Latest Updates from Rippel
As I settle in for my second year as Rippel’s President and CEO, I find myself reflecting on what it will mean to be successful in my role. As a new leader entrusted with an ambitious mission, driven by staff and partners eager to contribute good in the world, it is easy to become impatient with the pace of change. Yet we know that enduring and meaningful change is never swift, and rarely if ever truly the result of one entity pushing the boulder up the mountain. That is more often a recipe for stalling out, or worse, slipping backward as adrenaline and sheer will eventually reach their limits. So, I have committed to cultivating the patience and courage needed to stay the course even in the face of urgency, fear, compounding crises, and the uncertainty they bring.
As we conclude our 70th year as a philanthropy, I am also reflecting on legacies. What impact could Rippel have on the health and well-being of our country over the next 70 years? This puts my role and my tenure in context, reminds me of the long arc of time, and that the work we do today is just a brief piece of our collective journey toward a thriving, equitable future. The most pressing question for me then, is not how can I be the best CEO for Rippel in this moment; rather, it is how can I be the best ancestor for a future CEO?
This orientation toward legacies calls for fidelity to the needs of the greater good: what will put us on a path to produce enduring equity, health, and well-being for all and not just a few—and what role should Rippel play in that vast storyline? Rather than searching for the next short-term fix, I am resolved to remain patient and trust that our values, our people, and our mission to see a world where all people thrive with no exceptions have set us on the right course.
Patiently staying the course of our roadmap feels at once hard and even more needed as we enter an election year with the stage already set for division and self-serving action. The world gets divided into political camps: you are either a “D” or an “R” and never the two shall meet. That division gets reflected in mainstream commentary about “movements.” It is unfortunate that there is an outsized focus on political movements, which are primarily intended to carry a particular candidate or party to power. People I deeply respect, and who have large platforms, talk about needing a movement that unites many people under a hopeful vision, but they do so only for the purpose of winning an election rather than serving the aspirations of the American people. At Rippel, we believe in a different movement—one that is designed to heal and bring us together: the movement to thrive together that we and others have been engaged in for several years.
Despite the dominant narrative that emphasizes division, I know that we share more in common than not—a desire for a world where each of us can provide for our families through work that has meaning for us, where we enjoy our community life and know we are invested in a place where we can both care for others and be cared for when needed.
This year at Rippel, we are redoubling our efforts to support bridging differences and finding ways to move beyond division and polarization. We believe that there is great promise in bringing together three adjacent fields: those working to expand a multiracial democracy, establish a well-being economy, and reorient America’s health care industry toward equitable well-being. To that end we have joined with Dr. Tiffany Manuel and the team at TheCaseMade to develop a playbook for field builders intended to span these fields. Developed after conducting listening sessions with individuals in each of the three fields, this playbook will provide tangible and concrete steps we can take together in service of our shared vision of a future where everyone thrives.
All of Rippel’s work is grounded in the future orientation: what kind of ancestors do we want to be for our future generations? I’m beginning 2024 with patience, because although I know our vision of the future may feel ambitious to some, the everyday acts of stewardship that we see around us—both big and small—demonstrate that this vision is within reach. With sustained focus, working together, I know we can get there.
President and CEO
It has been less than a year since we launched our new strategic roadmap, outlining Rippel’s commitments to move us toward our north star goal of thriving together. This fall, we have initiated work that is specifically tied to our roadmap commitments to reinforce a unifying narrative and bridge differences. This is particularly timely as we watch events unfold that are deeply rooted in legacies of hate and othering. I cannot offer words that will change or impact the conflicts, but I can help us remain committed to building a different approach to our future—one in which we foster belonging and effective outlets for civic engagement so that we may all live in a world with the opportunity to be healthy and thrive.
The work we are embarking on honors Rippel’s history of rethinking while staying focused on the enduring things that are essential for creating true and meaningful systems change. As curious observers and supporters of other stewards around us, we are increasingly interested in opportunities to learn from changemakers in other fields who are working toward a thriving future. They share our vision of a world where everyone has the vital conditions they and future generations need to participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. We recently launched a small series of listening sessions with such field builders working to expand a multiracial democracy, establish a well-being economy, and reorient America’s health care industry toward equitable well-being.
