10 Reasons Why I’m Thrilled to Join Hewlett Foundation

A break from my usual straight-faced sarcasm, here’s a totally earnest listicle on why I’m so excited to start working at the Hewlett Foundation:

  1. For five years now I’ve been pointing to the Hewlett Foundation as the exemplar of philanthropy done right. It is humble, introspective, intellectual, open, and transparent.
  2. I love our strategy, described succinctly by my new boss, Ruth Levine, in this post: “P is for Policy, but First for People.” While I respect and appreciate the Gates Foundation’s work on supporting innovations to reduce poverty, we have differing viewpoints on the role of democracy and citizens in development.
  3. Speaking of Ruth Levine — and this is neither brown-nosing nor for #NationalBossDay — I think she’s one of the brightest public intellectuals on the Internet. Her paper When Will We Ever Learn? Improving Lives Through Impact Evaluation completely changed my views on development, evaluation and philanthropy. She has mentored many people in my field, and I’m fortunate to now have her as my boss. If you’re not already subscribed, her Friday blog posts are some of the most insightful pieces out there on development, civil society, research and philanthropy.
  4. I’m an unabashed fan of our grantees, including, to name just a few: Global Integrity, the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, Open Knowledge Foundation, the Center for Economic Teaching and Research, mySociety, PODER, Results for Development, the Center for Research and Studies in Social Anthropology, Translators without Borders and Sunlight Foundation. It feels good, so good, to be back in my field.
  5. Hewlett Foundation president, Larry Kramer, is a pretty funny (and dauntingly smart) dude.
  6. The larger Transparency and Accountability field has matured. It has moved past the fetishization of technology and transparency for the sake of transparency. It is increasingly focused on real impact for real people, and not just the amount of information available or the number of people pressing buttons on apps. It is more mindful of context — privacy, surveillance, how governments react & ignore civil society.
  7. I’m fortunate to work with my dear friend, Alfonsina. I’m usually a paranoid weirdo about keeping my professional life and my personal life separate, worried that one will negatively affect the other. That concern is non-existent with Alfonsina. Like the best of friends and colleagues, we look forward to disagreeing with one another, learning from one another, exploring together. If you don’t follow her blog posts, you’re missing out.
  8. I look forward to not getting promoted. Program officers at Hewlett Foundation have 8-year terms and there are no promotions. This, it seems to me, reduces promotion anxiety, promotes teamwork, diminishes internal politics, and lets employees focus on the work at hand. Our sense of self-worth comes from the work itself rather than the title on the business card.
  9. I have a professional excuse to remain personally involved in Mexico. At least half of my portfolio is based in Mexico. I am expected to stay up-to-date on political opportunities, societal debates, challenges facing civil society. I will enjoy all of this. My wife is Mexican, our children will be half-Mexican, some of our closest friends are in Mexico, I lived more consecutive years in Mexico City than any other city in my life. I want to stay connected.
  10. OK, I admit it, I’m really looking forward to having an office. I hated working in an open floor plan, despised my cubicle, could not concentrate for more than 5 minutes without being interrupted. It’s not that I’m a cranky hermit; I like socializing and collaborating in shared, common spaces, but I also need a private space to concentrate deeply.