to working with you on this important cause. Our moment is now.

Spencer Overton, Interim President and CEO of the Joint Center