Institutional leadership requires the assertion – not simply the development – of a vision. GreenHouse principals worked with top officials at NASA’s Langley Research Center, the space agency’s longtime home of R&D, to develop a framework for asserting the agency’s vision to Congress, the private sector and the public.
There is no shortage of vision at NASA. But the agency had become overly reliant on passive strategies, such as waiting for a U.S. president to set the space exploration agenda just like John F. Kennedy did in 1962.
But the social norms around “the vision thing” have changed. Adam Frankel, a presidential speechwriter we tapped for the project, explained:
“When JFK challenged us to go to the Moon, he was essentially challenging NASA,” Frankel said. “Now that would be different. It would be the president calling on NASA and all of the American people who are interested in this work. The ‘we’ would be different. That’s the opportunity.”
It has been estimated it will cost upwards of $45 trillion over the next 15 years to fulfill the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the centerpiece of a global effort to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.
But until now, there has been no logical path to meeting the 17 goals. Jeff Leitner has released the first-ever sequencing of the SDGs, the result of a survey of economists, political scientists and social scientists around the world, working in public institutions, think tanks, universities, foundations, and civil society organizations.
The sequencing was done in partnership with OECD and New America, where Leitner is a Fellow. He was enlisted in this effort by former U.S. State Department official Tomicah Tillemann, with whom GreenHouse has worked to re-design international organizations and U.S. support of emerging democracies.
Strengthening democratic governance around the world requires shaking up the social norms of international diplomacy. That was our conclusion from work with the U.S. State Department, which enlisted us to develop a new model for international organizations.
For example, democracy governance is messy. But diplomats, the polished representatives of their various countries, are polite, measured and disinclined to reveal the underbelly of how their countries’ democratic institutions actually work.
Another example: the most mature democracies, like the United States, are always cast as the teachers and the younger democracies – no matter how effective – are always cast as the students. That must change, we concluded in our report: “All participants must be given the opportunity to act as teachers and as learners. Sometimes the United States should report to Estonia.”
The project was part of our portfolio of work critically assessing norms of international relations, which includes our work with the U.S. State Department on the concept of venture democracy and with New America on supporting long-term, large-scale impact investing.
Dr. Tomicah Tillemann is former senior advisor to U.S. Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry for civil society and emerging democracies. Now tackling those same global challenges from outside government, he is Senior Fellow at New America and co-founder of the Blockchain Trust Accelerator.
Dr. Tillimann said of us, “GreenHouse runs a large hadron supercollider of ideas. They curate one of the world’s most remarkable collections of talent, tee up research questions designed to take you to new dimensions, and generate intellectual collisions with the power to change our understanding of the world.”
We have worked with Dr. Tillemann in his capacity at the U.S. State Department to re-design international organizations and U.S. support of emerging democracies, and at New America on the Bretton Woods II initiative.
At first glance, it appears as if the social norms of the military and the arts are incompatible. That perception is so pervasive, in fact, that it threatens art therapy programs at military hospitals.
That was the challenge we were asked to address at Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where an art therapy program was showing very good early results. We worked with medical staff, military leadership and arts professionals to look for some way to reconcile values of the two fields.
Surprisingly, it turned out we didn’t need to. By digging into the military budget and the realities of the military experience, we discovered that the arts are already a critical element of what the Pentagon does. At the time, the budget for military bands alone was bigger than the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts, the federal agency that supports arts institutions and arts programs in all 50 states.
The key was simply the arts speaking the military’s language. “Walter Reed’s leaders could evaluate all of their arts programs using the same metrics the Pentagon uses to assess its own efforts to reintegrate soldiers into civilian life,” our report read. “This data could not only bolster the role of art at Walter Reed, but serve as the basis for new military arts programs.”
We were enlisted in this effort by Mike Orlove, director at the National Endowment for the Arts. It is one of several projects of our projects related to the social norms of health care, including our work with Harvard on mobile health, our work with a start up on the role of patients, and our publication on the social determinants of health and professional education.
After years of muddled democratization efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American political class needed a new way to talk about sharing the virtues of representative government abroad. So we set out to concoct one, seeking inspiration in the logic model of venture capitalism.
VCs, we observed, place small, well-timed bets to realize big returns. Working with democracy advocates at the U.S. State Department and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, we identified several key ways in which a new model for democratization could borrow ideas from Silicon Valley.
Andrew Benedict-Nelson laid out the key traits that both democratization and venture investing require in a piece for GOOD Magazine: investing in many different projects with a very long time horizon; investing in ways that help make sense of failure, particularly by recouping non-traditional returns like relationships and knowledge; and investing in ways that advance the state of the art, incorporating those advances into future efforts.
We further concluded that the proper place for those investments was civil society. Within a week, the idea was being considered at the White House as a way to guide future U.S. efforts.
Michael Orlove is a director of the National Endowment for the Arts, responsible for artist communities, presenting and multidisciplinary works, and international programs. He was previously senior program director for the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs, launching untold numbers of festivals, arts series and programs in his 19 years.
Orlove said of us, “Working with GreenHouse is an exhilarating, 360-degree whirlwind experience. Their work in educational, business, not-for-profit, and corporate communities around the world is driven by an utterly original approach to problem solving, requiring highly accomplished and creative people to leave their egos at the door and dive in. They approach the work with integrity, respect, and incredible wisdom.”
We have worked with Mr. Orlove on a variety of projects, including our effort on behalf of Walter Reed Military Medical Center and Jeff Leitner’s address to the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.
For a century, think tanks played an increasingly important, but relatively limited role in American life: provide lawmakers in Washington, DC with well-researched policy recommendations. But New America, launched in 1999, was the first in a new, disruptive wave of think tanks, enlisting younger, hipper intellectuals to reach beyond the Beltway into Silicon Valley and America’s cities; to build the very programs for which they advocated; and to engage the public directly. At the time, Esquire Magazine suggested New America “might become the only think tank that matters.”
In 2015, Jeff Leitner was named a Fellow at New America, where he works on an audacious effort – called Bretton Woods II – to redirect global investment of $25 trillion and build social stability around the world.
“Opportunities don’t come much bigger,” said New America Senior Fellow and former U.S. State Department official Tomicah Tillemann, who recruited Leitner for the effort. “We’re living in a world with a huge quantum of capital and a huge quantum of problems.”
For his part on Bretton Woods II, Leitner is partnering with the Paris-based OECD to create the first-ever, logical sequencing of the United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goals.