Inside 16th & L is our bi-weekly blog series showcasing the Independent Sector team here at the corner of 16th and L Streets in Washington, DC. Find out who we are, where we’re from, what we do, and what drives us. This week, Inside 16th & L introduces Jeff Moore, our chief strategy officer.
Jeff’s role in his words…
I feel like I’m constantly discovering what my role entails, but most basically, it’s thinking about how we build on the great foundation of this organization and make it relevant in today’s world.
- An aspiring sailboat racer
- A parent
- A Robert Frost admirer
- A gardener
- A host
Hometown and alma maters
I grew up in Commack, New York and I went to Columbia University for graduate school and State University of New York at Binghamton for undergrad.
How did you end up in your current role at IS and what were you doing before?
I spent almost 16 years prior to coming to Independent Sector helping to run a nonprofit research organization, and took it through three different iterations of its roles in the world. I came in and it was an organization working for the national security community and I left it as an organization working in healthcare. After 16 years, because it was kind of subject to the whims of federal government funding during the onset of sequestration, I had to start taking apart a lot of what I had built because funding had dried up. So I stepped away in 2013 and came here through, among others, Rob Collier who’s the CEO at the Council of Michigan Foundations.
What’s one thing about you that would surprise people?
I had to talk myself out of an arranged marriage. I was traveling in Central Asia when I was working for the U.S. government and was leading a delegation into Uzbekistan. I was at a dinner when I made comment to the defense minister that one of his dancers—he had his own dance troupe—was particularly beautiful, and the next day he said arrangements had been made for a marriage.
What do you like about the sector you work in?
I like the sense of freedom to experiment. there is no way to improve on the words of our founder, John W. Gardner, so I’m actually going to cite what he wrote:
It’s a sector in which you’re allowed to pursue truth even if you’re going in the wrong direction, to experiment if you’re bound to fail, to map unknown territory even if you’re going to get lost. It’s a sector in which we are committed to alleviating misery, and redressing grievance; to giving reign to the mind’s curiosity, and the soul’s longing.
I love the sense that there isn’t really a wrong turn—I love that sense of freedom to explore.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever witnessed? Where and when?
People who know me probably get a little tired of my talking about my experiences as an adoptive parent, but that is pretty core to who I am. So in August 2003, I was in a place called Tyumen, Russia in Southern Siberia and it was my second day of visiting the orphanage and spending time with the three-year-old who’d ultimately become my son. The first day was a little strange for him and for me—a little nerve-wracking—and he was trying to figure out who I was. The second day I got to the orphanage and walked into what was essentially a classroom where he and all his friends were kind of home-roomed, and they were out on the playground and one of the caregivers called out to him and said, “Come here.” And he came running across the playground and jumped up into my arms and put his head down and said “Papa.” And so I thought, “Well, that’s it.” There was at that point still an element of choice—quite frankly—where I could’ve said it felt right or didn’t feel right. But after that, there was no choice.
If talent and resources were irrelevant and there were no risks, what alternative occupation would you pursue?
I would be a playwright. When I was in undergrad, I thought about pursuing playwriting as a career since I was an English major. One of my advisors was a guy by the name of Loften Mitchell who wrote the book for Bubbling Brown Sugar, which was nominated for the Tony for best musical in 1976, and it focused on the African American experience in the Harlem Renaissance.
Negronis. I don’t drink a lot of cocktails, but this is one that I really like. It’s an Italian cocktail, made of equal parts gin, Campari, sweet vermouth, and an orange. I order them if I’m in a restaurant and also make them at home, and I’m constantly testing which I like better. So far I actually like mine better. I recently had a bunch of family over for Easter, and I was getting all the ingredients. I ran into two guys at the liquor store who declared that Negronis are a food group for them. They gave me a tutorial as to what kind of gin to buy because I was headed to the cheap stuff, and the expensive stuff does make a difference.