Innovation Ecosystem

The long goodbye

An exit interview with Neil Steinberg, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, as he begins his year-long journey toward retirement as leader of the state’s community foundation, with $1.4 billion in assets

Photo by Angela Ankoma, image courtesy of Angela Ankoma's Twitter feed

Neil Steinberg, center, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, with Muraina “Morris” Akinfolarin, left, and Angela Ankoma, executive vice president at the Rhode Island Foundation, right, on a recent visit to the Oasis International center.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 6/20/22
An in-depth, exit interview with Neil Steinberg, the president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, covering the future challenges that Rhode Island faces, in a frank discussion of the gaps in education, health care, and investments.
When will the importance of public health not be confused by politicians who tout economic recovery as the yardstick for outcomes? What are the consequences of long COVID on children under the age of 18 in Rhode Island? With the failure of Gov. Dan McKee’s initiative for municipal learning centers and higher education academies to be included in the budget approved by the R.I. House, how will that impact the role of future consulting contracts undertaken by the state? Will the future leadership at the Rhode Island Foundation be willing to shift gears and make the climate change urgency a major part of their future investment strategy? Is there a need to redefine accountability for private equity investments in health care – in nursing homes, in hospitals, and in primary care practices – to protect Rhode Island consumers? When will the new dean of the Brown medical school invite the executive director of Ortho RI in for a discussion?
The value of ConvergenceRI – and the ability to create engaged conversations around the quintessential challenges facing Rhode Island – were revealed in the interview with Rhode Island Foundation CEO and President Neil Steinberg. Recalling the old tag line from WINS news radio, “you give us 20 minutes, and we’ll give you the world,” the conversation with Steinberg touched upon the problems of accessing capital, the lessons learned – and not learned – from the COVID pandemic, the dire need to make long-term investments in behavioral health services, what due diligence will be required in the investment to resurrect the Superman building, the efforts to develop a new generation of leadership that promotes racial equity, the difficulty of confronting misinformation and disinformation, the ways in which the ongoing future educational initiative has been disappointing, and perhaps, most importantly modeling the way that news media can support dialogue and conversation in a constructive manner.
In the course of the interview, there were some fascinating tidbits revealed: the Rhode Island Foundation e-newsletter has approximately 17,000 subscribers; the Equity Leadership Initiative will soon be announcing its next cohort of 30 participants; and the Rhode Island Foundation has no apparent interest in purchasing The Providence Journal to restore local ownership.
Years ago, a rogue wave came crashing down on myself and my son, then four years old, at the beach on Martha’s Vineyard, He was sitting on my shoulders. We were both thrown into the turbulent surf. Submerged underwater, I struggled to reach out and finally grab hold of my son’s arm, pulling him to the surface and saving his life.
In a split second, our world had nearly been upended forever. We always think that we can plan out our lives, that we can anticipate and rehearse and schedule events to our liking, with great precision, leaving little or no room for improvisation or mistakes.
There are always moments like that – tragic, like a fatal, head-on car crash, or serendipitous, such as an unplanned meeting at a journalism convention at the old Biltmore Hotel in New York City.
Our stories, like musical instruments, can easily fall out of tune. The music of those stories, however, will always remain fierce and true. Sometimes they are fleeting, like fireflies on a summer evening, in a blackberry meadow created by winter storm that flooded a hay field.

PROVIDENCE – Neil Steinberg, by his own admission, has led a charmed life, with a career working for three iconic institutions: Fleet Bank, Brown University and the Rhode Island Foundation.

Last month, Steinberg announced his planned retirement scheduled for May of 2023, creating the opportunity to have a long goodbye as a change agent, cheerleader and charmer on behalf of Rhode Island.

His future vision for Rhode Island is that one day there will be signs on the highway, so that when travelers enter the state from Connecticut, the signs will proclaim Rhode Island to be the healthiest state in the nation and having the best public education system in the U.S.

“I have always wanted to see,” Steinberg told ConvergenceRI in a recent interview, “when you drive into Rhode Island from Connecticut on I-95, you would see two signs there: ‘Rhode Island, home of the best public education in the United States,’ and ‘Rhode Island, the healthiest state in the country.’”

Steinberg did not shy away from talking about the long-term challenges that Rhode Island faces, despite the current largesse of federal dollars supporting the budget.

