Part two of a two-part interview with Cedric Brown
Blue days, all of them gone. Nothin’ but blue skies from now on. These words are a refrain from a classic Irving Berlin song. They are also the inspiration behind the name of a new philanthropic consulting firm: Blue Skies Advising, founded by Cedric Brown.“ I love naming things, and I wanted to choose something that could serve the dual purposes of conveying my brand and my skills. I am hopeful that Blue Skies does both: it refers to blue sky thinking, which is taking an expansive approach to problem-solving, and also communicates my positive, can-do orientation. In this phase of my career, I’m inspired by the lyrics from the Irving Berlin standard of the same name: “Blue days / All of them gone / Nothing but skies / From now on.”
Yes, Cedric is an optimist. And a talented solution creator. After 30 years in philanthropy he is expanding his impact, living into his potential, and supporting the next generation. We asked about his decision to leave the Obama Foundation and strike out on his own. “I took this current leap of faith because I owe it to myself to build my own business, trying to direct information and resources in ways that will benefit people and organizations that I care about (Black folk are certainly front and center while inclusive of other communities too). I also think this project-based style of working will complement my preferred way to work as well as fit nicely with my volunteer leadership efforts (on boards of directors).
He has a dept of experience and a network of fellow optimists across philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. He started work in the sector before anyone was busy counseling young people on pursuing a career in philanthropy. Most of didn’t or still don’t know that you don’t have to be a person of great wealth to work within philanthropy. It is a sector full of career opportunities that include executive positions along with those of program officers, and of course technology, human resources, accounting, communications, and everything else it takes to run a business.
We asked Cedric for advice to those considering a career within philanthropy. His answer was thoughtful as always. “We’re at a moment in time where there is an ongoing and growing conversation about equity in philanthropy, about putting the power around resource allocation in the hands of the people directly involved in solution-making; i.e. not having funding decisions bottleneck within wealthy organizations and the people who run them. People are eager to find more democratic ways to distribute philanthropic capital. So my advice to a philanthropy newcomer is: 1) learn about such strategies (e.g. “community grantmaking,” “participatory grantmaking,” “flow funding”); 2) build a deeper understanding of movement ecosystems–all the players in a particular issue area and how they work together (or don’t); and 3) examine your own values and biases to reveal how they will influence your own decision-making.”
Learn more about Cedric at Blue Skies Advising. – Tell him Mel and Pearl sent you!
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