“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 progressive family foundation supporting organizations building a just and sustainable world.
Over its first two decades, Panta Rhea’s grantmaking funded charitable efforts in water rights, corporate accountability, environmental health, education, and the arts. We’ve also offered general operating support and capacity building resources for core partners, and smaller grants for one-time opportunities aligned with our programs across the US, Mexico, and the Philippines.
We currently invest in racially just and sustainable food systems, expanding democracy, and supporting artists as social movement catalysts. Looking ahead, our grantmaking strategy will further evolve for the resilience of people, planet, and collective grassroots power.
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 a former grantee in the environmental and economic justice movement. 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, and social impact bonds. Connie serves on the Funders Committee for Civic Participation’s national board and on the local board of Southern California Grantmakers. She is a founding parent with Kids for Freedom & Justice, and co-founded a grassroots global network for adopted and fostered adults of African descent. She also served a 10-year term as Commissioner on California’s inaugural Citizens Redistricting Commission from 2010-2020, and continues to promote redistricting reform nationally. Connie studied urban planning and economics at the University of California at Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, and Communications and Spanish at La Sierra University. She lives in Pasadena, California, with roots in San Andres, Providence, and Santa Catalina – Colombia’s Caribbean islands.
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.
Gerlie brings a diverse skillset to Panta Rhea harnessed from nearly 20 years of working in the nonprofit sector. Prior to Panta Rhea, she helped annually award up to $20 million in grants to California-based arts organizations with the James Irvine Foundation, and communicated the needs and opportunities of philanthropy in Los Angeles County with the California Community Foundation. She also curated and designed arts programming at The Music Center, the Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County and The Pasadena Playhouse. She earned a Masters in Arts Management from Claremont Graduate University and graduated with a degree in Business Administration from the University of San Francisco. With a passion for civic and community engagement, she currently serves as a City of Los Angeles Commissioner for the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, a board member of Visual Communications, the nation’s premier Asian American media arts organization, and a founding board member of Claremont Graduate University Center for Business and Management in the Arts program’s alumni chapter.
Hans Schoepflin is an entrepreneur and philanthropist. He studied in France and in the United States and has had 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, Spore Initiative, a cultural platform aimed at redefining 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 mother, historian, writer, and educator. She joined the Panta Rhea Foundation board in 2008 and became Chair in 2017. Her philanthropic experience includes personal giving, managing Panta Rhea’s discretionary family giving through the Sunflower Fund (2005-2008); founding the Qinti Fund with her sister (2017-present); and participating in donor and movement organizing networks, including Solidaire, Thousand Current’s Collaborative Leaders’ Academy, and Women’s Donor Network. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Solidaire Network and Casa Gallina in Mexico City. In addition, she brings to Panta Rhea passion and experience with performance arts; academic and creative writing; education; colonial indigenous history 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, Mexico, and, of course, the United States. She has been awarded the Foreign Language and Areas Studies (FLAS) fellowship to study Quechua in Cusco, Peru in 2013 and 2014; the Fulbright-Hays fellowship to conduct nine months of archival research in Peru in 2017; the Dissertation Year Fellowship from UCLA in 2020-21; and the Getty Research Institute’s Residency Scholar Fellowship in Los Angeles in 2021-22. 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. Lisl also loves spending time in nature, camping, dancing, reading fiction, writing poetry, trying her hand at guitar and piano, and being with her son and life partner.
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 and 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.
Diana Cohn has worked on environmental, economic, and global justice issues as a teacher, media activist, and as an advisor and program director to grantmaking institutions with social change philanthropy missions. During her 13 year tenure as the Executive Director she was responsible for the Foundation’s Social Imagination/Arts and Social Change, Creativity and Education programs and for oversight of its Corporate Accountability; Dignity, Freedom & Solidarity; Food & Democracy; and Renewal & Resilience Programs. She was an active member of Grantmakers in the Arts and Grantmakers in Education as well as Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. She previously served on the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Visual Understandings in Education, and the Food Craft Institute Board of Directors. Diana is a Certified Co-Active coach and works with non-profit leaders and cultural creatives. Diana is also an award-winning children’s book author. Her books include, Si Se Puede! Yes We Can!, Mr. Goethe’s Garden, The Bee Tree, and Crane Boy. Her first book, Dream Carver was adapted into a bilingual musical puppet show produced by the LA based company, Swazzle.