[Name]: Ned Schaub
[Areas of Expertise]: Nonprofit Consulting, Foundations, Palliative Care, Job Access and Mobility, Partnerships, Social Justice, Sustainability Planning, Business Planning

[Hub Berkeley Memory Lane]:

I was matched up with a 94 year old woman. She was in a nursing home near where I worked at the Moore foundation… The foundation had just been established and it was a crazy time. We were building everything from scratch, things were changing all the time. It was exciting but those were stressful days. Once a week I would go over and see her, and that would all just melt away. I was working 12-14 hours a day, and at that time I didn’t have a family, and I was doing this typical career thing where you’re operating with total tunnel vision. She pulled me out of that– and my isolation.

Ned Schaub has had a successful career. He’s taught GED courses to inner-city youth in Chicago, served elder and immigrant populations, worked for the MacArthur Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, served as President of a nonprofit board of directors, and been a founding team member of MissionWise, a consulting organization that works with consulted nonprofit health service organizations on their long-term sustainability, viability, and purpose.

Now Ned is making a career change, looking to take his impact to the next level and help revolutionize the way we think of elders in our society. He will continue his consulting work in the near term, but will focus mainly on working with clients in the fields of aging and palliative care. And if the right opportunity arises, with the right organization, Ned is ready to join for the long-haul.

Q&A with Ned Schaub

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A:I didn’t know exactly. It wasn’t so much a thing I wanted to be, it was a bit more amorphous than that. I wanted to be an agent in helping people connect with each other, and work through the things that are hard about life. I’ve had that inner calling since I was a kid.

I recently found a paper that I wrote in 1986 while my dad was dying. It was about what a difference it makes in a patient’s life if they play an active role in making decisions, and are at the center of the care they’re receiving. My dad was an investigative journalist and a press secretary. When he was having surgery for the cancer he had, they would talk over him– and not to him. they would take out a felt marker and draw on him where they were going to make incisions, as if he weren’t even a person. Such disregard for an individual can make them feel like they are losing their dignity. That struck me very deeply. Now, finding that paper again, it dawned on me that I was working on palliative care about 20 years before I even knew what it was.

Q: What is palliative care?
A: So you’ve heard of hospice. Hospice has an interdisciplinary approach to comforting people at the end of their life.  Palliative care is an umbrella term under which hospice falls. Just as hospice focuses more on pain management than cure, palliative care focuses on putting the patient at the center, preserving dignity, and managing pain.

But unlike hospice, the broader category of palliative care says that you can have this at any time– not just when you’re 6 months from the end of your life.That said, the end of life realm is the area I’m focusing on.

Q: What makes you passionate about this work?
A: I’ve felt strongly since I was a kid that in our society, we don’t revere our elders. We don’t keep them in the mix with us. We miss out because we don’t capitalize on the wisdom, the experience, the stories, and frankly the volunteer time they could be donating to our society.

I want people to have a lovely finish at the end of their life. The last years are wonderful, exciting years with new possibilities. When we get to the end of our lives, we should be supported in such a way that we are most comfortable and cared for. Rather than the standard way that medicine sometimes does it, which is to have us on machines and suffering more than we have to.

Q: Can you give an example of a program that taps into the resource of elders?
A: I’m the chair of the board of Eldergivers, a nonprofit that brings art programs into long-term care facilities for elders, and provides very talented art instructors to teach painting and drawing. Our goal is to connect elders with other generations and to capitalize on their talents and wisdom. At the same time, we help them achieve the kind of life they’d like to have– even if it’s just in a small way. We use a very low-budget model: it’s super duper efficient financially to bring our classes into these places.The art that these people create is incredible. We hear story after story about how depressed and isolated these people were before this program. Every year there are forty pieces selected, and framed with a beautiful black and white portrait of that elder and a little bio with their life story. They’re then put into an exhibit that travels all around the Bay Area.

ElderGivers is just one example. There is so much opportunity with all the Baby-boomers who are retiring but want to continue to be active. They can be tutoring our kids in suffering schools, volunteering, paid part-time to do all kind of social services. Some of them are financially flush and just want to contribute to something they can feel really good about. So we have to tap that resource. It can make everyone happier.

Q: Any favorite memories from working in elder care?
A: Years back, I was asked by the ED of Eldergivers to become a volunteer with one of their elders. I would go in every week and interview that person, and at the end of a 9 month period write a piece about their life.

I was matched up with a 94 year old woman. She was in a nursing home near where i worked at the Moore Foundation. The foundation had just been established and it was a crazy time. We were building everything from scratch, things were changing all the time…It was exciting but those were stressful days… Once a week I would go over and see her, and that would all just melt away.

I wrote down her story, and it was published in a journal along with eight other stories about elders. She wanted to have a tea party to celebrate, so we had this big tea party in the afternoon with cucumber sandwiches. Her family was there. I did a reading, her daughter spoke, somebody who worked with her got up and talked… Then, some months later, she died. And there’s that story, written down with all these details that only she could tell.

The thing is, we always talk about how elders end up in isolation, and I know that my visits with that woman were as a volunteer. But what I realized was that I was the one who was in isolation. I was working twelve to fourteen hours a day, at that time I didn’t have a family, and I was doing this typical career thing where you’re operating with total tunnel vision. She pulled me out of that — and out of my isolation.

Q: Lessons learned?
A: Meet them where they are. Whether you’re working with inner city youth, consulting a nonprofit, or serving as the executive director of an organization, the core thing is to meet them where they are. There’s a book I like called The Servant Leader, and I believe it tells how you get the most out of people– which is to go to a place where they feel understood and heard. One of my mentors at the MacArthur Foundation taught me this rule about foundation work: The more you try to control the organizations you make grants to, the less influence you have. The less you try to control them, the more you’ll be able to sit down with them and say listen, ‘you’re in the driver’s seat, that’s why we’re funding you, what do you think about trying XYZ?’  It implies a kind of trust. I always, always, always, try to get to a position of real partnership.

Q: And why the Hub?
A: I had seen and heard of touch-down spaces where you can go to use a desk and a phone for a day, and always thought that was a good idea. But this is so much more than that. I can’t say enough about the kind of connections I make here every single day. And the energy I’m around. It really benefits me to be hunkered down, working away on something, and then I hear in the corner, “Yeah, we’re taking this to market next week!” It’s part of the reason I did what I did, all these people in here are working on something entrepreneurial. Was I just gonna say “Oh, I’ve got a job, it’s bad economic times…”? It’s contagious. I wanted to do more, and go deeper. I’m like, Go for it man!

If you’re all about finding unusual partnerships, chat Ned up at Hub Berkeley or find him online at http://nedschaub.com/.

In the meantime, thanks for reading!

Samantha, Your Hub Stories Correspondent