Diversity Woman Magazine

FAL 2018

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

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26 D I V E R S I T Y W O M A N Fa l l 2 0 1 8 d i v e r s i t y w o m a n . c o m We Mean Business > We Mean Business Diversity Woman: Besides your experi- ence at your uncle's church, what led you to devote your life to sheltering homeless people? Jennifer Loving: I went to college to study counseling, but I quickly realized that wasn't for me—I didn't want to spend my time with someone to help them quit smoking or resolve a bad relationship. So I interned at a battered women's shelter in Southern California, and I saw first- hand what it meant to be homeless. I also learned how having a home was an anchor for everything, especially as it re- lates to violence against women. After graduate school [at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo], I went to work with the homeless and have stayed there. is work is part of my roots, and over time I learned to understand the issue from a social justice perspective—homelessness is the end of a dirty river filled with rac- ism and abuse. DW: How did you learn to run a non- profit? JL: I began on the front lines in my 20s working with people who were dying. At the time, I was at an organization with a lot of heart but not a ton of business sense. So they gave me a lot of rope, and I was tasked with opening a new home- less shelter. I was only 27 years old and I thought, "How do I do that?" I figured it out, and in a few years I had progressed from shelter worker to COO of a $16 million organization. en, the CEO quit and the board put me in charge at a time when there was a 95 percent certainty the organization was going to go bankrupt and close. I was tasked either with making it work or closing it down. I didn't know what I was doing, but I was able to assemble a team, and through a process of raising enough money and having a lot people help, the organization ended up solvent. e key was having the right people and staying true to your North Star, which for me comes from getting really pissed off! I did not want to see more people home- less because we messed up. DW: What leadership lesson did you learn early in your career? JL: For one, I learned the very important lesson that everything is possible. I also learned how to work with men. Pretty much everyone I had to deal with to get projects off the ground were men. At first, people thought, Who is this young girl? I literally would be called that. Overcom- ing that attitude by men and succeeding have always been part of my motivation. DW: In 2010, you became CEO of Destination: Home. Today, it has made tremendous strides in what was consid- ered an intractable issue. How did you get there? JL: We did it by utilizing what is known as the collective impact theory—which was happening a lot in our backyard, at Stan- ford. is means, in short, that large social problems can't be solved if there is just a singular owner to a solution. You need multiple owners, across sectors, coming together. At Destination: Home we came up with the idea of creating public-private partnerships—getting the local compa- nies and 15 cities in Santa Clara County to work with nonprofits on using our joint resources to solve this issue. DW: You quickly got corporate buy-in, and recently Cisco gave you an astound- ing $50 million grant. What motivated Cisco to do this? JL: It is the largest commitment from a tech company to solve homelessness I ever heard of. What Cisco is doing is extraor- dinary. I think that, simply, Chuck Rob- bins, Cisco's CEO, gets it. He believes tech companies have a responsibility to be good community partners and neigh- bors. He understands that no one can build this housing on their own—it is way too expensive—and so we need the involvement of private companies to make this happen. Cisco stepped up. Hopefully, Cisco's example will lead to a lot more tech companies giving to home- lessness. Fifty million dollars is amazing, but we need a lot more—hundreds of mil- lions of dollars more. ankfully, Chuck has been helping us deliver that message. DW: Is serving as a CEO in the nonprofit sector different than in the private sector? JL: Totally different—the difference is when you don't have a product people want to buy, or a way to make money, it is harder. You need to have a mission focus, as well as run your nonprofit like a busi- ness, with bottom-line responsibilities. However, that is challenging, as you don't have the same revenue sources. DW: What have you learned from cor- porate leaders that has informed your work? JL: I learned that you have to have a way of proving your progress. Plus, you can- not be afraid to ask for what is necessary. When I asked Cisco for this money, it was necessary. Finally, as a leader, I dis- covered that I am not afraid to be wrong; I am not afraid to course-correct. DW: What advice do you give aspiring leaders? JL: Find what is really important to you. I am so grateful for the people who are working to save barrier reefs, but that is not my thing. Find your thing, and then build a team around solving whatever that problem is. Make sure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute his or her skills and resources. It is not about one person. It is about creating a con- tainer for a community or organization or company to act. DW I learned to understand the issue from a social justice perspective—homelessness is the end of a dirty river filled with racism and abuse.

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