“If we do not improve our educational outcomes for all people, if we do not address mental health and substance abuse challenges that are at epidemic proportions, if we continue to leave populations behind, I do not believe we will have an adequate workforce in this state in 10 years,” Steinberg said, adding that he had gotten pushback when he had said that. “You know where I have gotten the pushback,” he asked rhetorically. “People who have said it won’t take 10 years.”

Here is an exit interview with Steinberg, the president and CEO of The Rhode Island Foundation, with assets of more than $1.4 billion, covering a broad range topics, including the Foundation’s future position as a catalyst for change.

ConvergenceRI: First, just because it has been so dramatic and captivating, have you been following the Jan. 6 Committee hearings? What has been the most startling revelation about those hearings for you?
STEINBERG: I’ll be honest. We’ve been so busy. I’ve been reading about them, but not listening to them. It is just a function of time. Other than it is not the best chapter we’ve seen in American history, I have not really delved into it enough to give you an intelligent opinion.

ConvergenceRI: Do you have any specific retirement plans? Do you plan to take an extended vacation? Or, take up new hobbies?
STEINBERG: I’m going to train for the Olympics.

ConvergenceRI: Seriously? For the over-60 Olympics? As a sprinter?
STEINBERG: No, I’m being a wise guy. I’m just looking forward to a next chapter, to cut back a little, and probably control my own time a little more.

But, I’ve got a lot of time between now and May 1, [2023]. Things will come up. I look forward to exploring them. But, I don’t play golf. And, I’m not going to sit in the park and feed the pigeons.

You know, I have been very, very, very, very fortunate. I can’t say it enough. I’ve worked for three iconic Rhode Island institutions. I worked for Fleet Bank. In fact, for Industrial National Bank before it was Fleet. I’ve worked for Brown University, and obviously, now for the Rhode Island Foundation.

Anything I do next will hopefully still contribute to the community. I am not moving. I wanted more flexibility, more time with family, more time to do other things. But I still have a 100 percent commitment to the community – and to Rhode Island.

ConvergenceRI: When was the last time you had a really good argument with someone, a discussion during which you and someone else disagreed strongly?
STEINBERG: I’m going to take off the table spousal negotiations.

ConvergenceRI: Absolutely. I was thinking more about policy disagreements.
STEINBERG: I think as we’ve been getting involved with the recommendations we made for the ARPA dollars, it is mainly discussion, debates – it has not been rancorous – on priorities.

Where should we be spending our time? Where should leaders be focused? Where should money be allocated? And those tend to be the kind of deepest discussions, with different points of view, that I get involved with, pushing back on special interests.

A lot of people are advocating, naturally, for their areas of expertise, or their organization that they run. I try to look across sectors, for a balance across short-term and long-term [needs], across the state.

And that is where, without being specific about one conversation that I probably can’t pick out, that is where it gets to be a little more pointed debate about what is really needed – what is right in front of you, and what would be nice to have.

ConvergenceRI: Do you ever feel that people are intimidated to be arguing with you?
STEINBERG: They may or may not be. It is not ever my intent. And it is not something I am typically aware of. I think that in a lot of positions like this, there are power dynamics. I try to be aware of that.

I try to have inclusive conversations; I try to engage people that don’t always have a voice. One of the rules at the Foundation is to be a voice for those without a voice. I am not impressed by titles – or by positions, or by wealth, things like that.

I try and work with people who are sincere and committed and passionate and knowledgeable. It is never my intent to intimidate. I can’t tell you whether that maybe has, or hasn’t happened. But usually I will do everything I can to connect on all the different levels, with as many different groups of people or topics that I can.

[I am] very quick to acknowledge when I don’t know something, or don’t know a specific area. I don’t try and pretend to be an expert on things.

The strength that we have [at the Foundation], and one of the things that I have enjoyed most about the job is the wide breadth of what we do. We tend to see how things are connected.

That brings out a different perspective, so that when you [confront] silos, [you know how] to connect the silos, how to balance, as I said, short-term needs and long-term systemic change.

ConvergenceRI: One of the big issues [confronting Rhode Island and the nation], I believe I brought it up with you in our last conversation, were the challenges posed by climate change and environmental concerns. Do you see this as something that the Rhode Island Foundation, beyond [your work on] health and education, needs to become a greater focus of the Foundation’s investments?
STEINBERG: I don’t remember my answer, but it will probably be similar. One of the backdrops we have here, we talk about it a lot, and I was just talking to the board about it: We can do anything, but not everything.

