Meet Steven Cole-Schwartz

Steven (pictured right) will join Group Health Foundation this July as our portfolio director of advocacy and leadership. “It is such a rich opportunity to work with individuals, families, organizations, and leaders from across Washington State’s rural communities, tribes, and larger and smaller cities.”

Steven is oriented toward leaders and leadership as pathways for making change. Most recently, he founded and served as the executive director of The Partnership Funds, where he built a national funding collaborative from the ground up to support cohorts of organizations and practitioners in nine states. “One of my greatest joys with The Partnership Fund has been developing a network of state organizations, community advocates, and philanthropic leaders from across the country to foster independent political power. It’s the kind of power that doesn’t just focus on winning elections: we aim to win change in people’s lives.”

Throughout his career, Steven has had a variety of what he calls “small-p” political jobs, from being one of the first student presidents of a gay-straight alliance on a Jesuit college campus, to supporting dozens of ballot-measure campaigns with the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, to promoting democratic engagement with the Funders Committee on Civic Participation, where he serves as board co-chair.

As he thinks about joining Group Health Foundation, Steven will remain interested in supporting, “not just ladders of leadership for individuals, but lattices of leadership across communities and states.” However, right now the biggest thing he’s focused on is getting to Washington and learning as much as he can. He’s committed to listening to community leaders and those who are most impacted by current practices, policies, and politics to understand opportunities for transformation.

In late June, Steven, his husband Michael (pictured left), and their dog Gary will be packing their belongings and embarking on a cross-country road trip from one Washington to the other. While they are sentimental about leaving their D.C. home of 15+ years, they are excited about a new adventure and exploring the Northwest.

Steven loves to travel, and recently spent a month living in Mexico City studying Spanish. His home and office are full of mementos from personal and work travel throughout the U.S. and internationally. He’ll be bringing this sense of curiosity with him to Group Health Foundation—for traveling throughout the state, for being immersed in local knowledge, and for building lasting relationships with community experts.

Reflecting on his new role, Steven says, “I’ve been a builder of organizations for my whole career. To join Group Health Foundation at this time—when we’re defining who we’re going to be for the next decade and how we’ll implement what we learn from the people we serve—is incredibly powerful.”