Monday, November 8, NYU Wagner hosted a breakfast with Carol Thompson Cole,
president and CEO of Venture Philanthropy Partners
(VPP). The event was part of the Conversations in Public Service series,
which, as Dean Ellen Schall explained, aims to give Wagner students a smaller,
more direct way to engage with leaders in the public sector.
breakfast was attended by about a dozen students, as well as Dean Schall and
Rogan Kersh, associate dean for academic affairs. Ms. Thompson Cole talked
about the work that VPP does in promoting effective leadership of nonprofits. Unlike
many other philanthropic organizations, VPP does not give money to improve
nonprofits’ programs; rather, they choose organizations that have achieved a
certain level of success and work to build up their capacity and
efficiency. Ms. Thompson Cole also discussed some of the challenges VPP faces in
taking this approach, including resistance from founding executives and a lack
of understanding of political environments among organizational leaders.
equally interesting to the students in attendance was hearing about Ms.
Thompson Cole’s remarkable career, which has included national policy making, city
management in Washington, D.C., private sector work with RJR Nabisco and, now,
philanthropic investment. She discussed some of the challenges that she has
faced in establishing herself in new positions and also gave insights into
marketing the work done in one environment in order to shift to another. Dean
Schall described some of the situations in Ms. Thompson Cole’s career as
excellent examples of “managing up.”
the question period of the breakfast, many students were interested in learning
more about the work that VPP does. Ms. Thompson Cole talked about some of their
upcoming projects and the issues that they face, including a $5.5 million
investment in the Knowledge
is Power Program (KIPP) in Washington,
D.C. and VPP’s involvement with
the national Social
Innovation Fund (SIF).
Click here for more information about the Conversations in Public Service breakfast series.