Leading Voices

Moving the Market: The Ford Foundation’s Mission Investments Program is Showing the Power of the Double Bottom Line  

Christine Looney, Deputy Director of Ford Foundation's massive program-related investment portfolio. The American tax code favors the generous by offering significant financial benefit to those that give to charity. On the very tip of the curve are individuals or families whose living gifts and bequests grow into mighty charitable foundations.  Individuals like Edsel Ford, son of Henry Ford, who created the Ford Foundation with an initial endowment of $25,000. An infusion of $250,000 in Ford stock that came upon Henry and Edsel’s deaths in the 1940s and steady financial stewardship since has grown the Ford Foundation endowment to $16 billion – [...more...]

Equal Parts Optimist and Philanthropist

Toni and Bruce Corwin How would you feel if you lived with multiple sclerosis for more than half a century and, in an unrelated incident, needed a kidney transplant from your son? In philanthropist Bruce Corwin’s case, he feels overwhelmingly grateful. Never one to feel sorry for himself, Corwin is grateful to have survived everything life has thrown at him, grateful to have thrived, and has always been most grateful of all for the opportunity to help others. According to Corwin, what drove his philanthropy was, pure and simple, that helping people was fun. “Helping my friend Tom Bradley get [...more...]

A Career Spent Building L.A.’s Civic Strength

As told to Joe Donnelly Steven Nissen might be the most impactful public servant you’ve never heard of, probably because he doesn’t fit the stereotype of a public servant.  Though he served as senior staff for Governor Gray Davis, with a portfolio that included planning, research, and innovation, Nissen has never held public office. Yet, his interest and involvement in public service dates back almost to the day he graduated Boalt Hall Law School in the star-spangled summer of our nation’s bicentennial. It wasn’t just the spirit of 1976, though, that sparked the Los Angeles native to pursue a lifetime [...more...]

Making Entertainment More Inclusive by Joe Donnelly

“We want to focus on material that will effect change. I’m really talking about scripted material, principally, that will provide narrative and impact people through popular culture.” Ahmos Hassan is a man bent on melding his philanthropic and business interests towards a more inclusive America. Across both spaces, Hassan is focused on using entertainment and public awareness to increase representation for Muslim Americans who have weathered incredible discrimination and mistrust from 9/11 through the Trump Administration’s infamous “Muslim Ban.”   The longtime manager of comedian Louie Anderson (among other comedians and writers) and producer of the successful series Life With [...more...]

A Familial Legacy of Giving Back

Casey Wasserman is firmly established as an influential civic and business leader in Los Angeles. But this mogul’s contemporary philanthropic journey is also rooted in the past, when another mogul, his grandfather, Lew Wasserman, along with his wife, Edie, modeled for him a life dedicated to giving back. The entertainment executive, sports agent, and chairperson of LA28 (2028 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games) has a full plate these days. But Wasserman’s commitment to philanthropy, a priority learned from a lifetime of Saturday and Sunday breakfasts with Grandpa Lew until his death in 2002, remains a primary focus.  So, was Casey [...more...]

‘What Good Is a Platform if You Don’t Use It for Good?’

As told to Daniel Heimpel I have known CNN host Lisa Ling for nearly a decade now. I never saw her as anything but a mentor, a world-class journalist, and someone with whom I had the honor of working.  Then, during the height of the heinous attacks on Asian Americans in 2020 and in 2021, I watched her on the TV being interviewed about the violence, braiding the history of racism against Asians in this country with her own experience. She spoke of the terrible things people were writing to her over social media, where she was extremely active in driving [...more...]

Nurturing Agents of Change

Diana Ingram counts her blessings, big and small. And that has made her a blessing to countless others in Southern California and beyond who strive – against the odds – to reach their potential. Disadvantaged youth, financially at-risk students, job seekers with disabilities, women and people of color are among the beneficiaries of her leadership on nonprofit boards.  Even before she became a successful executive for the likes of IBM and Oracle, Ingram knew she had a responsibility to give back.  “No one succeeds alone,” says the native Angeleno, ever cheerful as she is humble. “Growing up, I was keenly [...more...]

