When I read Doug’s announcement about leaving Meyer Memorial Trust at the end of this year, I asked if we might have a couple of conversations about the reflective practices he used to guide his work there. I had admired his leadership of the foundation as it became an early adopter of Mission Related Investments (MRIs) and, more recently, his commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion at Meyer. This first post is about Meyer’s entry into making MRIs nearly twelve years ago. Investing with a mission lens is a high bar for foundations to clear. There is resistance to it, for good and bad reasons. Doug overcame that resistance by using a reflective practice that is often called “putting something in the middle”—using a third object to help participants explore their assumptions at a deeper level than words. This is an unusual practice but it can be a useful one, especially with analytic people. –Jan Jaffe
Jan: We have some examples of philanthropy practitioners using images or poems or music lyrics to open up conversations. You used a newspaper.
Doug: Of course I didn’t know that I was doing something that had a conceptual frame at the time, but I wanted to move our long journey of exploring the possibility of MRIs to a decision and, frankly, I hoped for an affirmative one. At this point, we had two years of experience in making Program-Related Investments. We had structured a learning journey with key trustees to meet leaders in the thick of it and to attend conferences. We arranged for speakers at trustee meetings and regional forums. While the idea clearly had appeal, I was not getting their attention.