Each of these fields has tremendous potential to move us closer to a future in which we all thrive, with no exceptions. Each must also contend with legacies that have left entire communities behind. They all face serious obstacles, including opposition, defeatism, and fear that continuously interrupt progress at a time when every second counts. We know that there are stewards across the country who are working to advance the goals of each of these fields. But what if those stewards could leverage the collective strength in their shared purpose? What do the potential synergies and points of alignment look like? Who are all the other actors, and what are the roles that they need to play in achieving a thriving future?
At Rippel, we believe there is untapped potential and a more hopeful, unifying narrative that is grounded in solutions and action. This is why we are partnering with TheCaseMade to help build the will for solutions that can simultaneously move our democracy, economy, and health care systems toward an equitable, thriving future. We believe communities across America and around the world are ready for a new era of multisolving action. With a long history of creating spaces for individuals, organizations, and networks to come together, learn from each other, and co-create solutions, we are poised to help uncover those synergies that exist at the intersection—what we see as a “magic middle”—that can create transformative change.
We know that to get to that future, we must bring in more people—those who do not have a seat at the table, who have been systematically marginalized, and who are part of the “exhausted majority”—the disenchanted Americans who are fed up with polarizing narratives and are often forgotten in the public discourse because their voices are seldom heard. We need a new playbook for a future that will bring these groups back into the conversation in meaningful ways. Developing that literal playbook will be a key feature of our work with the CaseMade.
On this journey there are no shortcuts. Real, enduring change—change that reckons with our legacies of injustice and forges new paths for different legacies—requires us to think and act differently. I am at times met with frustration for not being specific or concrete enough about support for specific policy changes or tactical calls to action. That is very much by design; at Rippel, we operate on the belief that strategies for achieving an equitable, thriving future must be tailored for each community and designed by and for the people who live and work in those communities. We have a set of tools, frameworks, and language that we have developed and tested over many years that are effective when used to shift mindsets and build shared strategies and solutions. Our partners have told us many times that learning how to use our frameworks and develop new language and approaches to thinking is the most helpful and valuable aspect of working with us. We’ve helped them move beyond small, incremental changes to enduring, specific solutions that reflect the unique needs—and assets—of their community.
The answers will only emerge by creating spaces for other individuals and groups to come together and identify their own challenges and solutions. Whether it’s helping to set a region on a path toward a thriving future or considering what it will take to achieve a multiracial democracy, a well-being economy, and a more accountable health care system, there is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer. Rather, we are committed to building the will to think and act differently—it is the only way to create transformational change. Without new mindsets, we are simply incrementally tweaking around the margins, and that has proven incapable of creating the scale of change we need.
Since my last message, I had an energizing, inspiring few months at conferences and convenings, where I met and reconnected with so many stewards who are working to help their communities thrive and are addressing the injustices that keep so many people in patterns of struggling and suffering. Unfortunately, the hope and inspiration I felt has since been tempered by reminders of how fragile the progress of system change can be. As I began to draft this message, I found my heart heavy with reminders of this—the recent rulings from the Supreme Court, the continued news of gun violence and division in our communities, state laws restricting access to factual history in our schools and lifesaving health care in our clinics, and the unacceptable differences in Black maternal health outcomes—all threats to democracy and our collective well-being, to belonging and civic muscle, to underserved and underrepresented populations, and to the quest for a just and equitable society.
There is nothing I can write to fully capture the legal and social implications of the recent Supreme Court rulings, and I am in no position to offer anything that our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ friends can’t say a thousand times better about the impact of these events on their lives. What I hope I can speak to responsibly is that although these examples offer a glimpse into the values of some, by every measure I can gather, be it polling, conversation, or news article, it is also clear that they are out of touch with the hearts of the majority of Americans—an exhausted majority, sitting on the sidelines as the institutions we rely on continue to act in divisive and harmful ways.
