Donor Spotlight: Carrie Morgridge
Carrie Morgridge is Vice President and Chief Disruptor of the Morgridge Family Foundation and the award-winning author of Every Gift Matters: How Your Passion Can Change the World. She also currently serves as the interim CEO for Share Fair Nation. Over the past few years, Carrie and her husband John have determined the philanthropic focus of the Morgridge Family Foundation on transformative gifts in education, conservation, the arts and health and wellness.
THE 180: You’ve been a friend to Turnaround for several years, first supporting some of our school-based work in Washington, D.C. and more recently helping to push our thinking on systemic impact. What was it that originally attracted you to our work?
CARRIE MORGRIDGE: The first time I met [Turnaround’s President and CEO] Dr. Pamela Cantor, there was an immediate ah-ha moment. We [at the Morgridge Foundation] realized we had to take a step back and learn more about social-emotional learning before we could take a step forward. And it completely made sense why we failed so often in the inner city work that we were doing.
THE 180: What about Turnaround aligns with your core beliefs?
CARRIE MORGRIDGE: I think Turnaround aligns with everyone’s core beliefs. There’s no question that one of my core issues of concern is, “How do we help all children get a great education?” What we learned about children, and what we learned from Turnaround for Children, is that when the brain isn’t processing, it’s because of stress; let’s use Chicago as an example. If you have a drive-by shooting every single night, how do you expect a five-year-old, or a ten-year-old or even a 15-year-old to go to school the next day and have a positive learning experience? Our teachers are hungry for this tool and they need this tool to help our children succeed.
THE 180: Why does so much of your giving center around education?
CARRIE MORGRIDGE: Because that’s where the need is. If we’re going to have a just society, then every child, no matter where they live, no matter their zip code, deserves and should be given access to high-quality education. That’s what our country is based on. And we’ve gotten away from that goal.
THE 180: You are very engaged in the organizations you choose to support, both financially and strategically. Why is that?
CARRIE MORGRIDGE: We value relationships. Relationships are really important to us. We’re not a check-writing organization; we’re more of a relationship-building and learning organization. I believe that relationships allow us to become better learners, and by becoming better learners, we become better philanthropists.
THE 180: Through Share Fair Nation you learned a lot about what it takes to introduce and engage teachers in big new ideas. What advice do you have for Turnaround in that regard?
CARRIE MORGRIDGE: First, acknowledge the cutting edge work that you are doing, but more importantly, really acknowledge the need, the want and the desire for teachers to have this. And it’s immediate. You’re not going to get everything right the first time. You’re not going to get everything right the second time. Fail, pivot and fail again. Fail fast and pivot. And keep going, because this work is needed.
Additionally, think about allowing teachers to become some of your experts as time goes on. Have your teachers turn into your full circle, where they are eventually teaching Pam what works best in education. So learn from them as much as they learn from her.
THE 180: You sign all of your e-mails as “chief disruptor.” I’ve seen you quoted as saying that disruption helps to breed innovation. What kind of disruption do you think we need in education reform today?
CARRIE MORGRIDGE: We need to start aligning with businesses and what our workforce development for the 21st century looks like. We need to infuse and demand that creativity is a priority in education. To get a great job you have to be creative; 60 percent of all jobs demand it. Yet it’s what we teach least in our schools.
THE 180: Your book, Every Gift Matters, came out last May and you just set up Share Fair Nation as a standalone 501(c)(3); and now you’re biking across the country. What’s next?
CARRIE MORGRIDGE: Focus and clarity. What is next for me is to take 60 days off for my own mental health and wellness. Spend time with my own family that I have sacrificed for the last two years while launching other projects. What’s going to happen in these next 60 days? I can tell you, I don’t know. And that’s what I love. And that’s what I love about being married to John Morgridge – I don’t even know where I’m going to live two years from now. I mean, John and I have moved 19 times!
Taking time off allows me to be creative, get clarity and then – you’ll know when I decide what the next thing is. Because it hasn’t been invented yet. Or maybe it has, but I haven’t discovered it.