Team Reflections: A Shared Mission Supports Focus During Challenging Times

Voices July 21, 2022

At Blue Meridian, we have expanded our team significantly during the last two years, adding even more talented, diverse, and results-oriented people. A few of our newest members share their motivations for joining, their learnings on transitioning jobs during the pandemic, and how they have stayed mission-focused amid multiple crises.



“I think for many people, the pandemic provided space to reflect deeply on our lives, our values, and how we wanted to spend our time. For me, that reflection – coupled with the resilience I saw in myself and loved ones as we adapted to new ways – reinforced one of my guiding principles in work and life: always seek opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone. I recognize there’s a comfort that comes from familiarity, so this can be difficult. Especially in a professional setting where the rhythm and repetition can help build a sense of expertise and specialization, a feeling of getting really good at a narrow band of things. However, getting too comfortable in a routine or sticking with familiar ways of approaching a problem always makes me nervous because I feel that if I’m not learning something new, I run the risk of getting stale or inelastic with my thinking. My big takeaway from the last two years is: If you don’t develop the muscle of embracing discomfort and building new paths forward, you may not be able to call on those talents when you need to pivot or innovate in response to change. This mindset helped me feel confident pursuing new opportunities and eventually transitioning jobs. While I believed I would be able to contribute positively wherever I wound up, I pushed myself to not shy away from settings that would stretch me professionally. I was immediately encouraged by Blue Meridian’s core values, particularly “Belief in People,” which has allowed me to draw on my years of experience in grantmaking while also diving into new topics and fields with which I was unfamiliar. There’s power in being able to manage well through ambiguity.”

– Nicholas Pelzer, Senior Director, Nationwide Solutions 



“I began thinking about joining Blue Meridian at a time when two of the most significant social forces in decades were affecting our country: the global pandemic and the racial reckoning. Both forces spotlighted the deep-rooted inequities that prevail in the US and sharpened my focus on being involved in lasting solutions to those inequities. Blue Meridian’s commitment to finding the most promising strategies from cradle to career and then resourcing those solutions with transformative capital resonated deeply with me. Having my transition to this role happen entirely virtually was definitely an unusual dynamic, especially since my career has been characterized by work in very hands-on settings. My experience through it all was largely positive, in part because Blue Meridian has invested a lot of effort in replicating that experience for all of our new team members. My most notable takeaway is that learning the facets of a new organization that are related to its “head” – the processes that make it run, how it makes decisions, what it holds itself accountable to, etc. – is not meaningfully different in the virtual environment. But learning those aspects of an organization related to its “heart” – how people interact and relate, what social norms are important, which values prevail, how emotions are conveyed – is much more difficult virtually. Perhaps it’s my experience at West Point and years in the Army, but I have come to believe that these are best learned “in the foxhole” with others – being literally side-by-side in pursuit of the organization’s mission. The new reality, even post-pandemic, is that anyone joining new organizations will have to rely upon new ways to truly find their new organization’s “heart.”

 – Spencer Kympton, Managing Director, Nationwide Solutions



“Prior to joining Blue Meridian Partners, I led grantmaking for national civil rights and equity-focused organizations. While I loved that work, I always knew that to have a real and lasting impact on people, change efforts must also focus on what happens in their communities – their neighborhoods, their cities, their states. So, when I learned of the new place-based investing strategy at Blue Meridian, I was intrigued and invigorated to see a heavy focus on targeted regions. After learning about Blue Meridian’s overall philosophy on how philanthropy should operate, I was compelled to pursue my current role, managing investments within the Place Matters portfolio. I wanted to be part of this movement. Upon joining, I found the remote onboarding process to be well planned and executed, and that eased my virtual transition. But being at home with my husband and stepson in Memphis – rather than alone in my Washington, DC, apartment, where I’d previously been working – was the crucial ingredient for me to stay whole and centered while living through the country’s multiple, overlapping crises. Having supportive and loving people that I could still see, hug, and talk with in person on a daily basis made all the difference. Additionally, the Place Matters team held a lot of virtual meetings and was intentional about building community early on, so it quickly felt like I had known and worked with my colleagues for a long time, even though I didn’t meet any of them in person until one year later! I’m extremely grateful for the three elements which made my job transition as smooth as possible during the national crisis: having supporting family nearby, the thorough onboarding process, and the opportunity to build genuine community – even via Zoom.”

 – Tomeka Hart Wigginton, Managing Director, Place Matters



“For the last twenty years, I’ve been focused on tackling the underlying conditions that trap people within a cycle of criminalization and incarceration. One of the most powerful solutions to breaking this cycle is the opportunity for economic advancement, to which Blue Meridian is deeply committed. I watched as Blue Meridian doubled down on this commitment by launching the Justice and Mobility Fund with the Ford Foundation and Charles and Lynn Shusterman Family Philanthropies to invest in large-scale, high-impact solutions that aim to disrupt the link between poverty and incarceration. Additionally, Blue Meridian brought on board some of the nation’s foremost experts, like Mindy Tarlow and Cecilia Guiterrez, to lead various investment portfolios, and that signaled to me that Blue Meridian was serious about having an impact on seemingly intractable problems by empowering a team of people who could make this vision a reality. Encouraged, I decided to be part of this talented and ambitious group and contribute to surfacing solutions that will make a difference for justice-involved individuals, especially during a time of growing need due to the pandemic and economic fallout. People often talk about potential challenges of onboarding in a virtual environment, and what was underscored for me by transitioning jobs during the pandemic is how interconnected childcare is to the strength of our economy and people’s ability to stay in the labor market. As a working parent during the pandemic, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to my daughter’s grandparents. Without their support – including virtual learning and loving her through the fear, isolation, and disruption that has been the backdrop of our lives these last two years – I’m not sure I would’ve had the opportunity to join the team at Blue Meridian.”

– Le’Ann Duran, Senior Director, Justice and Mobility Fund


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Blue Meridian's leaders share their ideas, inspiration, and lessons learned from the field.