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HEFFNER: I’m Alexander Heffner, your host on The Open Mind. Under the leadership of its president, Judith Rodin, the Rockefeller Foundation has anchored its dual imperatives: to advance inclusive economies while building resilient communities capable of responding to – in their words – “acute shocks and chronic stresses of contemporary society.” Our guest today molds this future, one project at a time. The managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation, Claudia Juech uniquely bridges ideas across geography and discipline through residency projects. Considering questions of global consequence, Juech is at the forefront of these diverse endeavors, from books and musical compositions, to policy formulations and curricula design. Among the explorations this year: how to foster a public voice in a new Gilded Age; how to re imagine public housing for contemporary cities; and how to prevent major epidemics. So first, let me ask our guest today about that collective good that unifies Bellagio and Rockefeller as a whole. Claudia, how do you successfully chart these projects to define “well being” in a way we can all agree on “well being” … “That’s well being
JUECH: Thank you very much, Alexander, for having me on your program. Um, while “well being” is a, uh, multi dimensionable concept – multi dimensional concept. So, uh, that is what really Bellagio, the Bellagio Center in Italy on the Lake Como facilitates, uh, as one of the programs of the Rockefeller Foundation. And brings together residents – about 15 residents, uh, at a time – that come from different disciplines, sectors, um, and, uh, geographies, and each one then contributes their strengths. So, uh, Henry Brady and Kay Schlozman work on inequality in the U.S., uh, and what is the political voice, um, that needs to be heard, that we have a more equal society? At the same time, there is someone there that works on, uh, pandemics. And the conversations that happen over the meal times and while people are there is really what then kind of informs our understanding of “well being.”
HEFFNER: Hmmm. I ask you because it seems increasingly – and you have such an international perspective, that I wonder if you can reflect on this. Looking at the U.S. – and you are headquartered here in New York, and traveling across the globe, searching for opportunities to enhance the quality of life for, for people, from continent to continent. Do you think here in the United States we have more difficulty in defining “well being” in a way that we can form consensus?
JUECH: No, I wouldn’t necessarily say that. I think that “well-being” is defined in nuances differently across the globe, um, uh, depending on cultures and mentalities and what the needs of people are and where there are gaps, where the needs are not being met. Um, so when you look at certain countries, water scarcity might be a much more prominent need; uh, and in other areas it might be, uh, uh, the freedom of speech. Um, and so, in assessing “well being” and looking at well, “well-being,” um – and, and demanding, um, that, uh, “well being” is, uh, uh, is created, um – people really require different things or emphasize different things across the globe.
HEFFNER: And in the emphasis of, um, defining what that “well being” is, what do you find to be most unifying the countries that are represented? And there are over 80 countries that have been historically represented, I believe. Um, and from South Africa, India, China, Nigeria, Kenya, Italy, Nicaragua, France and the U.S. Uh, most recently, you had 88 fellows. Um, what do you find to be a source of, of greatest, uh, unity among the countries?
JUECH: And the number of countries is even larger than what we find in, uh, in 2015. Um, uh, so there are… There have been many more countries, uh, to the Center. I think one topic that definitely comes up again and again because it’s so connected to issues of poverty – um, issues of, uh, of, of well being generally – the question of security; um, of peace; um, uh, in whether it, it… regards, uh, fragile countries of conflict-ridden regions. Um, the question of how can different ethnic minorities, or different groups, live together? Uh, people of different religion. Uh, I think that is a topic, um, that, uh, probably unifies, uh, most of the countries that come to the Center.
HEFFNER: And would you say that “inclusiveness” has a, a unified, uh, definition in terms of how people relate to each other, or do you find that developing and developed countries, uh, don’t necessarily agree to how “inclusive” they want to be today?
JUECH: … I don’t know if there is a significant “difference” in terms of, uh, of what the ambition is… I think the difference… Uh, the ambition at the, at the level of the people I think seems, seems very similar to me in terms of, uh, what people are looking for. They are looking for equitable societies where people have, um, equitable access to let’s say health services, to economic opportunities; uh, where they can participate in an economy, uh, where they know what the rules of the game are; uh, where, uh, they know if they establish a business, these are the rules that we need to, um, comply with. So, I feel that, across the globe, what people expect in terms of what an “inclusive” economies mean is, is fairly similar. I think what, where, uh, countries differ across the globe is really where the gaps are. Um, and, and so we will see… We see different gaps in the U.S. than we see in, in Kenya or we see in Vietnam.
