Judith Rodin has served as president of the Rockefeller Foundation since March 2005. Trained as a research psychologist, Dr. Rodin was previously the president of the University of Pennsylvania, and earlier the provost of Yale University.
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Thank you so much for the questions, I hope that you take the time to check out my book. There are lots of great stories from what happened to LuLulemon after their sheer yoga pants debacle to how New Orleans is recovering after Hurricane Katrina. Keep posting on Reddit!
I'm the president of The Rockefeller Foundation, author of The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong, and was the first woman named to lead an Ivy League Institution, the University of Pennsylvania from 1994-2004.
How often do you communicate with members of the group known as the Illuminati in the performance of your professional duties?
I am the President of the Rockefeller Foundation and a former President of the University of Pennsylvania. I am not familiar with this group.
Are you a member of the CFR or Bilderburg?
Yes I am a member of the Council of Foreign Relations. Their policy work is really strong and I wish I had more time to attend their extraordinary lectures.
Do you think NGOs are ruining the country by filtering corporate money towards agendas that people aren't actually behind?
No--I don't. I think there is an unbelievable diversity of NGOs and lumping them all together doesn't focus on all of the amazing work that many of them are doing around the world-focusing on poverty, focusing on girls, education, and women's health. As well as focusing on reducing energy poverty in India just to name of a few.
What do you think about the large and growing amount of student debt for college education?
I despair at that and it’s critical that we figure out ways to make it more affordable for more people, especially when we need to figure out ways to regrow our economy and make prosperity more inclusive.
To what extent do you/the Rockefeller Foundation think a free and expressive civil society - at local, national and international level - is important to development, particularly in relation to securing livelihoods? What are you doing to promote this?
There is no question that a free and expressive civil society promotes more rapid development, it also builds way stronger communities and creates more opportunities for people to feel empowered and to grow better lives and livelihoods, unfortunately however there are lots of people in places around the world that don't live in those kind of societies and we also work and must work to help them lead better lives as well. That is crucial to reducing poverty and vulnerability worldwide.
Do you think it's disgusting that more money goes in to running organizations to help the poor than actually gets to helping the poor?
Absolutely not true. Most foundations spend way less than you would think running the organization, which is why we feel run ragged all of the time, then we do investing our time and our money in helping poor and vulnerable people around the world.
What's your opinion about the bill that's discouraging Tesla Motors from selling it's electric cars directly through company stores? I'm from the Netherlands, and I find this a shocking thing to happen in the US; where a free-market is almost a religion.
Elon Musk, who founded Tesla, went to UPENN. I'm for lots of things that make UPENN grads more successful.
So when do you think people are going to shut the system down and what are you going to do when it's gone?
Thanks for the question. I also worry about systems shutting down because I believe that crisis is the new normal and that disruptions are going to come in all forms. Some intentional and manmade. And some from weather or cyber events. We at Rockefeller actually are trying to make institutions and communities more resilient so that the things we care about won't be gone. That we'll be able to protect them.
Thanks for doing this AMA.
As the leader of a grantmaking foundation, what are your thoughts on the rising trend of hybrid for-profit/non-profit organizations (sometimes called "social enterprises" or similar)?
Does the Rockefeller Foundation have its own nonprofit start-up incubator/accelerator? If not, is that something that you have considered?
Thanks so much for the question. We actually have what we call an innovation pathway at Rockefeller, where we use our funding to promote and identify innovation and we fund social enterprise directly at times, but more importantly we are funding entrepreneurs to have the ecosystem that will enable more social enterprises to grow around the world. We have also been at the forefront of the field of impact investing, which is enabling private investors to put their money where they get a double bottom line return--both social and environmental impact and a financial return. We love this space and have invested a lot of time and energy in social enterprise and impact investing.
What one unconventional habit contributed most to your success?
I'm sorry I think I'm hopelessly conventional.
Thanks for this AMA! I'm a doctoral candidate in the humanities and an institutional advancement professional interested in a career in grantmaking -- what can I do (experience-, volunteerism-, education-wise) to make myself into the best possible candidate for a program officer job opening?