We have carved out our priorities of health, and education and economic security. We are also involved in housing and basic human needs. And, to some extent, the environment and the arts.

It’s a lot for one organization [to take on]. Not to diminish at all the importance, the role, the criticality of climate change. I think we’ve tended to look at intersections – where does health intersect with climate change?

As for the big [challenge], that the shores are upon us, we have not done that. I can’t speak to the future. That may be something that somebody else brings to the table. But [our priorities] have not changed since the last time we talked.

ConvergenceRI: I was curious about the loan you provided to push the deal for the Superman building over the top and make it happen. I was struck by the fact that there seemed to be a little bit of a lack of due diligence, perhaps not on your part, regarding the investment being made for a corporation that was no longer active…
STEINBERG: I’ll answer that, but I don’t understand what you mean by a corporation that is no longer active.

ConvergenceRI: That the corporation had not paid its taxes and its corporate status was apparently out of date…
STEINBERG: Oh, you are talking about the owner’s corporation. Well, first of all, we haven’t made any loan. Nobody has made a loan. This is all about putting a deal together. Our loan is subject to due diligence, subject to legal review. None of that has been done yet.

This deal was put together, I think, very interestingly, and with a lot of effort, as a deal [in which] over the next five or six months, as I think the owner had stated, [involving] that due diligence, actually working out the details.

We haven’t made any loans. Ours is contingent, if you look at some of the statements. Our [loan], as well as the tax credits that we are [supporting] in our financing, are subject to a certificate of occupancy.

We would have no risk; if this doesn’t get built, there won’t be a nickel going out. The minute that there is a certificate of occupancy, the state issues the Rebuild Rhode Island $15 million tax credits, as I understand it, and those are paid out over four years. Our loan [provides] the money – we loan the money up front to the borrower for that $15 million, and then we get paid [back] over that four years, as the tax credits come in.

There are a lot of components that are still subject to due diligence, subject to further work and legal documents, that still has to be done. So, we have not made a loan yet. We have indicated that we would make a loan, if certain conditions were met.

ConvergenceRI: One of the challenges facing Rhode Island, it seems to me, is about the availability of capital. I attended the ONE Neighborhood Builders event earlier this week, where they announced the launch of a $500,000 revolving community loan fund.

At the same time, there was a loan fund that was supposed to give out money to small businesses in Providence, where the money apparently was not given out, and now the loan fund is expiring.

Then there is all this money that was disbursed through the CARES Act, and it is still unclear about what it bought, in my opinion. I don’t think there has been a good analysis of that. Could you talk about the problems about lack of access to capital? And, how you see the problems?
STEINBERG: Sure. Remember, that I always have an old banker’s hat on, too, that I can never remove, because that is what I grew up as. Lack of capital has been a topic for ages. It’s real; it is also challenging.

Not every entity, individual, company, whatever, that wants capital, has earned it. So, if they are losing money for five years in a row, and can’t pay it back, and they are going to say. "I couldn’t get a loan." Well, there is a reason why they couldn’t get a loan, that’s number one.

Number two, the other [extreme], is how complicated [the process] is.

You referenced the Providence program; you referenced the state programs. Sometimes, they [can be] overly bureaucratic, they [can be] overly restrictive, and [often] they are not built, in my mind, starting with the end user in mind.

[With the Providence loan fund], they have re-jiggered it, as I understand it. In the next few weeks, before the program expires, Providence is going to change some of the requirements, [such as] the tangible tax requirement, that ruled out a lot of people.

So, yes, I think, there is an issue about access to capital. There is also a lot of technical assistance that is needed. If any of us go in and ask for a loan, we’re going to get asked for information. If we don’t have that information, if we don’t have a personal financial statement, if we don’t have tax returns, the things needed for there to be due diligence, then we are not going to get that capital.

Sometimes there are language barriers. Sometimes there are technical barriers, like, “I don’t have an accountant.” For some, there is: “I don’t know how to do financial projections.”

That is a big part of the capital access conversation. There are different groups – the Rhode Island Black Business Association, the Hispanic Chamber, who can provide that [technical assistance]. Sometimes, the Small Business Association, sometimes, the local economic development folks, [can provide the technical assistance].

But I pair technical assistance with access to capital. Because, it is not as simple as I went in [asking for money] and I got told, “No.”

