Laura Henderson, a Portfolio Manager for NEO Philanthropy’s Fiscal Sponsorship team, shares the most challenging part of working in social justice, what she’s like outside the office and more in this Q&A.
Q: What is the most challenging part of working in social justice?
The field of social justice encompasses issues that are complex, intersectional, and critical to the lived experience of our friends and neighbors. Ignorance is not an excuse from the responsibility we have to bring about restoration and justice for those who have survived violence and discrimination. I believe we must to continue to learn about the intellectual and social history behind the inequality we see today and to change our story to be more just, fair, and equal. These are intergenerational issues, and we need to understand the history to drive change into the future.
The work can feel overwhelming! But, as a member of the fiscal sponsorship team, it is easier to be hopeful when we get to see the work our projects are doing across many issue areas to bring change, inspiration, and justice to our communities.
Q: Who has been the most influential role model/hero in your life thus far?
In the last few years, I’ve greatly admired the work of the many female journalists who are leading in the field, including Kara Swisher, Maggie Haberman, Rukmini Callimachi, and Nikole Hannah-Jones. Social activism requires information about what is happening in our communities, and each of these women covers a beat that is controversial in current public policy and crucial to the future of our society.
Q: What fuels your focus on social justice issues?
I previously worked in organizations focusing on homelessness, poverty-alleviation, and women’s empowerment. Spending time chatting with and listening to people who have seen tragedy, have survived trauma, and continue to be hopeful changed my life. While it’s easy to say that I believe in the equal human value and dignity of all people, the challenge remains constant to build systems and communities that reflect that belief, and the presence of inequality and the stories of my friends drive my passion to work in this field.
Q: Give us a peek of Laura outside of the office. What are your favorite things to do when you aren’t at work?
When I’m outside of the office, I’m most likely with my wife AJ spending time with friends or cooking and playing music at home. We have a backyard, so I’m often trying to plant and grow grass (which in 3 years, I haven’t managed to do). We are moms to two rescue dogs and a cat and are big fans of Foster Dogs NYC, a local organization supporting animal rescues across the city. We recently attended Chloe Kardoggian’s 14th Birthday Party, and it was the social event of the season!
Q: What do you find most rewarding about working at NEO?
It’s going to sound cliché, but it’s the truth. I love working with the leaders of our fiscally sponsored projects. Each project has a different focus for their advocacy work and a slightly different style and personality. It is an adventure and so rewarding to learn from them and to provide the organizational support for their work to thrive. When my projects host events or lead campaigns around critical issues, I feel proud and excited that I get to play some small part in their mission. I just wish I could attend all of their events!