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Spitfire presidential transition to spark change

When I started Spitfire, almost 21 years ago now, I had a lot to learn. I had run someone else’s company but not my own. Taking the next step was an enormous challenge and, frankly, a little scary. My father, the man who made me who I am, took a bit of that weight off for me when he said, “Don’t worry so much — you can always go back in-house if no one will hire you.” With his wise advice, I was off. 

I started and grew Spitfire in trying times. The company’s origins in the wake of 9-11 taught me and my staff to be careful with resources. Those important lessons meant we knew how to get through years of famine as well as feast … for one extremely difficult example, when later we preserved all staff positions during the Great Recession. Those pragmatic lessons are the reason why so many years later I look up to find I am still running the company as we recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic. Through it all, I’ve worked with an amazing team and together we’ve created a remarkable company that exists to advance racial, economic and social justice; protect the environment; and expand opportunity. We have a stellar client list, a host of big wins on our brag board, and an alumni network that is filled with the best of the best communicators and campaigners who are working every day to make the world better.

In 2022, my team and I began a process to create the firm of the future. We wanted to make sure our workplace was an engine (or better, an electric vehicle battery) for well-being in the world. We explored ways we could do things differently to create a different kind of company, one that is truly in line with our values. One of those core values is creating opportunities for learning and growth.

When you want to make a big change, it sometimes helps to change who is leading the charge. And that is what I am doing. 

As of July 1, I will transition from Spitfire president to Spitfire founder and strategist. Jen Carnig, an eight-year Spitfire veteran, will step into the president role. Although I am changing roles, I’m not changing my commitment to social justice communications. After the transition in July, with less responsibility on my plate, I will redouble my efforts on the issues I care most about. This transition will also enable me to move to the front burner important work I’ve been longing to do: rigorously exploring what it takes for civil society organizations to cultivate deep trust in this moment of bubbles, backlash and propaganda. I hope this work can be as valuable as Smart Chart, Big Ideas to Big Change and Activation Point have been to the field. I am so grateful to have such an experienced and proven leader in Jen and such a strong leadership team whose commitment to Spitfire enable me to focus on the projects close to my heart.

Jen CarnigSpitfire is incredibly lucky to have Jen take the helm. I looked up what her last name, Carnig, means. Here is what ChatGPT told me: “Carnig is a boy’s name of Armenian origin. Meaning ‘small’ and ‘humble.’ This name is perfect for a baby you just know will have an easy disposition.” 

I thought, “Wow is she misnamed!” Jen is a hell-raiser and leading voice in our field. She is one of the main reasons that people know the term “stop and frisk” and why reproductive justice helped win elections in the midterms. This I know: You do not want to be a person explaining to her why inequality is OK or that disinformation is the market at work, or that people need to be patient when it comes to ending police brutality or protecting women’s rights. 

Not only is she all in with our clients, Jen cultivates talent. She will do anything for Spitfire staff. She sets people up for success and gives them the autonomy to do the work they want to do and leave their mark on the world. She is crazy smart. She sees windows where others see walls. Those are the attributes leaders need to change systems, challenge stereotypes, and reimagine a world of abundance and equity.

It took many people to create the strategic force Spitfire has become. I can’t wait to be part of what it evolves into next under Jen’s leadership. Please join me in congratulating Jen as she becomes Spitfire’s president July 1, 2023. 

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 25, 2023 at 09:02 am and is filed under Spitfire culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.