But I also hold to the belief that this is no time to be discouraged. These events continue to remind us why truly embracing belonging and reinforcing that we need and value each other is essential. History has shown us that as systems fail—as they very clearly are—this is when people rise. The enduring spirit of humanity that consistently rises to meet the challenges of our times is still present. The value and impact that building belonging and civic muscle can have on the well-being of a community is profound. This is not an overnight solution, and it requires the courage to reframe what we count as success and impact. The time horizon for the return on our investments in belonging and well-being does not match a budget or election cycle, but it is nevertheless a worthwhile and enduring return.
In order for Rippel to fully contribute to the healing our country needs, we are committing to what I refer to as a culture upgrade for our own organization. Not an overhaul—and not simply tweaking the margins. In the last year, we have very intentionally recruited significant new talent to the Rippel team, including adding a new member to our Board of Trustees and two new members to our leadership team. A third of our staff has joined Rippel within the past year, presenting both opportunities and challenges for an organization of our size. Fostering a culture that both honors our history and values the contributions of new people with different experiences is not an easy task, and we have skinned our knees as we are learning to walk in the new strength of our diversity as an organization. I know that we cannot be our best—we cannot run at full speed as this moment requires of us—without being intentional about how we show up internally as an organization. We are a reflection of the same changes we are calling for in the broader world. How we treat each other matters, not just for each team member, but for the energy and the spirit with which we carry our work into the world.
Like many, I struggle to find the right balance of when to speak out on each new threat to our democracy, with the knowledge that real change will come not through words but tangible and meaningful actions—repeated actions over time. Through each event we are reminded that staying focused on where we can have an impact is the very thing we need to do—and will continue to do with urgency. Rippel joined with our peers by signing on to a recent philanthropic joint statement, and we will speak out more vocally when we feel that our voice can contribute. We will continue to prioritize doing the hard work to amplify a unifying narrative that is needed now more than ever; to promote ways to bridge our differences; and to center belonging and engaging in our democracy through our civic muscle toward a future where the vital conditions necessary for all to thrive are present and enduring in our country. These are the strategic commitments that we are focusing our energy on at Rippel, and we encourage you to join us and others in this movement to thrive together.
In my last message I introduced Rippel’s new strategic roadmap. It is the culmination of years of refinement through action learning cycles, numerous joint ventures with partners at local and national levels, and a continuous commitment to remain curious and focused on what it takes to achieve equitable health and well-being in our country. Our vision of a system of health that focuses on health and well-being—not just health care—a system that is thriving, equitable, and sustainable, remains ever relevant. And while this vision is ambitious, it is not unattainable. We must continue to stay the course, taking the long-term view and focusing on efforts that will create meaningful and enduring systems change.
Like many of you, I am increasingly alarmed at the fracture, anger, violence, and racial injustice seemingly eroding the very fabric of our society. But I am equally hopeful and inspired by the many bright spots we see, where justice is being fought for, courage is winning the battle against division, and fellow stewards are finding each other. It shows that we share more in common than it may sometimes seem. It is only by coming together, connecting with one another on a human level, working through legacies of injustice and suffering, and focusing on what unites us that we will truly be successful in expanding the vital conditions that we all need to thrive together.
We can choose to rewrite the rules so that we move away from decisions that serve individual interests, where every gain for you means a loss for me, and instead return to the values of this country where the importance of connection at the social, political, and economic levels was appreciated and valued. We have strayed far from that ideal in our nation over time—atrocities inflicted on our indigenous peoples, the scourge of slavery, and other harmful legacies. These legacies have sown seeds that have grown into today’s soaring disparities in every metric a civil society should be measured by—wealth, education, and health.
But there is hope. We have witnessed inspiring and powerful examples of joining together across differences to aim for something beyond all of us—the civil rights movement, our national response to 9/11, and our collective efforts to aid communities recovering from natural disasters. How do we convert that episodic American spirit of collective sacrifice and shared problem solving into a daily practice to create enduring change to the systems that leave countless people excluded from the promise of the American dream?
I don’t suggest that I have the answers, but we are hungry to connect with like-minded stewards who share our ambition for a different future.
Over the next decade, Rippel will work with other stewards to strengthen the growing movement to thrive together by focusing on the four commitments in our strategic roadmap: to foster and reinforce a unifying narrative, bridge differences, invest in vital conditions for well-being, and measure and make visible the broader movement to thrive together. These strategic priorities will guide our work as well as our offerings to all of you.