HEFFNER: Is the “climate change” issue, um, from the Foundation’s perspective – and when you do sit around the table – hmmm, you, you identified “security.” Uh, uh, I would wonder if that’s physical or mental or both. But physical and, and… Physical security from the “climate threat” issue is, uh, uh, one in which countries are collectively acknowledging as the principal, um, obstacle to “well being.” Is…? Was that, uh, uh, uh, palpable to you?
JUECH: Yes. I mean … it’s certainly… Especially when you now think of, um, the, the COP meetings taking place in Paris. We have… We do two things at the Center: We host residencies, so individuals, uh, for four weeks, as well as conferences for a week. And, so we had a lot of conference requests, um, that we, that we accepted in preparation, for example, of the COP meetings. Um, we, uh, we are going to have a meeting, uh, there next year, uh, where negotiator from, um, developing countries come to Bellagio, so how can developing countries – and smaller developing countries – make their voice heard in, in the “climate change” negotiations? I mean, those are just a few of the examples of things that take place at the Center… And that is what, certainly critical when we connect it back to “well being,” because one of the… the reasons why the Foundation is engaged in activities around “climate change” or “environmental degradation,” is that those things really have the ability to wipe out everything that we do towards poverty alleviation. So we can fund, uh, kind of helping people get access to economic opportunity, but if then, um, uh, water scarcity or more rain affects how they grow their crops, uh, it, it basically has the ability to make null and void what we have previously funded. So, those are certainly critical areas when you look at both things together.
HEFFNER: And they are reflected in the conversations?
JUECH: Yes, yes.
HEFFNER: You see these, these, um, “proposals,” uh, in their rawest form. And, I am wondering the output, what’s important…? What’s the important output, from the Foundation’s perspective? That really the, the, the rawness that you, um, are kind of marinating in at the Foundation level, at the Center, then is transformed into something that really helps people. And what are, what are…? Are there any particular examples that you would like to identify, where a project yielded that kind of “global output” where policy has shifted now?
JUECH: In, in terms of “outputs,” I mean, uh, that is certainly what we would ideally look for… So “shifting policy globally,” that doesn’t always happen. Um, many times it’s, it’s influencing a field. So, for example, the, uh, the, the person that you were referring to who was working on “climate change” – particularly with a look at, uh, black communities in the U.S. – that’s really… The Bellagio residency is really informing her work, uh, and what she is doing around that, and developing a strategy, uh, how to work with the utility companies, for example, uh, in using “renewable energy” to power schools, to power hospitals. Um, and, and so in, in that regard, make the connection between “climate change,” uh, within communities. Um, so we are really hoping for people – at the minimum level – that they influence the, the field that they come from, uh, whether it’s health, or whether it’s housing, or some of the other examples that we have given.
We have also, um, uh, clearly hosted people, such as Muhammad Yunus, um, before he won the Peace Nobel Prize. Uh, so then people have really gone on, um, and, uh, implemented those remarkable, uh, global things. And often they had that kernel, uh, of initial thinking at the Bellagio Center.
HEFFNER: From your experience at Bellagio and the Foundation, uh, is there a, a unified purpose in what is increasingly a big bank, big financial culture? Um, you know, you, you… I, I wonder: What is the relationship – these days – between a Rockefeller Foundation and, um, the big banking institutions, not just in the U.S., but globally?
JUECH: There, there is some, uh, connection, probably mainly around “impact investing,” uh, and that moves beyond the Bellagio Center. Um, you may know that, uh, “impact investing” was a large initiative, uh, of the, uh, Rockefeller Foundation, and we are still in that space. We now, uh, work on what we call “innovative finance.” And there we work with big banks, um, around motivating “impact investors,” um, to provide capital, uh, for, um, NGOs and, and social entrepreneurs to address the problems that we, that we all care about. Um, and so, … And we do that in the belief that: When you look at official development aid, when you look at the total of Foundation money, um, uh, that can be brought to bear towards these problems; it’s by far not enough. So it requires private capital um, and not only the banking sector, but the, the private sector in total um, to work along with us, uh, on the social problems. Um, and, um, some of these activities like defining what could “impact investing” be, what is the stock exchange for “impact investors”; those are some of the things that were created in meetings at the Bellagio Center, but then also are driven forward through programs, uh, by the Rockefeller Foundation.