What’s the reason he [or she] got told no? You shouldn’t get told no because of things that are not proper; it shouldn’t be because of the neighborhood [where you live], or something like that. But, there are times when information is lacking, or where repayment ability is lacking. You don’t want to give a loan to somebody – and then put them out of business, because they can’t pay it back.

ConvergenceRI: Have you been disappointed with the progress made to date with the long-term education initiative?
STEINBERG: Yeah. I think nobody is satisfied with that. But, you know, I don’t think that it is an excuse, it’s very legitimate [to say]: There is this huge asterisk of COVID.

If we had all said, here’s some great plans to do things for education, but guess what? For the next two years, the kids are not going to be in the classroom, you wouldn’t have done it; you wouldn’t have started it. I think that you can’t separate that.

The other thing is that COVID has exacerbated [the problems].

If someone was struggling to read at grade level before COVID, the worst possibility is that COVID [may have] set [that student] back even further. The social and emotional side and the mental health side, as well as the academic learning loss, knocked everyone for a loop.

I think we need to get back to basics. It seems like if we can figure out how to work within this endemic [emphasis added] in the schools, [we can] get back to basics and to get kids to grade level reading and to get kids to math levels, and to work with the English Language Learners. And, to be equitable in providing opportunities for the communities.

So, yes, I’m disappointed.

ConvergenceRI: It seems to me that there is still a residual of bad feelings between the teachers and the administration in Providence. Is that just one of those problems that will always be there? Or, do you think that there needs to be a change in attitude moving forward?
STEINBERG: As you know, everything is a combination. I don’t think there has been broad, across-the-board dissatisfaction. I think that there are individual situations at different schools, with different people.

We have a superintendent who is still relatively new, but who came from the community, and who seems to have good relationships there.

Improvements are being made. One of the brightest spots is the improvement being made to the physical plants, finally, at a lot of the schools. So, both the work and learning environments are getting improved. That is [occurring] beyond Providence, obviously.

I do think that more outreach is being done. I think trying to get parents engaged, being more respectful of their voices, and the student voices, is occurring.

My guess is that [changes in attitude] will happen over time – it is incremental, and not sea change [occurring] on a certain date – but I think it is probably going in the right direction.

ConvergenceRI: When it comes to the news media, I believe we are still in a time of extreme disruption. It is very hard, because so much misinformation and disinformation gets put out there, which makes it challenging to have conversations about what is going on, because of the nature of the partisanship – and that people seem to be arguing with no connection to the facts. You have a lot of people who are shouting slogans at each other.

What do you see as the biggest needs for the news media? Obviously, I live it. But, from your perspective, can you get your message out? Do you believe that your messages are being heard? And, do you think that there needs to be a greater local ownership. Would the Rhode Island Foundation ever want to buy the Providence Journal?
STEINBERG: No, to the last question.

I will answer your question, but also, from a personal point of view, one of the challenges is that [the news delivery] is so fragmented. You have to go, if you want to be informed, even if you want to work at being informed, you’ve got to go to a lot of sources.

Whether it is several different media sources, the TV, radio, print, online, daily, weekly, monthly, there are just a lot of places that there is news, and it is not all in one place.

Like it used to be, at least that was my sense, you could go to one or two sources, and you’d find out most of what is going on. Now, I have to read a lot of stuff. And follow a lot of stuff to get the news. And to try and follow people or organizations that I think are credible.

We spend a lot of time, and Chris [Barnett] is here [listening in on the interview], getting the word out. And, we do it in all those sectors, so we do it in the weeklies. We do it with statewide organizations; we do it with different media. And, we have our own e-newsletter. Our e-news has more than 17,000 [people] on our list that goes out every week. In a way, you know, we are a media outlet.

It is a way for us to get our news out. Our news is centered on opportunities, on scholarships that might be open, or grant opportunities, or different strategies that we are doing and getting that out.

I think it is just a lot more work to be able to be informed – and to inform. I do get bothered though, by I think some of what you are saying in your question, is that there are a lot of people who are not informed. And I do think it is a challenge. I don’t have the answer to it.

ConvergenceRI: Neither do I, except to try and ask good questions and seek out conversations [and be accurate in my reporting].
STEINBERG: I spend a lot of time cobbling together a lot of sources and paying attention to what I believe are credible places and individuals.

ConvergenceRI: Well, hopefully ConvergenceRI is one of those credible places.
STEINBERG: Every Monday morning.

