I have some big news to share. First, a little background.
A few weeks after I started at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, my wife looked at me across the dinner table one night.
“What is going on?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
“You are not complaining about work.”
I thought about it, and she was right. After a lot of tough years in journalism, magazine publishing and on the Web, I had landed at the foundation feeling like I was in heaven. I was offered the challenge of leading a great philanthropy by the hand into the world of the Web. I was surrounded by smart and supportive people and working for an organization that was trying its best to make a difference. I was nervous and excited at the same time, but that is exactly how I wanted to feel. What could I possibly find to complain about?
Nearly nine years later, I’m still not complaining (for the most part), but the world has changed and the time has come to move on. I’ve decided to head out on my own to make my way as a consultant. I know what you are thinking. You think I’m nuttier than my Grandpa Norman who sunk his fortune into a business to provide tiny iron shoes for sea horses. (It was only later that he discovered they don’t have any feet.) Maybe you’re right. Or maybe you aren’t. Time will tell.
I was planning to write a long list of reasons why I am taking this step, but scrapped it because they all boil down to one: This feels right. I’m ready for new challenges. I’m ready to help other organizations get where they want to go. I’m nervous and excited at the same time again, and that feels good.
There is something else, too. You may have noticed a theme in my blog posts (and other writings) lately. Philanthropy is changing, and foundations can either get on board the shiny new train or keep plodding along on the same slow local. I strongly believe that it is time for foundations to move toward more transparency. It is time to be more accountable. It is time to be more open about our failings. It is time to stop taking ourselves so seriously. Most of all, it is time to tear down the walls that separate foundations from the rest of the world. If we truly care about having an impact on the issues we are so passionate about than we will let the sun shine on our internal processes so that we can make them more effective. Welcoming input from a broader constituency earlier and more often than we ever have before can only make us stronger. I’ve had the honor of helping RWJF move toward that world, and I am hoping to have the chance to help other organizations that have the same goal.
I’ve been working on the Web since 1995. Over the years, I have helped launch two major consumer health Web sites, rode the dot com bubble and bust, and brought a major foundation into the world of the Web. I have a passel of hard-earned knowledge about Web and content strategy and spent the last year focused on social media—working on blogs, Twitter feeds, YouTube pages, Facebook pages, community initiatives, user comments and more. I feel like I’ve been through the war and want to share that experience with other organizations through consulting, speaking, workshops and writing – including this blog. Yes, I plan to spend more time on this blog (and my writing in general). Look for some changes as this blog becomes the centerpiece for my new venture.
So, there it is. It feels a little crazy, but – as Grandpa Norman used to say – even sea horses need to stretch their legs sometimes. (It was only later that he learned that they don’t have legs, either.)
Wish me luck, and please let me know if I can be of help to you in any way.