The best program officers are those who develop real substantative expertise and are strategic in their grant making. Philanthropy is different from charity and so any experience that helps you understand how to solve problems at their root cause is going to be critical. Our founder John D Rockefeller once said "we don't want to put bandages on weeping wounds", meaning let's solve the problem where it started. there are lots of ways for you to develop that kind of experience, but once you do, it will make you exceptionally successful in having the kind of impact that philanthropy should be having because it's America's tax advantaged risk capital.
What is the Rockefeller Foundation?
The Rockefeller Foundation is a 100 yo global philanthrophy that is working to try and accomplish two goals around the world: to build greater resilience and to build more inclusive prosperity. We have amazing colleagues who care deeply about improving the lives & livelihoods of some of the worlds poorest and most vulnerable people.
What do you think your career trajectory from leading UPenn to leading Rockefeller, a huge philanthropic organization, means for women and a more gender-equitable distribution of power at the highest levels of professional society? Is the fact that you are a woman significant to your current position? Do you think it impacts your priorities and/or the work to which you direct Rockefeller?
Thanks Davie--it has been amazing to lead two great institutions as the first woman each time. But what I have learned is that much more important than being a role model is being a really available mentor for those coming up behind me. My generation felt that the women who succeed before us and there were very few of them--pulled the ladder up after them and I am committed to not doing that.
What's on your bucket list?
Thanks Umma! Here are two of my top bucket list hopes: Travel that isn’t for work and writing a novel that gives psychological motivation to a real event for which there is no explanation. Remember I’m a psychologist.
Hi, Dr. Rodin! Thanks for doing this AMA.
When it comes to building resilience, how best can one find, keep and maintain a team of "movers and shakers" that works collaboratively?
Can you give an example of teams, that once brought together, failed to give the expected result, and explain why?
Better yet, can you give an example of a team that succeeded afterwards in the same arena, or tackling the same issues, and what conditions or practices favored their efforts?
Fantastic question Kiwi-the teams that both are most resilient and build resilience most effectively have complete transparency into what one another is doing, have high levels of trust, in themselves and one another and truly understand and feel committed to a common goal. They also have actively planned and carried out how each is going to work to achieve that goal. Those are the teams I have tried to build and I am still really close to a lot of the people on my team at UPENN, many who have gone on themselves to lead other colleges and universities.
Penn was recently named top party school. Work hard and play hard?
Maybe not the most pleasing designation for a president, but it is true that Penn students have a fantastic time both in and out of the classroom. Students use to stop me on campus just to tell me how much they loved it. Go PENN!
What's your coffee order at Starbucks?
Half caf/half decaf grande is my favorite. Usually drunk on the run. By the way I think Howard Schultz is amazing in his thinking about employee education and lots of other ways that companies can and should be socially responsible. A shout out to him!
Hi Ms. Rodin. When it comes to aiding developing nation's or addressing broad social reform needs do you think non-profits have an advantage over small enterprise?
I've been batting the question around for a while and it seems as though enterprise might allow for more thoughtful forms of investment and development.
Both are critical. We need more market based solutions, ultimately to sustain the effort begun by philanthropy usually in the form of pilots. We believe deeply in the social enterprise space and are trying to urge large corporations to adopt the social enterprise mindset more and more. Unilever is a great example of one that does, working to improve the lives of the farmers they source from, build better enterprises along their supply chains in many parts of the developing world and pay strong attention to their own corporate practices. So all of the elements are important: philanthropy, social enterprise, large enterprise, and the kinds of policies and practices of government.
What is your favorite Pizza Topping?
So this is such an easy one to answer, because I spent so many years in New Haven where fights break out amongst people around that question and around whether Sally's or Pepe's is the best pizza place. My favorite is Pepe's white clam pizza, it's amazing!
what did you eat for breakfast this morning?
I ate oatmeal with fresh blueberries and skim milk. It was wonderful. I also had a half caf/half decaf cappuccino and a half of a banana, because I just read that potassium prevents alzheimers.
Did you have any flaws as a teenager that you would like to draw attention to?
I wore glasses when all my friends had braces and I had perfect teeth. I felt like a horrible outsider.