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President’s Year-End Letter

Dear Grantees and Partners:

When the Heising-Simons Foundation welcomed me as its new leader in February 2023, we as a staff and Board embarked on a shared journey to reflect on the many changes taking place within the Foundation and in the world. The nature of the problems we are tackling—whether the scale of climate change and its impact on vulnerable communities, or the need for quality childcare to enable families and children to thrive—require us to be creative, bold, and expansive in our thinking and action. At the same time, the uncertainties and volatilities we face in the fields in which we work require us to reflect with humility and hope on how we might best unlock knowledge, opportunity, and possibilities going forward.

I am so grateful to our Board—Liz Simons, Mark Heising, and Caitlin Heising—for their vision in founding this institution, for their leadership, and for welcoming me to the Foundation and as a member of the Board. I am also grateful to our talented staff who work tirelessly to uphold our values through our grantmaking and operational practices. With my arrival, we have jointly embarked upon a process of reflection about impact and the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow—which we are still working to define.

Much remains the same—our enduring commitments to meeting the educational needs of our youngest learners, addressing climate change, advancing the frontiers of scientific research, and promoting human rights for all. Our investment in leading organizations is complemented by our support to individuals—whether through the 51 Pegasi b Fellowship, which advances professional opportunities in planetary astronomy, or the American Mosaic Journalism Prize,  which champions journalists reporting on underrepresented communities.

I focused my initial months on listening and learning, and then commenced on creating and building. We have embarked on some new areas of work, including re-envisioning our local grantmaking program; launching a new program through the CEO Fund on technology and society; and participating in a collaboration to support Black-led social movements through the Democracy Frontlines Fund.

In the coming months, I hope to share the work we have begun surrounding the impact of technology on society—to ensure that AI advancements are grounded in justice, dignity, and rights, and that the benefits of technological progress don’t get outweighed by its perils. To this end, we were invited to participate in a $200 million collaboration with other leading foundations and the White House Office of the Vice President to advance shared goals around trustworthy AI, goals for which I have great hope in 2024.

One of my favorite authors, Zora Neale Hurston, wrote in Their Eyes Were Watching God, “There are years that ask questions and years that provide answers.” It is my hope that 2024 brings us answers and new possibilities for those of us seeking to expand opportunities, knowledge, and justice.


With gratitude,

Sushma Raman
President and CEO

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