September 14, 2017

An Update from Pisces Foundation President David Beckman

This is a vital moment to be the president of a foundation committed to accelerating progress toward a world where people and nature thrive together. Our trustees, staff, and I believe a healthy environment ought to be one thing on which we can all agree. But today, we are faced with greater challenges, and more opportunities, than at any time in recent memory. It’s a good time to share a few thoughts about our priorities—and our organizational commitment to share more of our work with you in the months ahead.

A clean and healthy environment has been the focus of my work for over 20 years. If you are like me, you have been grappling every day (and in the middle of the night) with how to overcome challenges we didn’t expect and confront more familiar impediments that slow our progress. Advocates think constantly about how to advance an issue, plumbing its nuances, looking for an opening, an ally, a chance to convince a skeptic. However, when we confront policy inimical to our basic values—not so much reflecting an alternative way to reach a shared goal, but a rejection of the goal itself—determining the best path forward can be difficult. When this paradigm arises not with respect to one environmental issue, but becomes characteristic of an approach to them all, the challenge is stark.

Our field is full of creative innovators, people who offer a new way to provide safe drinking water, or bring a special insight to the monumental task of bending down the climate warming curve. Today, the Pisces Foundation remains steadfastly committed to these partners and their organizations. Indeed, forming partnerships with strong leaders is one of our Foundation’s fundamental principles.

But as a foundation, and as a field, we must be careful not only to celebrate and advance people and organizations leading the way; we also must value, and invest in, the connections between these problem solvers. These linkages can create scaled interventions matched to the large scope of our challenges, whether making cities more resilient after natural disasters or confronting the changes to our climate that make this task ever-more urgent. For me, this is an important lesson of the moment: in more purposeful connection and collective action lies great opportunity.

One result of these reflections is that our Foundation team will spend more time talking with grantees about how we can fortify not just their individual organizations but their efforts to join forces with others to pursue a shared goal. Now more than ever, we want to know how we can help build teams with complementary skills. We don’t expect any one organization or person to do all that needs to be done, just as our Foundation cannot accomplish its goals alone.

Second, beyond our grantmaking relationships, I am working to spark a collaborative initiative to cultivate new energy and opportunities for a broad range of environmental funders and NGOs to connect with one another, sort and select joint priorities, and pursue scaled, collaborative action. With our partners, we have convened a set of committed environmental funders, are reaching out to more, and are talking with dozens of organizations in the field. We’re bringing on a new Pisces Foundation Fellow to help with this initiative.

Finally, we know that working together effectively starts with sharing information about what we’re doing. That’s true for grantees and funders alike. We are also committed to using our own voices to advance our core programmatic goals: expanding opportunities for kids to get the environmental know-how they need to thrive, mainstreaming innovative approaches that yield clean and plentiful water, and ensuring a safe climate by bolstering CO2 cuts with curbs on climate-changing “super pollutants.”

To help us better communicate, it is my intention to share more about our program areas on our blog in the months to come, and, this winter, launch a new version of our website so you can stay up-to-date on what we are up to. On a day-to-day basis, we are already sharing more updates and insights via Twitter (click here to follow @piscesfdn). And, this winter, for the first time, we will convene our grantees with the hope of helping build their, and our, communities of practice.

Communication works best when it goes two ways. To that end, I invite you to reach out (my email address is with questions, suggestions, and feedback on these thoughts and plans, or anything else. I’m looking forward to connecting with you—and hearing from you—often.