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A Farewell Note from Melissa Berman

December 20, 2023

Having been present since the founding of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, I feel this is a time of reflection for me personally and professionally. Unsurprisingly, I find myself thinking a good deal about what has shifted during the past 20-plus years.

As I prepare to bid farewell next month, I find myself amazed, grateful and inspired. Amazingly, RPA has evolved into an organization with more than 100 core (and more than 500 projects) employees working to create a more just world. When RPA launched in 2002, there were 10 of us.

In addition to our (brand new) New York City headquarters (Please come visit!), we now have offices in San Francisco, Chicago and Lagos and colleagues on every continent except Antarctica. We have incubated and funded philanthropic initiatives in more than 70 countries. The work they do amazes and awes me.

I send my profound gratitude to the donors who have trusted us to support their governance, strategies and philanthropic operations. It’s been a constant privilege to listen to gifted, generous people share their ideas about how to make our world a better place. RPA board members have been a constantly renewed and renewable energy source and support; I appreciate their leadership and what I’ve learned from them. My colleagues at RPA are a joy – curious, committed, warm, friendly and energetic. I’m also grateful for their creative minds, which have enabled RPA to publish dozens of guides, reports, books, learning tools and insights on philanthropy. Philanthropy has new tools, new players, new timelines and new horizons – it’s been a privilege to learn and share what we’re seeing.

Thinking personally about what I’ve learned these last 20 years, I’m more apt to ponder what I need to unlearn. Being willing to make decisions quickly isn’t nearly as important as being able to listen slowly. Being results-oriented doesn’t mean much if those results are imposed and if they’re short-term. Focusing on a logic model may be reassuring, but it’s not where vision lies.

And vision isn’t what we see from a high, protected tower. It’s what people engage with one another, experience and imagine.

That’s why I’m particularly inspired by the mission statement and values that RPA adopted last year. Accelerating philanthropy in pursuit of a more just world, our new mission, implies urgency. Our values commit us to social justice, equity and putting people and communities first. That will require a profound change in power dynamics, ways of working and ways of thinking. We’re only beginning to unpack these ideas.

While now is the time for me to bid farewell to a community and people I love, I do so knowing that my successor is the right person to help RPA and the field make these important changes. Latanya Mapp’s capabilities, intelligence, dedication and, most importantly, passion for justice are remarkable. Allow me to describe briefly just a few of her achievements.

Latanya most recently served as the President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, a public foundation that supports courageous activists fighting for justice and equality in their communities. Previously, she was the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Global, the international arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Latanya also worked as a human rights officer for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

It has been the honor of a lifetime to be a part of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors as it developed and thrived. It is now an honor to step aside and watch Latanya, along with the rest of our RPA community, accelerate the pursuit of a more just world.

My warmest wishes to everyone for a new year of amazement, gratitude and inspiration.

With all best wishes,
Melissa A. Berman
President and CEO (until Jan. 19, 2024)

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