A zoom screenshot with a grid of Barr staff members

The Human Factor

Jim Canales reflects on recent staffing additions and changes in support of Barr’s mission of service

Early in my career in philanthropy, I discovered a speech by Alan Pifer, past president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York from 1967-1982. This passage about foundation staff has remained with me ever since I encountered it:

“Above all other aspects of foundation work, I would put the human factor. I mean by this the attitudes and behavior of foundation staff members. If they are arrogant, self-important, dogmatic, conscious of power and status, or filled with a sense of their own omniscience—traits which the stewardship of money tends to bring out in some people—the foundation they serve cannot be a good one.

If, on the other hand, they have genuine humility, are conscious of their own limitations, are aware that money does not confer wisdom, are humane, intellectually alive and curious people, men and women who above all else are eager to learn from others—the foundation they serve will probably be a good one.”

The “human factor” matters for all organizations; indeed, it’s why one of our core values at Barr is to “invest in leaders”.

For me, as one who has spent the past 18 years leading two different foundations, Pifer’s wise words have served as a guide in the recruitment, development and cultivation of talent. Indeed, one of my most important responsibilities as a leader has been to ensure that our organization both attracts great talent and supports and develops that talent once it’s on board.

Welcoming New Colleagues

While the past 18 months of full remote work have certainly shifted our hiring processes, we have had the good fortune of attracting some outstanding individuals, and I am delighted to introduce our latest staff additions:

  • Julie Rosen joined us in August as Senior Accountant, having worked most recently at Standish Management LLC and prior to that at KPMG LLP. Working closely with our controller, Julie is actively engaged in all financial matters of the foundation.
  • Najah Casimir joined us this month as our new Program Officer in Climate, working primarily with the Mobility strategy. Najah served as communications manager for the Cambridge transportation department and prior to that worked in the Boston Transportation Department.
  • Jules Faña joined us this month in the newly-created role of Communications Coordinator. She brings substantive experience in graphic design, social media, visual storytelling and photography, all of which will serve to enrich and enliven our communications efforts.

We eagerly look forward to benefiting from their experience, perspective, and passion for Barr’s mission and strategies.

Enabling Growth and Advancement

We are also committed to supporting the development of Barr staff during their time with us. With Barr’s rapid growth and the increasing breadth and complexity of our program strategies, we have been fortunate and appreciative of colleagues who have stepped up, taken on new challenges, and expanded their responsibilities to support our mission.

In that context, I am delighted to announce promotions we have made in the past few months, alphabetically:

In addition, we have appointed Mary Chalifour to the role of Acting Director of Communications through summer 2022. A member of Barr’s communications team since 2014, Mary has served as Communications Officer and will bring both deep experience and substantive knowledge to this important leadership role. I am grateful for her willingness to take on this leadership assignment while our Director of Communications, Stefan Lanfer, is on a one-year leave of absence for a Fulbright Scholarship in Zambia.

Celebrating New Opportunities

We also recognize that the right next opportunity for a colleague may be outside of Barr – a chance to build on their experience, stretch in new directions, and contribute their talents in new ways. So, I conclude by celebrating prior colleagues who have taken on exciting, new professional roles beyond Barr.

Our former Climate program co-director, Mary Skelton Roberts, departed earlier this year for an outstanding leadership opportunity as Senior Vice President of Programs at the Energy Foundation. Our former Climate colleague Shanna Cleveland has also joined the Energy Foundation as Program Director, Northeast Policy. And our former Senior Accountant, Tim Chiong, has not ventured too far, taking on a new investment operations focused role within Pilot House Associates, Barr’s affiliated family office.

In each case, we are grateful for the contributions made to Barr over the years, and we are excited for the new professional opportunities that await Mary, Shanna and Tim, much as we will miss them. As we always say when a colleague departs the Foundation, they will always be a member of the extended Barr family.

A key element of developing talent is creating opportunities for our colleagues to learn and to grow while at Barr and, when the time is right, to pursue professional paths that enable them to apply that learning in different settings. We aim to have open and honest discussions with our colleagues about their ambitions and goals, so we can best equip them to pursue the pathways they seek for their career development. It’s always a balancing act as none of us want to lose talented staff, but given our mission and the larger context of our work, it’s often to the benefit of those larger purposes when colleagues take on new roles.

The strength of any organization lies in the quality and capacity of its people, and that is absolutely the case for us at Barr. As these appointments, promotions, and transitions demonstrate, we are fortunate to have a talented, diverse, and committed group of colleagues. I am proud of the work we do each and every day—in partnership with many others—in pursuit of ambitious goals.

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