“All things flow. All things change.”
Heraclitus (c. 535-475 BC)
Heraclitus (c. 535-475 BC)
The Panta Rhea Foundation was established in 2001 as a private foundation devoted to supporting organizations committed to building a more just and sustainable world. The Foundation also advises individual donors and other charitable entities on grantmaking strategies and specific grants.
We believe that lasting, authentic change comes from the grassroots: from the organized efforts of people and organizations to enliven the social imagination, to envision a better future and to experiment with new ideas. We support changemakers to ask questions and to implement strategies and initiatives to build awareness, power, activism and civic engagement.
We believe the future we are working to build must be articulated, that ideas and words have power and that narratives and stories matter. And we support artists, journalists, teachers, students, activists, organizers and visionaries who see, create and make meaning of our world and our interdependent futures.
In today’s world, these efforts necessarily entail building strong local and national organizations that can serve as a counterweight to corporate power. They entail supporting independent sources of news and strong investigative reporting, as well as new approaches to problem-solving and collaboration. They require being mindful that social movements must inspire, identify and mentor leaders and nourish new forms of cultural and artistic expression. They require taking risks and betting on David despite Goliath’s awesome strengths.
Dear Panta Rhea community,
One month ago, today, I stepped into the Panta Rhea Foundation’s Executive Director role. The board, staff, and our founder Hans Schoepflin came together to celebrate fall transitions in the board room, over meals, and even shucking corn at The Cultural Conservancy’s Novato farm. These early days have also held work in deep partnership with Lisl Schoepflin, our board chair, and Diana Cohn, PRF’s outgoing Executive Director.
As I’ve settled in, many colleagues have asked, “Why Panta Rhea?” Simply put, this foundation’s ethos and culture resonate deeply with my own. The Schoepflin family and my own family bring global perspectives, our lives mutually shaped by migration and adoption. PRF’s team and I share a belief in philanthropic simplicity, grassroots driven grantmaking strategy, and the love of honeybees. We continue to discover and deepen our partnership more every day, based on these first synchronicities.
For those of you whose paths I’ve not yet crossed, I’ll share a bit about my background. I’ve overseen large grantmaking portfolios at the James Irvine Foundation, specializing in voter and civic engagement, and workforce and economic development. In 2011, I worked with thirteen other Californians as volunteer citizen commissioners to redraw California’s Assembly, Senate, Congressional and Board of Equalization electoral maps in the nation’s first fair, transparent redistricting process. I co-led Urban Habitat, an environmental justice nonprofit that benefitted from PRF’s partnership and grant support. I’ve also applied my urban planning lens to funding health and human services at a local United Way, and to shaping public policy at Redefining Progress. I’ve lived abroad, leading sustainable tourism initiatives in Bolivia’s Amazon Basin, and co-founded a volunteer network supporting adult adoptees of African descent.
Given that eclectic background I’m now thriving with the creative, flexible space PRF offers in a world that shifts and flows at an intense pace. As PRF evolves, we’ll explore ways to manifest our values below even more deeply.
Now is the moment to build meaningful connections between the Schoepflin family’s existing philanthropy in the U.S. and Germany, as well as to what lies beyond those borders. We’re on the brink of pivotal elections across the United States in 2020, with an international backdrop of polarized, often racialized politics. Global inequality continues to mushroom and we’re fighting fires – literally and figuratively – all around the planet. We’re living a “new normal,” the mass movement and migration of peoples, by choice and by force.
Thankfully the tremendous leaders PRF supports past, present, and future have game-changing solutions, as do each of you! I’m humbled at the opportunity to steward the Schoepflin family’s philanthropy for its next generation of impact. Over the months ahead, we at PRF will continue to explore how to best focus our resources. Given this family foundation’s deep roots and values, I welcome your perspectives as part of our dialogue. What seeds can we plant together now that will continue to grow and bear fruit in seven generations?
Thank you for welcoming me to the Panta Rhea community, and for joining us in being the change we want to see in the world!
November 1, 2019
A question we often get is, What does Panta Rhea mean? Underlying that question is, of course, why is that the name of the foundation? Panta Rhea or Rhei is attributed to Heraclitus and roughly translates as, “You never step into the same river twice” or “All things change, all things flow”—suggesting both inherent constancy and change as a fundamental of life itself. Not surprisingly then, Hans Schoepflin renamed his private foundation in 2001 the Panta Rhea Foundation, inspired by significant financial success, a desire to give back and a series of major life changes, including the sudden death of his son.
