Katie Grace Deane asks a lot of questions, few of which have easy answers. As CCI’s Associate Director of Research and Field Development, she focuses on surfacing the Center’s learning to make our programs—and the community investment field—more effective. Her research with the Initiative for Responsible Investment, where she worked before joining the Center, informed the development of the Center’s framework and continues to provide insights to our work. A voracious reader, she’s always happy to talk about what she’s recently loved or hated.
How would you describe your role at the Center?
I have been lucky enough to see my role evolve. As the second person hired, I helped build the organization and seed our programs. Now, I work with the team to think about what we’re learning internally, and how that changes our work moving forward and is shared more broadly with others. I get to ask interesting questions that don’t always have answers and spend my day being curious, which I really enjoy.
What about the Center’s work most excites you?
We are trying something super new that acknowledges all the work that has come before us—we are building on decades of hard and ambitious work by many others, but we’re not constrained by what’s been done. We are a test bed for the field of community investment; by trying new things in a rigorous and intentional way, we can be a nimble lab for learning and experimentation. It’s exciting to be in a place that takes risks, but is deeply committed to figuring out how to improve the lives of people living in this country.
What I’m excited about changes every day, depending on what I’m thinking about. Right now, I’m interested in how we translate the very hands-on work we do in our programs into tools that other communities, teams, and individuals can use on their own. Related to that, what are the necessary preconditions for doing capital absorption work? How will we know if we’ve been successful and how long might that take? Finally, our Connect Capital program has raised a number of questions and hypotheses around the impact of leaders and leadership, and I’m interested in how explicit we can be about what we think matters, why, and what a community can do about it. Just a handful of thoughts! I love the learning work we’re doing, and not just because it’s my job.
How did your early career and interests lead you to this field?
Having a job that would do something good for other people always felt natural and obvious to me; whether that’s a product of my Catholic upbringing, parental nurturing, an innate drive, or some combination of those is unclear. I was in college studying political science at a time when microfinance was getting popular, and the financial crisis opened a door to rethink the relationship of finance to society. I became interested in figuring out if it’s possible to use investment as a vehicle to make money and do good things for the world. I’ve been interrogating the systemic implications of that premise ever since.
My first job out of college was at a research organization studying responsible and impact investing, the Initiative for Responsible Investment (IRI). The IRI largely focused on the investor or supply side of investment, though a big portion of my work was on impact investing policy. One of my first research projects looked at differences in how the community investment systems evolved in Atlanta and Chicago. This was part of early work with Robin, David Wood, and Marian Urquilla to understand what else you need besides capital to change the way money flows in disinvested communities. I’ve been fortunate to work with Robin, Marian, and David as our framework of capital absorption has evolved and been tested in communities across the country. The work we are doing at CCI is boosting the focus on the demand side of responsible and impact investment, so that if billions or trillions of impact investment dollars materialize, they have a place to go.
You serve on the Board of Miss Hall’s School. Tell us about that experience.
I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to go to an all-girl’s high school and it had a transformative impact on my life. For the first time, I was stretched intellectually and given a safe space in which to do that. I care deeply about my experience there and want to make sure other girls have the ability to learn and grow as I did. I became President of the Alumnae Council, which comes with a seat on the Board. It’s an interesting time to be in the boarding school space. The costs of boarding school and college are increasing as more and more families are struggling financially. Thinking about how to operate a scholastic institution sustainably - while simultaneously preserving access to a broad range of students to create a diverse, global experience - is a complex challenge.
When you’re not at work, you are…
Reading. A lot. I love books. I read tons of historical fiction, young adult, sci-fi, and murder mysteries, especially if they’re British. I grew up loving fairy tales, which I think has translated into a deep appreciation for high-quality retellings of Greek myths. I throw in some non-fiction every once in a while, usually biographies or history.
Visiting friends and family all over the U.S., and cooking a lot of tasty (at least I think so!) meals. My husband and I are really getting into making pasta. If someone can teach me how to make ravioli without all the fillings coming out, though, I would really appreciate it!
Spending a week every summer at The Chautauqua Institute. I try to pick a week where the lecture theme is unrelated to my work because it forces my brain to make new kinds of connections. This year, I’m going for “The Forgotten: History and Memory in the 21st Century,” which is about what we remember and how we remember it, and what we learn from what happened.
People would be surprised to know…
My first “real” job was working as a bank teller, and I have a secret love of rolling coins by hand. Also, I’m a Bills fan (still!) married to a Patriots fan.
What is your media diet—a few things you always read?
I have been a long-time New York Times Sunday subscriber, and added the Boston Globe recently, mostly for Spotlight. I read the New Yorker every week and the New York Times every morning. I recently subscribed to The Sunday Long Read, which I’m enjoying. For podcasts: Up First, the Guardian Books Podcast, Overdue, 30 for 30, 99% Invisible, Who? Weekly, and Radiolab. For books: find me on Goodreads!