ConvergenceRI: Here’s a question. I was confused by what role you had with arranging the participation of McKinsey & Company, according to Stefan Pryor, and their participation in what happened during the initial government response to COVID. Stefan Pryor described it as a “pro bono” relationship.
STEINBERG: Correct. It was pro bono. And they had to contribute to a nonprofit. And, we were the nonprofit.

ConvergenceRI: So, McKinsey & Company did not get paid any money for what they did?
STEINBERG: Not from us. If there was something else, I don’t know. But I don’t think so. But I know that they weren’t paid anything from us.

In order for them to contribute [to the government’s response], it needed to go through a nonprofit entity. We were involved overall, with many others, obviously, in the COVID response. It was as simple as that.

We didn’t hire them, whatever. They offered, they did it on a pro bono basis, and we received it.

ConvergenceRI: They came to you, and that is how you got involved?
STEINBERG: At some point. There might have been other discussions with them.

ConvergenceRI: Thanks for clarifying that. It is still confusing to me. I wasn’t sure how those things worked. I have never heard of McKinsey doing something for nothing before.
STEINBERG: All the consultants do it, [including] BCG [Boston Consulting /Group]. It is not as uncommon as you think.

ConvergenceRI: That is why I asked the question, because I was confused by it.
STEINBERG: Clearly, whether it was the Governor’s team, or CommerceRI, or whomever, somebody had conversations with them. We didn’t go beat the bushes and find them.

But when we were informed that McKinsey was willing to – and McKinsey is a great name, and a great organization, and very knowledgeable, they had access to worldwide information. When we heard that they were willing to help the state of Rhode Island, on a pro bono basis, then that is when we got involved. That is when we were approached.

ConvergenceRI: As you move into your final year at the Rhode Island Foundation, you’ve made an enormous investment into equity. I was wondering: do you have metrics that you have developed about what you would like to see moving forward, in terms of equity?
STEINBERG: When I talk about metrics to success, I don’t always talk about numbers. We are seeing great opportunities and great movement toward what we want to accomplish. Our capstone in this is the Equity Leadership Initiative that we started to bring in and to cultivate and to support future leaders in the communities of color. Our first cohort is ending in the next couple of months. It has been a spectacular success.

We will be announcing the second cohort in the coming weeks. We are just deciding on that now. It is a cohort of 30. I talked with all of them individually. Angie Ankoma has led the program, and it has just been a huge success.

It is a group of future leaders. We introduced them at our annual meeting. We have broadened our approach. We have always worked in the different communities of color across the state; we have broadened that, we have enhanced it.

We are trying to be more available, showing up, being in the community. All of those things have gone to a higher level.

We have specific grants that we have done. We have some grant programs that we will be announcing in the coming weeks.

It permeates our business. So what we didn’t do, Richard, is we didn’t do another vertical element. What we are doing, and what we believe is the right way, is it goes across everything that we do, whether it is fundraising or it s grant making, or it is our civic leadership. The three legs of our stool.

We asked the question: Have we been inclusive? Have we looked at groups that are maybe not around the table? Sometimes, it is asking. Sometimes, it is going to a meeting, and saying, “This is not a representative group.”

When we did the work, looking at the “integrated academic health system,” a huge part of that, if you look at the report, was getting feedback from diverse communities on what they needed for health care, on what they saw was not there for health care.

In our two big, long-term initiatives on education and health, achievement gaps in education and disparities in health are front-and-center in trying to eliminate that.

To not see a difference in scores among white kids, Black kids, Latino kids, and others. In not seeing different outcomes in the health sector that you are well aware of, because of race and ethnicity.

ConvergenceRI: As you look at the context for that work, and you have talked about this, how the pandemic revealed things that were always there, but perhaps it made them more visible, in terms of disparities, if that is the right word, particularly for impoverished communities and communities of people of color.
STEINBERG: Right.

ConvergenceRI: There seems to be a renewed risk going on, now that the federal government and the state government have simply cut back on the testing and the vaccinations programs run by the state. Instead, it has put that burden on local health providers, Clinica Esperanza. I think that Open Door Health is also now involved. My question is: What have we learned, because it seems like the communities that are most vulnerable are becoming the ones still most at risk. What I understand is that there may be no money to pay for the uninsured moving forward, for the test and treat program, that apparently the money will run out as of June 30.
STEINBERG: I am not up on that level of detail. So I will take it back to the first part of your question. Yes, we saw, as you described it, correctly, that the pandemic didn’t reveal anything that we didn’t already know. It made everything worse. It exacerbated things. So, surprise, surprise, the communities that got hit the hardest were the communities of color and the elderly.