In that sense, Panta Rhea is a deeply personal name that honors the eternally interconnected possibility and promise of individual, familial and collective transformation. It is in this spirit, as father and daughter/founder and chair, respectively, that we share a new phase of multigenerational and inclusive stewardship in Panta Rhea’s legacy. A legacy dedicated to realizing transformative philanthropy and reciprocal collaboration with our local, regional, and global partners for a more just and sustainable world.
Co-developing Panta Rhea, together with his oldest daughter, Patricia Wefald, signaled an expanded commitment by Hans Schoepflin to his philanthropic activities. And so, in 2001, they formally opened an office in the San Francisco Bay area, hired an executive director and embarked on strategic grantmaking into environmental and social justice issues in California.
Hans Schoepflin first made his mark as a risk-taking and innovative funder by supporting an ultimately successful campaign that fought the privatization of an aquifer in the Mojave Desert. Since then, Panta Rhea’s grantmaking has supported individual and organizational changemakers in California, nationally and internationally through various initiatives and strategies. This has included water governance, environmental health, youth leadership development, corporate accountability, project-based and arts-integrated education, creative arts and social change, investigative journalism and public media reporting, food justice, capacity building, and much more.
In 2015, we began the transition from a founder-driven organization to an institutional, board-stewarded one. This included expanding the board, which will eventually become a non-family majority board. In addition, Lisl Schoepflin, Hans’ youngest daughter, stepped in as board chair, while Hans remains involved as an active donor, director, thought partner, and mentor.
We aim to continue the founder’s legacy while stewarding a philanthropic vision and strategy through consensus-based decision-making with a diverse, inclusive and multi-generational family/non-family member board and staff. We remain committed to staying a small organization, dependent and successful thanks to the dedication, passion and leadership of our stellar staff and the deep partnership and collaboration within and between the Panta Rhea team and the broader community.
With gratitude and humility for the opportunity to share in the essential work of transformative change, we strive to boldly and creatively meet today’s diverse challenges with grounded, long-view initiatives that foster and engage the wisdom, dignity, and beauty of the planet, its peoples and cultures. Onwards!
August 6, 2017
The Panta Rhea Foundation intentionally maintains a small staff.
Because of this, the Foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals or letters of inquiry.
Our approach is guided by the following practices:
We seek out grantees by staying rooted in conversation with movement leaders, experts, educators, artists and organizers and by tracking the latest policy advocacy opportunities.
We seek out the intersections of our interest areas with the greatest need and greatest momentum.
We take advantage of our existing “kitchen cabinet” of key influencers in our respective program areas, and spend time attending, participating in and advising key conferences and meetings germane to our work.
Connie joined Panta Rhea as Executive Director on October 1, 2019. Prior to Panta Rhea, Connie served as Portfolio Director at The James Irvine Foundation. There she oversaw grantmaking in voter and civic engagement, worker organizing, workforce development, Pay for Success, and the foundation’s annual Leadership Awards. She was also a former Panta Rhea grantee as Senior Director of Programs at Urban Habitat, an environmental justice organization. Connie serves as a Commissioner on the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, on the national Advisory Board of the Funders Committee for Civic Participation, and the local board of Southern California Grantmakers. She earned her master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and a bachelor’s degree from La Sierra University in Riverside, CA. She lives in Pasadena, California, with roots in San Andres, Providence, and Santa Catalina – Colombia’s Caribbean islands.
Zoë has more than 20 years of experience working on economic and environmental justice issues. She has worked on development and communications for the Breast Cancer Fund and Good Jobs First, and also previously served as the Grants Manager for the Rosenberg Foundation in San Francisco. While at Rosenberg Foundation she served on the Northern California Grantmakers Emergency Fund Committee. She is currently a member of PEAK Grantmaking, a network for best practices in grants management. Zoë has completed graduate coursework in non-profit management. She plays the bass guitar and is currently learning to sew.