The Problem Solver

Austin Beutner, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and a student with his new glasses at Gompers Elementary-Middle School in Detroit When Austin Beutner was appointed first deputy mayor and “Jobs Czar” of Los Angeles in 2010, skeptics groused that the former investment banker had never worked in local government. When he became superintendent of the L.A. Unified School District in 2018, critics decried his lack of experience in education. Each time, he simply got to work and let the results speak for themselves. Beutner wasn’t new to devising innovative educational solutions or to LAUSD. The district had been the test bed [...more...]

The Untiring Upstander

By her own description, Leslie Gilbert-Lurie had a sheltered middle-class childhood in suburban Los Angeles. Her family ate dinner together most nights, and her mother liked her to be as close to home as possible. But her mother did crack open a window on a wider world, one filled with personal trauma. One that Gilbert-Lurie would channel to contribute widely to society as an author, lawyer, educator and prominent advocate for children’s and human rights.  Early on, she sensed a sadness about her mother. When Gilbert-Lurie was seven, she overheard the word “Holocaust” during a visit by her mother’s cousins. [...more...]

Money as Medicine

In 2018, a Native American philanthropy professional dropped a bomb on the industry. In his book, Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance, Edgar Villanueva laid bare the inequities rife throughout philanthropy and the financial system.  Now in its second edition, Decolonizing Wealth is the central text for what Villanueva simply describes as “modern philanthropy,” one in which capital is used for reconciliation and reparations through wealth redistribution. To move that effort forward, Villanueva launched Liberated Capital, a donor community and intermediary that is working with more than 350 individual donors and charitable foundations to support nonprofits [...more...]

Not Letting Life Circumstances Inhibit his Ambitionby

“It’s my way of giving back to the city that raised me and made me who I am.” – William Briggs When a Minneapolis policeman killed George Floyd in 2020, William J. Briggs II, like millions of Americans, was appalled. But he wasn’t entirely surprised. Growing up Black in South Central Los Angeles in the 1960s had given him an early education in police mistreatment of minorities.  Days later, he agreed to accompany his daughter to a Black Lives Matter protest in Santa Monica, figuring it would be peaceful. And it was. The sit-in ended after someone shouted, “Defund the [...more...]

Jihee Huh and Her Uniquely American Philanthropic Legacy

Hope is what Jihee Huh started with and hope is what she continues to call on through hard times.  Huh, now a successful businessperson, activist, and philanthropist, found hope early, as a South Korean whose family fought for every rung of the ladder to success.    “All we had was hope, because we couldn’t speak the language, we didn’t have money, we had each other,” Huh says. “We didn’t have anybody else to rely on but ourselves… I think most immigrants who come to this country have similar experiences and, 50 years fast forward, I’m afraid we are losing hope. [...more...]

Opening the Door to a New Kind of Philanthropy

As told to Daniel Heimpel Antonia Hernandez CCF Since 2004, Antonia Hernández has led the California Community Foundation (CCF). Over those nearly two decades Hernández has grown the endowment to $2.6 billion, $800 million being discretionary funds that she and her increasingly diverse staff have used to combat some of the most endemic social issues facing our region.  For Hernández, CCF and its vast resources have allowed her to continue the expression of her life’s work: helping people. Whether working for the Senate Judiciary Committee as an attorney representing victims of domestic abuse, or as president and general counsel of [...more...]

A Public Educator for the Public Good

Erika D. Beck has been up since 4 a.m., yet as the afternoon light fills her office, she is effervescent. Her inaugural fall semester as president of California State University, Northridge has just begun, and the campus is alive with students for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. But what really has her adrenaline surging is that morning’s predawn announcement of a $25 million gift from Apple to support CSUN’s Global Hispanic Serving Institution Equity Innovation Hub, an ambitious initiative to inspire students from Latino/a and other historically underserved communities to pursue degrees and careers in science, technology, [...more...]

A California Gem Hiding in Plain Sight

Andy Candelaria was so determined to go to California State University, Northridge that as a freshman, he commuted for two hours by metro and bus from his home in Downey. Now a fifth-year senior majoring in Computer Information Technology, he lives closer and, thanks to internships facilitated by CSUN, he’s on track for a career in IT security. Milen Coronado, a fourth-year senior who plans to be a public-school teacher, is a double major in Liberal Studies and Chicana/o Studies. She also carries a double workload outside of class, as a teaching assistant at an elementary school and a CSUN [...more...]