Proximity Point: Solving Problems by Getting Closer

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What difference does it make to get close to the problem? “You really can’t solve the world’s problems from a distance. You have to get up close. You have to be proximate,” says New Profit Partner Marco Davis on this episode of Add Passion and Stir. He talks with Diane Gross, owner of Cork Wine Bar in Washington DC, and host Billy Shore about focusing on diversity, inclusion and equity. Davis describes how New Profit uses venture philanthropy to help nonprofit organizations scale up to maximize impact by focusing on organizational success instead of programmatic goals. They also use an explicit focus on diversity in leadership. “[Leaders from diverse backgrounds] have greater proximity to the issues that they’re working on, and therefore have some insight and added value that they bring to the table,” he explains. Gross likens it to the restaurant industry. “There’s a lot of diversity in the work force, but not in leadership roles,” she says. She believes that supports like health care and maternity leave would help women and people of color achieve leadership roles in the industry.

Gross also values proximity in her own philanthropic efforts. She and her husband decided to focus their efforts on food and education in the community where they live and work because both their staff and their customers are priorities. Outside of his work for New Profit, Davis – a veteran of the Obama White House – actively supports and engages candidates and policymakers at the state and local level because he believes that so many key decisions that affect people’s lives in a significant way happen at the state and local level. Shore calls this “a different version of the proximity point.”

Get informed and inspired by these two social justice activists who drive change by getting closer.

Resources and Mentions:

Marco Davis

A Partner at New Profit and organizational lead on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Davis provides strategic insight and advice to New Profit’s Focus Funds, field leadership, and portfolio investing practices to identify opportunities for engaging new populations and communities, increasing pipeline diversity and enhancing equity and inclusiveness in the social entrepreneurship space. He also directs New Profit’s Proximity Accelerator. Prior to joining New Profit, Marco served in the administration of President Barack Obama as Deputy Director at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics which sought to increase opportunities and improve outcomes in education for Hispanics of all ages and build partnerships with key stakeholders and communities nationwide to support its goals. Marco also served as the Director of Public Engagement for the Corporation for National and Community Service, leading the President’s call to service initiative—United We Serve—which includes the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and The September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance. Previously, he served as Director of Global Fellowship and also Regional Manager for Latin America at Ashoka’s Youth Venture.

Diane Gross

Co-owner of Cork Wine Bar and Market with her husband and partner Khalil Pitts. Prior to opening Cork, she was a consulting counsel for the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, which is based in Washington. From July 2003 to October 2005, she was the counsel to Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, Democrat of Maryland. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and received a law degree from New York University.

No Kid Hungry

Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.

Root Cause Coalition

The Root Cause Coalition is a national, member-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the root causes of health disparities by focusing on hunger and other social determinants leading to nationwide epidemic of preventable chronic health conditions.

New Profit

A pioneering venture philanthropy organization that invests in breakthrough leaders and systems change initiatives. We work arm-in-arm with social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and other changemakers to break down barriers to opportunity in America. New Profit brings together the catalytic principles of venture capital with deep experience in social impact to drive breakthroughs in social problem-solving. They were among the first organizations to try to bridge that gap with a venture philanthropy model that provides social entrepreneurs who are developing promising models with the same type of support that for-profit companies can access to grow. They provide their grantee-partners with unrestricted growth capital and strategic advice to help them build the capacity of their organizations, collaborate with others, and take aim at changing the larger systems in which they operate.

Cork Wine Bar and Market

A unique and innovative wine-centric dining, education and retail experience. Upstairs, their guests can enjoy the classic warmth of Cork Wine Bar, which offers at least 50 wines by the glass and 250 bottles from small producers around the world. It is an affordable, casually elegant place that demystifies the world of wine The Wine Bar offers beautiful patio dining and private dining opportunities for guests to host wine dinners, receptions and even personalized wine classes and experiences. At the market, guests can choose from a curated selection of retail wines with more than 300 selections of small production, sustainably made wines. The market also offers freshly prepared food, cheese, and charcuterie, as well as specialty food items. Cork Market also offers guests the opportunity to dine-in on a selection of prepared foods while sipping their favorite glass or bottle of Cork wine. Cork Market also offers a Wine Flight Club, a membership program with curated monthly selections and quarterly pick-up parties, and weekly tastings from our favorite producers and importers.

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