HEFFNER: “Impact investing.” Um, where do you see the greatest promise for “impact investing” to resolve any of the “inequalities” that Rockefeller identifies as “the gravest threat to civilization”?
JUECH: … A challenging question. Um, uh, probably relevant for, for many areas, um, in the sense of… There is pent-up demand is, is our kind of assessment, uh, in terms of family, family officers…um, high net worth individuals…uh, but also institutional investors…to find investments that have also “social impact.” Um, and, um, the… That “social impact” can be realized whether it’s, uh, in the agricultural area, in the health area, uh, around energy…I mean, those are all areas that we have, uh, worked in and where “impact investments,” um, are, uh, really brought to bear. Uh, I feel the point… It’s, it’s easier almost to say, you know, where doesn’t it work? Um, it, it works when you think about, um, the, the near poor, and probably the ones approaching middle class in those, in those countries. So for all these segments, “market based interventions” work where that kind of capital can really, um, uh, be, be relevant. When you think about the ultra poor, those are really people who don’t have “disposable income,” so their “social entrepreneur” approaches are really less likely to work. So there we need to think about what are different solutions that we can use.
HEFFNER: And when you host, um, intellectuals and policy makers who are trying to create a political discourse that necessitates concern for low income people, what is the driving, um, motivation that will …um, from your perspective – positively transform the, the political system so that their concerns are, are, uh, attended to? Um, we had an interesting conversation on this show with Governor Mitch Daniels and, he says – and, and from a, an American perspective, and I wonder how you’d respond to this domestically but also from your experience abroad …um, well, there, there are the, um, you know, “haves” and “yet to haves,” um, not “have nots.” And, uh, you know, he comes from a, a strong conservative, uh, Milton Friedman-esque view of the American economy, which is why I asked you from the outset about the rigidity of, of ideology obstructing what we can collectively define as “well being.” So I, I, I do wonder, um, what you think of that comment – um, the, the aspirational “yet to have” – and how the public consciousness can reflect people who have zero.
JUECH: That, that’s certainly, um, very true, uh, that there are people who, well, who we clearly want to make sure that they are not forgotten. Um, and, um, uh, well, one of the areas I think that we believe in is, uh, around the goal of “inclusive economies”: how can we connect those people, uh, to economic opportunities. And, uh, one way how we are doing that – again, looking beyond the Bellagio Center is – um, that we, for example, investigating and, and working with companies, uh, right now. How can they hire young people, particular, in particular, because youth unemployment is such a big problem in the U.S. as well as in many other countries around the globe, how can these young people be better connected to the labor market? And one interesting, uh, uh, experiment that we, that we have been doing is: um, that we use video games to test for ability of people. And that we are finding that those, you know, young marginalized people often have equal or better ability than the people who are currently in the job. Um, and so we are discussing this with, with employers now to really make them aware that, …even though sometimes these people don’t have the résumé to, that would qualify them for that kind of job, they actually have the soft skills, um, that, that are required. So that is one way of connecting, um, uh, marginalized people. But I feel it really comes down… And, and that comes back to technology, the issue that you raised: How can we use technology, um, to make those connections, because I think it’s a great connector. But what we are also finding is, um, that, um, uh, people who let’s say live in “affordable housing” or who are, you know, “marginalized,” often don’t have the same LinkedIn profile like, like others and, uh, how do we level the playing field in these areas?
HEFFNER: Well, one of your practitioners in fact, and I am glad you mentioned that, at Bellagio worked on a project entitled “Housing America: Re Imagining a Public Housing Preservation Policy.” And now that you are largely based in New York, I wonder: What do you see as – and I mean, and perhaps her work informed your perspective of this. This is the President Emeritus of the National Association of Housing and Re-development, um, Betsey Martens. Um, in New York – which is a, a challenge, for example, where homelessness has started to become more visible – um, in this most recent, uh, mayoral administration, re emerging as a central point of, of public policy. Um, how does the Foundation view “affordable housing” as, um, providing the means to “well being” that we talked about? How are we gonna to, to build our way, in effect, to greater “well being”?