As we kick off our 70th year, we are excited to launch several new initiatives. In April, we welcomed several close friends of ReThink Health, who spent a day with us co-designing an inaugural cohort of current and former partners. This will be a powerful platform for peer learning, storytelling, problem solving, and strengthening connections across communities working toward the same ideals. I am also thrilled to share that we just redesigned our website, making it easier for you to learn about our mission, our work and resources, and the growing movement to thrive together. In May, we will offer the first in a series of ongoing ReThink Health Toolbox webinars—introducing you to our core frameworks and tools and making them freely available to stewards everywhere. And we will increasingly use storytelling to make available the lessons we have gathered from changemakers across the country. Recognizing that stories are powerful sources of courage and practical inspiration through the examples of others, we will soon be releasing a platform to collect stories from stewards everywhere.
Joining Rippel was an intentional move toward greater alignment for me personally—committing the next act of my professional life to an organization deep in talent, ambition, and desire to create a better world for all. Our next chapter as an organization is about ensuring that we bring a laser focus to what it will take to achieve that ambitious future. I invite each of you to join us in aligning your abundant personal, organizational, and community assets with the work to create a future where all people and all places can thrive, no exceptions!
As we turn the calendar, it is tradition to reflect on the year past and refocus our intentions on the year ahead. This year I find myself embarking on this annual ritual with a profound sense of gratitude and humble responsibility as I start the year in my new role as President and CEO of The Rippel Foundation. When I joined Rippel as an Executive Vice President a little over a year ago, it was an opportunity to recommit to the work that first ignited my passion in public health and public service—the ideal that we can come together across communities to shape an equitable future in which health and well-being are truly accessible to all.
It makes me smile to think that my personal growth at this moment is very similar to that of Rippel. After more than 20 years in government service at the state and federal levels, I have the benefit of experience that time affords. At the same time, I am new to the field of philanthropy and recognize that there is much to learn. As Rippel enters its 70th year, it too has a rich history of expertise and accomplishments—and yet, it is relatively young following its reinvention 15 years ago through the ReThink Health initiative. We are at once “elders” and still in our youth. I firmly believe that is our mutual strength, because the work that lies ahead calls for the patience, wisdom, and humility that comes with experience, and the energy, hope, and ambition of youth.
At a time when we are faced with daily reminders of how unjust systems have failed so many fellow Americans, and the compound crises of climate change, inadequate health care, continued racial disparities, and a generation more familiar with active shooter drills than the freedom to play carefree through their neighborhood, it can seem like we are slipping backward. I will not suggest that the path toward a brighter future is easy, but I do insist that it is visible should we choose to follow it. It requires us to truly sit with our legacies of injustice, the pain they have caused, and the ways that they have led us into our fractured systems. We must hear, see, and feel each other to imagine a path forward that intentionally dismantles systemic injustices and promises never to repeat them. We must build our resolve to choose differently, knowing that business-as-usual practices do not serve us on a path to well-being.
At Rippel, we embrace complexity, strive to be a learning organization, and believe deeply that a hopeful, abundant, equitable future in which we all thrive together is more than a starry-eyed vision—it is an expectation that can and must be achieved by working together. We know there are bright spots across the country where shared stewardship is taking hold and communities are fostering belonging and building civic muscle—an antidote to our fractured times. Every day, people are stepping forward, demonstrating care for one another, and engaging in productive dialogue that respects and builds on our differences to design a future worthy of generations to come. These are the courageous acts we need to make visible, learn from, and replicate.
We have an exciting year ahead at Rippel. I invite you to join us as we commit to our next decade of catalytic change by focusing on four strategic aims that will advance the wider movement to thrive together:
It feels like a tremendous gift to wake up every day and work with dedicated stewards across so many communities and organizations that are committed to a better future. We are eager to partner with individuals and institutions to learn, grow, commit to action, and co-invest in achieving these aims. We don’t have all the answers, but we thrive on the promise of collectively moving toward our north star with each and every one of you.
My warmest wishes for a year ahead that builds toward a future of renewal and hope for us all.