Ann is an organization development consultant and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with social change leaders, nonprofit organizations and philanthropy. Her approach is rooted in the belief that learning and transformation are vital to an organization’s resiliency and effectiveness. As the director of the Resilience & Renewal portfolio at Panta Rhea, Ann stewards a learning process with foundation staff and grantees as they engage in leading and transforming their organizations and themselves as leaders. Earlier in her career, Ann served as Executive Director of the Common Counsel Foundation. Ann earned a doctorate in organizational psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology, with a focus on learning and governance, a BA in Political Economy from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and is a certified Co-Active Coach through the Coaches Training Institute.
Jason serves as President of Ktisis Capital Advisors through which he serves as a strategic advisor to a mix of progressive donors, families, foundations and philanthropic collaboratives including the Movement Voter Project, Peterffy Foundation, and Panta Rhea Foundation where he is helping coordinate their Dignity, Freedom & Solidarity portfolio. Additionally, he holds the W.K. Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy where he engages in research on collective giving and collaborative funding structures. He is deeply involved in social justice philanthropy and donor organizing including chairing the boards of the Proteus Fund & Solidaire donor network; serving on the boards of the Threshold Foundation, Michigan Civic Education Fund, and Our LGBT Fund at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation; and engaging as a member of Threshold’s High Impact Documentary Funding Circle, the West Michigan Progressive PAC, Democracy Alliance, and WINGS: Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support. He received his doctorate in public administration from the NYU Graduate School of Public Service.
Hans Schoepflin is an entrepreneur and philanthropist. He studied in France and in the United States and has both successful business and investment careers. Today he is the founder and President of Schoepflin Investment Company. In 1998, he founded the Panta Rhea Foundation in the United States and in 2001 the Schoepflin Foundation in Germany. Both foundations support people and organizations, that envision a better future for the generations to come, experiment with new ideas and are committed to building a more just and sustainable world. Both act in accordance with the philosophy of Heraclitus “All things flow. All things change.” Through all of the foundations’ respective wide-ranging initiatives, there is a consistent philosophy to develop personal awareness and empower individuals and organizations to tackle major social challenges. Hans Schoepflin is presently engaged in a new initiative, titled Spore Initiative: a cultural platform aimed at re-defining the relationships between contemporary daily life, art and nature. Spore Initiative seeks to activate new synergies internationally between these three respective domains while remaining anchored to a specific neighborhood in Berlin.
Lisl is a historian, writer and educator. She joined the Panta Rhea Foundation board in 2008. Her philanthropic experience includes managing PRF’s discretionary family giving through the Sunflower Fund (2005-2008); founding the Qinti Fund with one of her sisters (2017-present); and participating in donor and movement organizing networks, including Solidaire. She brings to Panta Rhea passion and experience with performance arts; academic and creative writing; education; indigenous and colonial history and social memory of the Americas, particularly the Andean region; and social and environmental justice efforts. She has lived and worked in places such as Brazil, Denmark, India, Peru, and, of course, the United States. She received in 2013 and 2014 the Foreign Language and Areas Studies (FLAS) fellowship to study Quechua in Cusco, Peru and in 2017 the Fulbright-Hays fellowship to conduct archival research in Peru for nine months. She completed her BA in Anthropology and Theater Arts at the University of Pennsylvania, MA in Latin American History at the University of California, Los Angeles, and is currently a PhD Candidate in Latin American History at UCLA.
Adelaide has been a psychotherapist and life coach for over thirty years. Her interest in sustainable food grew out of her 40-year involvement with the Chez Panisse restaurant. She has worked in community mental health, criminal justice and secondary education. In addition, she’s had 50 years experience in the arts (photography, film, theater, creative writing). She is currently helping individuals with personal sustainability, finishing a novel, and working with several non-profits.
Nico works as a pediatric neurologist and developmental neuroscientist at Washington University in St. Louis. Born and raised in southwest Germany, he obtained a BA in Biochemistry from Columbia University in 2000 and MD and PhD from Washington University in 2008. Nico loves data and experimentation as the surest path towards understanding and improving all things.
Holly is the founder of BonaVita Enterprises, has worked in social enterprise as an entrepreneur, investor and community builder for two decades. Her work has spanned the business sector via Uprise Bakery and Terra Bella Farms in Columbia, Missouri; the nonprofit sector via Ragtag Cinema and the True/False Film Festival also in Columbia; social entrepreneurship via Ashoka: Innovators for the Public; Youth Impact Hub Oakland; and, YES! Holly grew up in central Missouri and lives in Berkeley, California with her two imaginative, energetic and often-costumed boys.