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An Interview with Jenn Sloan, Senior Consultant


Jenn Sloan joined Fourth Economy + Steer as a Senior Consultant in March 2023. After earning a Masters of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh, she began her career at the RAND Corporation conducting community health research. Most recently, she spent three years as a Social Change Fellow at The Pittsburgh Foundation. We asked Jenn a few questions about her role, how it builds on her past professional experiences, and what she’s excited to accomplish at Fourth Economy in 2024. We also had to know if Jenn is still a soccer fan, after playing for years as a young adult!



 

You are a Senior Consultant for Fourth Economy. What does that entail? What does your work look like on any given day?


I’ve worked on a variety of projects in my short tenure here – supporting a foundation focused on catalyzing economic prosperity and a small committee focused on mode-shift based carbon reduction, as well as developing a poverty prevention plan for a small city and a state-wide outdoor economy roadmap. I love any work that centers equity and justice and involves engaging with the community. As a senior consultant, my job is to support my colleagues in meeting the project goals on time and in a way that (hopefully!) exceeds the client’s expectations and advances equity both through the process and the deliverable. 


You spent over five years conducting public health policy analysis and research at the RAND Corporation. What was the most important thing you learned from the experience, and how do you find yourself using it in your work at Fourth Economy?


RAND has such a healthy culture of asking questions. It’s a critical part of the research process, and RAND staff are really good at it. I feel grateful I launched my career there, and got really comfortable asking questions at work. Understanding the “why” is so important in research – why you picked a certain statistical approach to your analysis, why your findings might be relevant in other communities. The “why” always has to be explained and justified. At Fourth Economy, I get to ask lots of questions. Certainly of our clients, but also of ourselves. Often, I’m asking why we do things the way we do, and if there is a more values-aligned, equity-forward way to do things. I appreciate that Fourth Economy’s leadership is receptive to questions and open to new ideas. 


After your time at RAND, you moved into philanthropy and piloted participatory grantmaking processes at The Pittsburgh Foundation. What is participatory grantmaking and why do you think it’s a valuable approach?


Participatory grantmaking, or community-led grantmaking, is an approach where those most affected by the grant dollars are the ones making the decisions about how those dollars are spent. It’s a valuable approach because it breaks down the power imbalances inherent in philanthropy, recognizes those with lived experience as the experts that they are, and ensures that those closest to the issue are guiding the grant dollars. At The Pittsburgh Foundation, for example, we established a participatory grantmaking process for our youth justice grantmaking. Folks who are in the youth justice space every day supporting youth and running diversion programs were the ones reviewing the grant applications and deciding who to fund. If it’s done well, it’s power-sharing in action.


What do you hope to accomplish with Fourth Economy this year? 


This year I hope to continue to connect with and learn from my colleagues at Fourth Economy! I am also excited about the internal Equity Working Group and the doors that group opens for Fourth Economy to become a stronger force for equity in the world of economic development. On the business development side, I’m excited to pursue and bring on projects at the intersection of health equity and community development.


Sunset at the 2019 Women's World Cup Soccer game in Lyon, France.


You played collegiate soccer, and even led the Denison College team to the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament in 2010! How do you like to keep active these days, and are you still a soccer fan?


Being active outside is my happy place – I enjoy running, walking, and hiking. I also play soccer and have found a pick-up soccer community in Pittsburgh that I love. And I am definitely still a fan – I love watching the US Women’s National Team and NWSL games in particular. 

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