Doers. Advisors. Leaders.
Fifty years of our combined experience inspired the creation of Boldly Go.
On the ground
Our journey starts in a public school classroom in New York City and in villages across Rwanda. In the early-1990s, Jeff Kutash was a Teach For America corps member, teaching math to recent immigrants at a bilingual middle school in the South Bronx.
He went on to run youth development programs in Harlem and Washington Heights, helping students succeed in school and make it to and through college. Meanwhile, Kyle Peterson was in Rwanda, working to restart an HIV/AIDS health program right after that country’s historic genocide.
As Rwanda recovered from war, Kyle criss-crossed the country with the local staff running reproductive health campaigns. He then went on to start one of Africa’s largest social marketing programs for health in Zimbabwe, the epicenter of HIV at the time.
We were thousands of miles apart, but we were both having life changing experiences listening to, learning from, and working alongside those on the ground. At the same time, we were both beginning to recognize the huge challenges of the larger health and education systems we were working within, and often against.
Consulting for social change
We both felt the social sector could learn from the private sector. Jeff went to Harvard Business School and worked for McKinsey & Company. Kyle joined Monitor Consulting. By working with Fortune 500 companies, we learned what makes businesses successful and how senior leaders make decisions. Armed with a powerful new skill set, we followed our hearts back to the social sector. Kyle joined Michael Porter and Mark Kramer to help launch Foundation Strategy Group (FSG). Jeff signed on with The Bridgespan Group and then joined Kyle at FSG.
After years of direct service, we were both committed to changing the systems that held people back from success.
Throughout the early 2000s, we led hundreds of engagements with leading foundations, corporations, and nonprofits. We learned, advised, and wrote about a multitude of tools changemakers deploy and roles they play to drive change. We helped develop and advance powerful new approaches to social impact such as catalytic philanthropy, collective impact, and shared value. And we both became hungry to put our ideas into action.
We felt that philanthropy was uniquely positioned to impact social issues, and we both found opportunities to lead foundations in the Heartland. Kyle went to run the Walton Family Foundation in Arkansas and Jeff to lead the Peter Kiewit Foundation in Nebraska. We managed boards, budgets, and teams. We partnered with other funders, elected officials, business leaders, major universities, and nonprofits. We built large-scale initiatives from the ground up in areas such as education, the environment, child development, urban and rural economic development, and the arts.
Ultimately, we were accountable for evaluating progress and achieving meaningful results.
We also learned that leading philanthropies is different than advising them. We realized the importance of strategic thinking versus drawn-out strategy development processes, of taking action and adapting along the way versus creating overly complex theories of change, and of partnering with capable leaders on the ground versus relying on top-down approaches.
We gravitated toward proven and innovative solutions that were practical to implement. We formed alliances with uncommon partners. We kept infrastructure lean, and built strong teams and cultures. We engaged family members and board members to set and deliver on ambitious goals. We made sure philanthropy was full of impact and full of joy.
A new journey
All of these experiences and lessons have led us to this moment. We are compelled to take action on critical problems facing the country and the world such as the climate crisis, structural racism, achievement gaps, health disparities, and economic inequities. We’ve also never been more optimistic about the future given our deep-rooted belief that today’s changemakers have the desire, capability, and means to realize transformative change for people and the planet.
We’ve come together at an important turning point in philanthropy when individuals, families, foundations, and corporate givers have an unprecedented opportunity, and perhaps even an obligation, to step up in response to the profound challenges of the day. After being on parallel paths for so much of our careers, we are excited to join forces to bring our experience in the field, in consulting, and as foundation CEOs to support philanthropists who want to tackle our toughest problems with bolder approaches, greater urgency, less hassle, and more joy.
We are ready to partner with you for outsized impact.
Jeff and Kyle