Adapting to Accelerate the Pace of Change for Children​

A Message from Rick Tsoumas, board chair

When I first joined the Board of Trustees in January 2010, I learned that adaptation was standard operating procedure at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF).

The organization had recently made a formal commitment to working in priority places for a generation. In a very short time, the foundation was moving to open offices in Mississippi and New Mexico and reorienting programming to bring the work closer to communities. Since then, the Kellogg Foundation has demonstrated an impressive capacity to manage change with purpose — successfully navigating a leadership transition, deepening its strategic focus in response to community challenges and leading the sector by making racial equity integral to business and programming decisions.

These transitions are learning experiences for all of us committed to Mr. Kellogg’s legacy. But the past year marks a particularly significant time of growth as the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has transformed itself into a networked organization to accelerate the pace of change for children.

President and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron set us on this course five years ago. She instilled Mr. Kellogg’s words and wisdom into strategic approaches and day-to-day decision-making. As Mr. Kellogg wrote in The First Eleven Years:

“…it is only through cooperative planning, intelligent study and group action — activities on the part of the entire community — that lasting results can be achieved.”

Under her leadership, that guidance has been a driver for integration in every aspect of operations and planning. The foundation took stock “as an entire community” and carefully considered how to organize internal operations to better reflect the dynamics of communities. This past fiscal year, that process came to fruition as the organization undertook group action to change from the inside out.

During 2017-2018, the Kellogg Foundation transitioned from separate program areas into agile, cross-discipline teams focused on our work on behalf of children. On an individual level, the change is drawing on the leadership potential within every person and tapping into the passion for our mission that motivates all of us. As a trustee, it has been fun to watch team members at all levels bloom, draw on even more of their talents and discover some new capabilities. Across the organization as a whole — in operations, programming, investments and fiscal management — we now bring the whole team. The transformation lends depth and breadth to our partnerships and mirrors the interconnectedness of children, families and communities.

We saw the networked organization at work on a recent board trip to Mississippi. Grantees there are working with the entire team rather than a single program officer. Strategic efforts showcase broad coalitions that connect education with economic development, workforce training and early childhood development. In our dialogues, community leaders and team members related the ongoing work in Jackson, Mississippi, with community experience and learning in Battle Creek, Detroit, Albuquerque and across the Kellogg Foundation’s national and international programming. We felt the synergy and shared purpose that can speed up the pace of change — all, as Mr. Kellogg directed us, “to improve the health, happiness and well-being of children.”

As a trustee I find myself asking, “Would Mr. Kellogg be proud?” Based on his actions and his words, I think he would be. As a businessman, W.K. Kellogg was not afraid to innovate, and he looked far beyond the next quarter or fiscal year in planning and operations. We are doing the same at the Kellogg Foundation and I think our founder would proudly approve.

Rick Tsoumas

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