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5 Questions with Laurene Powell Jobs

Learn more about EC from our founder and president

Why did you choose the name Emerson Collective?

Both words are very meaningful to me. I’m deeply inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writings on our ability to transcend limitations that are placed on us by society. I love the word collective because it acknowledges that we are all at our best when we learn from–and work with–team members who share a sense of purpose and possibility. Like steel sharpens steel, we make each other better. With the name Emerson Collective, we recognize that humanity is bound together, and that we can create new possibilities by drawing on one another’s gifts and talents.

How did College Track inform Emerson Collective?

Working with the students, families and staff of College Track enriched my understanding of our country and the many systems within it. At its best, the public education system is an engine for social and economic mobility. But we all know it doesn’t always work that way. Education is not an isolated or siloed domain. It connects to a broader set of systems that touch people’s lives, including immigration, health, environment and economic opportunities. The understanding of just how interconnected these issues are was fundamental to the creation of Emerson Collective.

Why are multidisciplinary solutions important to addressing society’s challenges?

It’s very difficult to make sustainable and sustained change. None of the issues we are trying to address have easy solutions and making progress requires a variety of approaches. We work with domain experts with a breadth of experiences, insights, and relationships, and we use a range of tools, like philanthropy, investing, convening, and storytelling to build broad coalitions. As challenges evolve, we are nimble in our response and find that a cross functional approach often yields unexpected results.

Emerson Collective is structured as an LLC, rather than a non-profit, like traditional philanthropic foundations. Why is that structure important to the way EC works?

Dr. Martin Luther King said that philanthropy is a very useful and good tool, but it can’t ignore the conditions that created it. I believe that philanthropy is a very powerful tool for good, but it’s not the only powerful tool. Mission driven investing is a tool for good. Art and activism and storytelling are tools for good. The LLC structure allows us the flexibility to creatively use the best attributes of all these models to address emerging needs and opportunities.

What is your biggest hope for what Emerson Collective can achieve?

I would like Emerson Collective to be a place where great leaders come to do difficult things. Through our efforts, we hope to shape a world where people are not bound by the circumstances of their birth. Instead, they have the ability and agency to design their own paths—aligned with their highest and best purposes. We work to create equitable opportunities, and my hope is that we leave the world a little improved because we have existed.

Read more in the Letter From Our Founder.