You asked about what we learned. Well, learning is only half of the equation. Once you’ve learned, what do you do about it? You are asking: Are we changing the ways we are doing things going forward?

I worry that, from what I’m told, there will be another pandemic at some point. Who knows what it will be? The question is: will we be sitting here again, saying, “Oh my God, we don’t have enough masks. We don’t have enough gowns.”

It sounds pretty stupid that we would not stockpile, that we would not do things. It seems as if it has become overly politicized.

The other thing is that impact of all that is not short-term. That is one of my biggest concerns. We have had a “K” recovery. For some people, who have certain types of jobs, where they can easily work from home, who have reasonable salaries, they can cut down on their commuting expense, on their eating expense, on their new clothes expense. They are part of the “K” recovery that goes up.

And then, we have the population where the “K” is going down, where they were hit very hard, and now, you have insidious inflation. And, I know that you didn’t ask that specifically, but that is one of my biggest concerns right now.

Who gets hit hardest? So, we will have a lot of federal money here to fix up roads and bridges and less and less people who can afford the gas to drive on them. Pretty ludicrous, [in my opinion].

So, for all of these things that COVID made worse, that don’t go away with a vaccine, while out health gets improved, but somebody who is homeless, somebody who can’t afford to eat, somebody who lost their job, that doesn’t go away the minute that they get vaccinated.

And, that is what keeps me up [at night]. So, right now, if I were going to talk to a nonprofit organization, those wonderful groups, doing boots on the ground, heroic work in the community, if they have any endowment, it is down 20 percent.

If they are providing goods and services, which most are, their expenses are up, 10-15 percent.

And, if they are raising money, and we go into a recession, raising money gets tougher. These are tough things to deal with.

I didn’t directly answer your question, other than those who got hit the hardest by COVID, will get hit the hardest with high inflation. We have not turned around things on behavioral health care.

I am shocked, Richard, that you have not used the term behavioral health yet our discussion. I have said this before: If we do not improve our educational outcomes for all people, if we do not address mental health, substance abuse challenges that are at epidemic proportions, if we continue to leave populations behind, I do not believe we will have an adequate workforce in this state in 10 years.

And, I have gotten pushback on that. And, you know where I have gotten pushback? People who have said it won’t take 10 years. That is how serious I think it is with a lot of these things.

Again, the behavioral health issues that were, again exacerbated by COVID, that you know better than I do. The suicide rates among teenagers, the overall mental health of people in front line jobs, the opioid [OD deaths], the alcohol, the domestic violence, all of those things we don’t have satisfactory resources yet allocated to either prevention, the Holy Grail, or even taking care of people.

I hear that you can’t get child psychiatrists…

ConvergenceRI: You can’t.
STEINBERG: I hear that the Hasbro Children’s Hospital emergency room is full of people with behavioral health issues, because they can’t get care at other places, and then all the people who don’t have access to the care.

Whether you call them part of the COVID aftermath or you just call them what they are, they are a huge area that we need to pay attention.

ConvergenceRI: If you look at yourself as a change agent, Neil, if that is a good way to describe you, I think it is. Where do you think it is most important for you to put your resources, to be promoting change at this point? You’ve pinpointed the unmet needs in behavioral health. A lot of such issues go to the failure to make long-term investments.

What I would call prevention investments, because they don’t show up in the return-on-investment, they are not part of the equation
STEINBERG: They actually do, but they don’t show up short-term. That ounce of prevention that keeps somebody out of the emergency room, keeps [that person] out of some very high-cost medical care. But you don’t see it right away.

First of all, I want to make the point that the Rhode Island Foundation is a change agent. I am privileged to be able to lead the organization. When we are doubling down on education and health and long-term planning to get at some of the things you referenced, one of the reasons why we did this is because we are in the position to be here for the long term.

And, whether it is me, or the next person, or whether it is some of the very capable people we have on our staff, that’s why we do those things. We have been around for 107 years; we will be around for the future.

We know how to raise money. We know how to make grants and how to make investments, and we know how to provide civic leadership, and how to get some things done.

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