Taking the leap


In March, I shared a note with friends and colleagues that I would be stepping down from the Hewlett Foundation in June. June seemed a long way off back then, but somehow it’s here. My wife and I have left our jobs and sold our house. After ten years, nine months, and four days as the Communications Director of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, I have now descended from the heavens to walk among mortals once more. Turning in my wings was especially painful. (If you would like to know five things I learned in ten years, you can check out the blog post I wrote for the Hewlett website.)

I’ve taken massive leaps of faith before. Twenty five years ago, I left Hollywood and a vague semblance of an acting career and moved to Monterey, California with no money, no job, and a high school education. Somehow I managed to land on my feet. What I did have was the enduring support of my girlfriend, who for some crazy reason agreed to marry me. A quarter of a century later, we are still taking calculated risks together (and I did eventually manage to get a nice college education).

Speaking of risks, I’m launching a consulting venture today called Brownbridge Strategies. What’s that? Well, it’s just me, my sparkling personality, my little brain, and my tippy tap typing fingers. (I toyed with the idea of calling it Eric Brown and No Associates, but it sounded lonely.) I will take what I’ve learned over the years to try to help foundations and nonprofits create their plans to get from here to there. That might be a strategic plan, a communications strategy, a development plan, or whatever else people need to be more effective. Just like I have tried to emulate the best funders I had when I was on the other side of the grant check, I will try to be like the best consultants I’ve had over the years. It will be like having a car mechanic you’d want to have over for dinner. (My apologies to consultants and car mechanics alike.)

If leaving a great foundation job to try consulting wasn’t risky enough, in the fall, just when I’m getting this thing off the ground, I’m going to shut it down for a while to take time off to travel with my wife. It’s always been our dream to just hit the road and see where the wind takes us. Since our daughter will be off to college, it seems crazy not to give it a shot. For those vicarious thrill seekers, I plan to blog about our adventure at EatBickerLove.com. If you want a taste of what the travelogue will be like, you can check out my first post on Medium. I’ll be back in late spring to pick my career up where I left off, sort of.

That’s the plan, anyway. It has been an extraordinary ride in which I have had the privilege of working with so many great grantees around the world and such terrific colleagues at the Hewlett Foundation. I step away hopeful that the next phase will be just as wondrous as the last.

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