(upbeat music) - Hi everyone, Steve Adubato.
My colleague, Mary Gamba and I on our series, "Lessons in Leadership," interviewed Shané Harris, who is the president of the Prudential Foundation, vice president of Social Responsibility there.
What exactly is the Prudential Foundation?
Why does it matter?
What is the foundation's commitment to Newark, to the citizens of Newark, their commitment to creating economic opportunity, fighting against racial and social injustice, inequities, if you will?
We talked to Shané about a whole range of issues and also talk about the connection between her growing up in Newark and her commitment to the citizens in Newark and using philanthropy to make a difference.
That's about leadership.
It's about community development and involvement and helping people make a difference.
- We're honored to be joined by Shané Harris, Vice President of Social Responsibility and President of the Prudential Foundation.
Good to see you, Shané.
- Great to see you, Steve.
- We'll put up the information about Prudential Foundation, one of our longtime supporters of programming particularly focused on the city of Newark and its citizens and the needs of the citizens of Newark.
Prudential Foundation's mission is?
- Well, our mission is really to provide economic opportunity, particularly for those who have not had that opportunity or have had barriers to creating that opportunity.
And it's really centered around our purpose.
We believe as a company deeply that financial security should be within reach for everyone.
So our philanthropic work really helps to allow Prudential to realize that purpose.
- And you grew up in Newark?
- Yes, yes.
- Yeah, same here.
By the way, what neighborhood were you?
- So born in the North Ward, grew up in Vailsburg, and my family currently lives in the Central Ward, so I have all- - Yeah, you got three of the five wards covered.
So, Shané, let me ask you this, to what degree, again, this is a leadership focused, but also very much focused on the impact that you and your colleagues are having in Newark, to what degree for you as a leader in the philanthropic community has growing up in Newark, being a Newark native influenced and impacted your leadership approach to the work you do for the people of Newark?
- So, Steve, you're a Newark native, you know how protective Newarkers are of their city and how much we love the city and particularly have been fiercely protective of kind of the negative perception that the city has, you know, garnered over the years.
So I grew up in an environment that was very community focused, very nurturing, had a lot of love and support from community leaders, nonprofit leaders, which I think, you know, is very common in the city of Newark.
And I think with that support in nurturing and mentoring, there was also this instilling within young people that there was a responsibility, right?
Once they were in the position to do so, to give back to the community.
So I think that ethos really carries through in the leadership role that I play at Prudential.
But I think it's quite common for all the civic leaders in the city, this idea that when there's a platform and an opportunity that we not only help ourselves, but we also look to make sure that the city continues to strengthen and nurture the next generation.
- Newark pride is real.
Mary, jump in.
And Shané, you're talking a lot about relationship building, the importance of convening.
How did that play out throughout the pandemic?
Meaning, obviously there were a lot of challenges.
What did that look like in term of the grit, the resilience that it took for everyone to come together and come out of the other side together as a unit?
- Well, I would say that, you know, the events during the pandemic starting with 2020 probably were some of the most challenging events that many leaders had to face.
And for us at Prudential, we immediately pivoted to making sure our partners were okay.
We knew that the pandemic would amplify and really magnify issues of inequity that we had addressed through our philanthropic strategy for decades.
But there was also an opportunity to raise up those issues, to actually work in collaboration with others to provide strategies to address those needs.
So for us, it was really making sure we were supporting organizations where residents were getting services that they desperately needed, but we also looked holistically, even internally within Prudential.
How do we make sure the small businesses and vendors that depended on us were able to stay afloat?
How do we make sure that our tenants and many of our properties were able to still operate?
So our response to the pandemic went well beyond philanthropy, and I'm really proud to say that the company stepped up, really looking at the things that we could do as a corporate anchor institution to support this community and make sure that we all got through this ok. Mary, one more quick question before we get out.
- Yeah, and, Steve, you and I share a brain, I was just gonna ask about wellness, but more so in the connection of grit because a lot of people think they're opposite side of a coin, that you can't be well if you're also grit and you're hustling all the time.
Talk about the importance of grit and resilience throughout the pandemic.
- Well, I think we had to channel a lot of resilience, you know, and many of us didn't know that we had the level of resilience in us, right?
Until we were confronted with challenges.
I think a couple of things.
One, I think to get to resiliency and grit, you have to be vulnerable as a leader.
There were times when I said, "Hey, I'm not quite sure how we move forward, but we're all gonna figure it out because we have to."
And that allows folks to lean into the problem solving, the creativity, and the collective action that is required to step forward.
And vulnerable leadership, authentic leadership, acknowledging that this is a learning journey for all of us were really important things that we were able to draw on so that we can come up with creative ways, right, to meet the needs of our constituents during this crisis.
- And as Shané shares that very honest response, I've often said, I won't get on my soapbox, that being a confident leader does not mean you're not scared, does not mean you're not fearful, does not mean you don't worry about the unknown or the impact of COVID, the economics of it.
It means that there's a degree of grit that helps you get through it, even if you are vulnerable.
By the way, before I let you go, Shané, do you believe, as I believe, that there is something to be said, now, Mary grew up in, I think, Fords, New Jersey, I'm still not sure where that is.
- Oh, stop.
(laughs) - It's part of the Woodbridge- - I know exactly where Fords is.
- Thank you, Shane.
That is where I grew up.
And Steve always bashes it.
Everybody's like, "It's Woodbridge."
- I just don't know where it is.
So here's the thing, Shané, are you with me on this that there's a level of Newark grit that helps us in particularly tough times?
- Oh, absolutely.
I mean, when you think about just how our mayor led lifting up community voices, making sure that, you know, places in the city were accessible to all, using arts and culture as a way to, you know, engender hope.
Yes, there was a grit, and it was a wonderful thing to see how the community came together, how folks made sure that families and children were connected.
- Yeah, I'm sorry.
There is Newark grit, I believe in it.
I think I have some of it.
Shané's got a lot of it.
I'm sure there's Fords' grit, and Mary would cheer with that.
- Hey, my dad was born and raised in Brooklyn so he instilled the Brooklyn grit in me.
- That changes everything.
- And that's why between Fords and Brooklyn, that's me.
- Mary sounds a little defensive to me right now, but, Shané, we're gonna let you go.
Mary and I'll talk after this.
Shané, thank you so much and to the team at the Prudential Foundation.
- Thank you again.
- Great job.
Stay with us, Mary from Ford's over here will be right back after this.
- [Narrator] One-On-One with Steve Adubato has been a production of the Caucus Educational Corporation.
Funding has been provided by RWJBarnabas Health.
Let'’s be healthy together.
Newark Board of Education.
New Jersey Institute of Technology.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Johnson & Johnson.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
And by The North Ward Center.
Promotional support provided by NJ.Com.
And by The New Jersey Business & Industry Association.
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