Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 07/05/2011

Darin McKeever

Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow 2008

Harvard University MPA


The Reynolds Foundation Fellowship not only enabled me financially to pursue my masters degree in the mid-career program at the Kennedy School, it enriched it in truly significant ways.  I left Cambridge with fond memories of my time with various entrepreneurs and intellectual leaders, the rebuilders of New Orleans, the Center for Public Leadership’s staff, and of course, my colleagues in the fellowship.  I left campus in 2008 inspired and energized, and I have the fellowship to thank for much of that sense of renewal.

I have committed my career to advancing social change through philanthropy, politics, and social entrepreneurship.  Prior to my fellowship year, I co-founded and led for more than a decade Heads-Up—a non-profit dedicated to providing young people from kindergarten through college with learning and service opportunities after school and during the summer.  With this background and experience, when I entered Harvard, I sought to reposition my career-swinging to the sphere of foundations or government, where I thought I could work to improve the effectiveness of philanthropy and the relationship between the public, private, and non-profit sectors.  At Harvard, I studied the structure of industries, the economics of competitiveness, the design of public-private partnerships, and a wide range of case studies on entrepreneurs (social and otherwise).  I also used the year to enhance my negotiation and communication skills.  This new knowledge and training gave me the confidence, connections, and –as one who had dedicated much of my life to the Washington, D.C. community-a certain worldliness and wider cultural competence that helps me every day in my current role.  Today, I serve as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s chief ambassador in the philanthropic sector-managing our relationships with the leading charitable associations around the world, tracking policy developments impacting foundations with the leading charitable associations around the world, tracking policy developments impacting foundations and charities, leading our grant-making to strengthen the effectiveness of the sector, and supporting our CEO and other leadership in their sector-related learning and engagements.

I have launched or helped to launch numerous non-profit organizations, social enterprises, and advocacy groups.  The launch of Heads Up is perhaps my most notable accomplishment in this respect, but I have also been involved in the start of the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, EdAction DC (in 2000 with DC’s current education chancellor Kaya Henderson and others), and America Forward.  I thrive on organization building, on setting and executing smart, strategic courses during chaotic times, and on marshalling resources outside one’s immediate control (which I still consider the classic and one of the best definitions of entrepreneurship).  While today I work inside and organization of someone else’s making, I see the role of guiding and supporting the institution in its approach to the charitable sector during a formative period of philanthropy a classic case of social entrepreneurship.

I simply want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds again for the substantial investment they made in me and my colleagues.  Their generosity and support played a key role in getting me to where I am today.

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