JUECH: So “affordable housing” is, is not an area that we are currently specifically working on… Although, um, I mean, Betsey wrote a, a fantastic report which I am sure is, is up on her website, so I would encourage everybody, um, to, to seek that out. But, uh, I mean, uh, I feel that there are two areas: There is the question of, of finance, um, that I think she touches on strongly. So how can this be made, um, uh, hmmm, more affordable and, and where potential funding sources, uh, for good quality, uh, affordable housing? I feel from a, a Foundation perspective, we are very much… Uh, we, we provided I think Jane Jacobs – I don’t know if it was her first grant; but definitely, uh, with a grant, uh, when she wasn’t, uh, as well known as she is today – um, to, to take a mixed approach. I mean, how can we integrate “affordable housing,” uh, into neighborhoods, um, so that, that we, hmmm, well, move away from a problem I think that’s becoming even more pressing: um, the, the question of economic and, and social segregation, uh, so that, that…
HEFFNER: Expand on that. The, the problem of economic, “socio economic segregation.” It’s a, it is a new wave of segregation. And it’s certainly hitting the U.S… Is it, is it as much impactful abroad?
HEFFNER: Or is it a phenomenon you really discern here?
JUECH: No, it’s not only here. Uh, well, it’s actually a topic that we recently explored in identifying new opportunities. So we looked at, um, “exclusive economies” in, in cities. And, uh, what we are finding… I mean, in Europe it’s, hmmm, it’s uneven, um, so it’s not prevalent everywhere. But, uh, certainly, um, in, in certain cities you find the same, … symptoms of “socio-economic segregation” that you find in the U.S… I think in, in the U.S. you just find it more consistently. Uh, and it really means that, um, in terms of whether it’s, again, access to jobs; access to good schooling; access to, uh, good quality health services, um …are limited, given where, where people live, uh, and impacted where people live. And you have probably heard about the research, um, that was published a couple of…uh, about two months ago by, by Harvard researchers that said, “If you move out of a neighborhood that is, you know, not as well connected – and you do that before the age of 13, it won’t have impact, uh, on your future income potential. But if you do it after the age of 13, it will, uh…and, and you don’t have a chance to leave by that age…it really affects, uh, your future earnings.” So I mean, “segregation” really defines – uh, from an economic perspective – what people can achieve.
HEFFNER: And how do you combat the newly segregated United States, uh, by, by virtue of income? How do you, how do you tackle that problem?
JUECH: …I mean, I think the research and raising awareness. And it’s clearly much more talked about than it just…uh, than it was talked about, uh, a year ago. So, um, I… It feels like a, like an important point. Uh, I think there are, uh, methods in terms of vouchers; I mean, that’s something that you’ll, um, uh, have probably heard about. Um, we have looked at: Is there other predictive analytics? I mean, could we early identify that neighborhoods might be in danger of being “segregated” – and could cities invest earlier, um, to prevent that from happening? So there are different approaches, and those are just two.
HEFFNER: And what about those already segregated, where your efforts are to in, incorporate them into cities that have a more diverse socio economic condition, where they will be welcome? It’s, it’s, it’s kind of an economic assimilation that is a reality of this “99” and “1 percent” economy…
JUECH: I mean, one example that we have worked on in the past is around transportation. So how can you connect, uh, as one way of connecting these neighborhoods, uh, that are often…
HEFFNER: “Mixed income housing” is another one…
JUECH: “Mixed in, mixed income housing” is another one. but, uh, if you really definitely need a car to get to a good job or to, uh, any job at all, in a way, then, then that makes, makes it very hard. Uh, so how can we connect those neighborhoods to affordable mass transportation, ideally? Um, that, that is one way to go… In future, given that a lot of work happens online – uh, and working from home, working remotely, uh, is certainly becoming more and more of an option – that might also be something for those neighborhoods and connect them in a better way. Right now, though we have the “digital divide,” and you look at who is really using the Internet and who has those devices. While we are widespread as a country, uh, connected to the Internet and, uh, uh, hmmm, that there are certainly neighborhoods, uh, who are not as connected as others. And Obama has a program, uh, in place to address “digital divide.” But I think there are still a ways to go.
HEFFNER: Claudia, uh, our time is up. But I am glad you concluded with the “digital divide,” because, um, the, there are, uh, a number of stories that reflect that “innovative technologies” in the hand of youngsters at a far earlier age. But does, that doesn’t mean that the divide has at all…?
JUECH: Not fully, yeah.
HEFFNER: …at all shrunk. Thank you.
JUECH: Thank you.
HEFFNER: And thanks to you in the audience. I hope you join us again next time for a thoughtful excursion into the world of ideas. Until then, keep an open mind. Please visit The Open Mind website at Thirteen.org/OpenMind to view this program online, or to access over 1,500 other interviews. And do check us out on Twitter and Facebook @OpenMindTV for updates on future programming.