Ben Thornley, MPP 09
Director, InSight at Pacific Community Ventures
Board President, Centerforce
My path to becoming a nonprofit board leader:
I serve as Board President of Centerforce, a nonprofit supporting families and communities impacted by incarceration—a board I first joined as a Berkeley Board Fellow in 2007. As a graduate student at the Goldman School of Public Policy, I was interested in pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector. I wanted real-world experience in organizational leadership, and the Board Fellows Program was ideal. The process of being matched to a nonprofit was straightforward, and I was provided with tons of support throughout the year.
I was placed with an organization called Centerforce, a nonprofit in San Rafael (a stone’s throw from San Quentin State Prison) focused on supporting communities impacted by incarceration. Centerforce programs promote successful re-entry, particularly by encouraging strong, healthy familial relationships. Like many nonprofit organizations, the Great Recession has forced Centerforce to become lean and efficient. Together with a leadership transition early in my tenure on the board, the first-hand experience of these challenges has been invaluable.
My Board Fellows experience:
I was fortunate to work with some seasoned nonprofit executives and board members at Centerforce and learned enough about nonprofit finance, programming, and board development during my first 24 months as a Board Fellow to enable me to move into the role of President in 2010 (I made an initial two-year commitment, which is not a requirement of the program). The Board Fellows experience has directly enhanced my ability to contribute to PCV as a program director. It also introduced me to the Bay Area and some of its most intractable problems and underserved communities very soon after relocating to California for school. I felt more connected to Berkeley and the region as a result.
What advice would you give to students?
I consider the Board Fellows Program a central part of my education. My involvement with Centerforce quickly became a top priority at Cal when I realized that the experience would be truly valuable and memorable – but also somewhat terrifying, given all of my other school-related obligations. I would advise students considering becoming a Board Fellow to embrace the gravity of the responsibility and to throw yourself into it… and to expect the unexpected!
Ben is the Director of InSight – the thought leadership and advisory practice in high-impact investing at Pacific Community Ventures (PCV). InSight provides policy research and non-financial performance evaluation to prominent investment and philanthropic institutions including the California Public Employees Retirement System and the Rockefeller Foundation. He has consulted to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, REDF, SF Works, and ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability. Ben has authored numerous studies and articles on impact investing, including Impact at Scale: Policy Innovation for Institutional Investment with Social and Environmental Benefit and the recent Huffington Post blog, The Really Truly Transformative Potential of Impact Investing. He sits on the governing strategy and adoption committee of the Impact Reporting and Investment Standards.