Q&A with Paul Daugherty: helping future generations achieve their dreams
// By Jacqueline Brennan
Q: If you were independently wealthy and didn’t have to work, what would you do with your time?
PD: I’d be doing exactly what I’m doing now — bringing voice, relevance, as well as specific opportunities and awareness for rural regions of the country, and ensuring that philanthropy is successful for engagement and transformation in those spaces to benefit local citizens and communities. For when philanthropy partners, rural and urban communities can prosper.
Q: What one change can changemakers make to have a bigger impact in the communities they serve?
PD: One big change would be to truly make it possible for those with the lived experience in rural communities to have a presence and engagement at the table. This would ensure that marginalized, unrepresented communities are truly at the national table for decision-making on what takes place in grantmaking and building up those places, whether it is rural or urban communities. There’re a lot of people that do this work from a variety of backgrounds, and I’m focusing on that topic during our session. But when you look at rural philanthropy and rural communities, there are people that talk about it and identify, but usually they are one or two or three steps removed. They might do a quick visit, but the change needs to be engaging people who live in these rural communities and letting them help co-lead this work. Secondly, there needs to be systemic, decade-based strategic investments in rural spaces, not episodic as is more typical (e.g., every other year, once every 10 years).
Q: What’s a skill you have that you wish you could use more often?
PD: In the early beginnings of my career, I reported for some small rural newspapers and facilitated community development – also about storytelling, connecting, and creating community-based solutions. I was previously able to devote more time to telling the story of communities to raise them up and be more deeply engaged in effective development in Appalachian communities beyond what I’m doing now.
Q: What does it mean to live a good life?
PD: We discuss this quite often in my family. My wife and I just got married a little over a year ago and we’ve been talking about what it means to establish a “good life.” In our opinion, living a good life is being consciously aware of the responsibility we have to pass on communities, to pass on resources to those that come after us better, to make sure we leave our communities stronger and healthier. We sometimes plant seeds of trees that we might never see the shade of. It is about being less self-focused and being more community focused. Particularly for West Virginia, Appalachia, or any community, we hope the next generation has the opportunity to achieve their visions, their dreams, and greater success than anyone ever anticipated.
Q: What one thing would you change about the nonprofit sector right now if you could?
PD: In nonprofits, in philanthropy – I’d say two things – one is to be more truly, mutually beneficial in our partnerships and being focused on the benefit of all, versus just one organization or place. In essence, putting into action the proverbial phrase “a rising tide raises all ships.” The second is that as civic entrepreneurs and the social sector we sometimes get caught up in processes and terminology versus what results we deliver or actions that unfold to change systems. Both the doers and thought partners are critical to our sector, our communities, and world. We need to be focused on building up organizational and leadership capacity with philanthropy then properly resourcing (financially, socially, etc.) the doing and thinking to create true sustainable change and long-term impact.
Building Rural & Urban Partnerships for a Stronger America is happening Wednesday, November 13, 9:30 – 10:45am.