Q&A with our President Jesse Beason

Jesse sits in the audience at a crowded event.

Q. What first drew you to work at Northwest Health Foundation?

A. Honestly? The chance to work with our previous president, Nichole June Maher. I believed in her leadership and commitment to equity. Still do.

Q. What’s something you’ve learned working at NWHF?

So much. It's my first look at philanthropy from this vantage point. Before that, I was an executive director focused on getting philanthropy's attention and resources, trying to make payroll and advance the mission of my nonprofit through policy and programs. Now, I've the luxury of money and a broader perspective. And yet, I've learned that the work is similar in so many ways. I just don't worry about payroll—which, I'll repeat, is a luxury.

Q. What are you most looking forward to in your new role?

More meetings! Just kidding. I'm looking forward to working with partners on building more reflective democracy and decision-making practices. We know a big part of health stems from public policy decided by voters and elected officials, so the ability for everyone to participate in that policymaking is fundamental to our mission.

Q. What do you see as our region’s greatest obstacle to health?

I think our greatest obstacle is the ahistorical and individualistic narrative that dominates the context of our civil society. We like to pretend all policy begins from this point forward (as if history is irrelevant) and that hardworking people are more in charge of their opportunity than they really are (as if they simply must choose to be successful). But, in reality, we begin with so many wrongs from our collective past that require repair and a false sense of individual choice for too many of us. To create opportunity for ourselves and our neighbors, we have to keep this true context in mind.

Q. What do you see as our region’s greatest strength?

We have no shortage of amazing leaders across our communities. Compared to plenty of other regions, our bad behaviors are less entrenched and our politics are milder. Plus, we have an abundance of resources and a strong sense of possibility.

Q. What do you think you’d be doing if you didn’t work for a nonprofit or philanthropic organization?

I'd probably be fixing computers and gadgets. Don't get me wrong, I love working with people on big, thorny, intractable issues. But I also like tinkering with problems that I can solve with just my brain and my own two hands.

Q. Are you looking for someone to fill your prior role—Vice President of Strategy & Public Affairs?

We don't have plans to fill my old position as of yet. In fact, we're taking the next six months or so to figure out what's the right size staff for us, given the winding down of grant programs we've run on behalf of other donors. That simply means less money, and so we have to figure out what we want to do about that. We've got time to figure it out, but also the responsibility to get it right.