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Alison Gold


Alison Gold is passionate about sharing her unique combination of skills and experiences as an anthropologist, cross-sector changemaker, culture-builder, strategist, experience designer, and facilitator with individuals, organizations, and collaborations.  She founded Optimistic Anthropology in 2017 to be able to collaborate with fellow social changemakers and help them shape their knowledge, processes, strategies, and cultures to make a more positive world.

Prior to launching her business, Alison worked in government as the Presidio Institute’s first Manager of Leadership Education. In this role, she created and implemented the Institute’s leadership education strategy aimed at building a movement of cross-sector leaders equipped to solve the world’s toughest problems. In support of this, Alison developed the Institute’s cross-sector leadership curriculum, directed its national mid-career Fellowship program, recruited and managed its faculty, and designed and facilitated programming including its first online course “Introduction to Cross Sector Leadership: Building Teams.”

From 2011-2014, Alison worked in philanthropy as the Assistant Director of Knowledge and Impact at Living Cities. During her tenure, she led the philanthropic collaborative’s internal work on building a learning culture, and supported grantees in strengthening their cross-sector partnerships.  As part of the latter body of work, she researched and published What Barriers? Insights from Solving Problems through Cross-Sector Partnerships, associated case studies, and tools to help members of cross-sector partnerships assess if they had developed the necessary structures, strategies, and behaviors to achieve their goals.

Previously, Alison was an on-the-ground practitioner creating the strategies for and providing staff support to regional cross-sector collaborations. As the Deputy Director for Strategy and Operations at the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, she led efforts to build boundary-crossing, regional leadership through the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange and developed the World Class Greater Philadelphia initiative, a strategic planning and doing process for that region’s economic future. She also served as the Program Manager for the Greater Washington Board of Trade’s cross-sector leadership initiative, the Potomac Conference, where she directed the work on health care, and supported efforts on emergency preparedness, technology commercialization and regional visioning.

Alison has a degree in anthropology from Columbia University and business and nonprofit management certificates from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, where she was a UPS Foundation Fellow. She is proud to call the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC her home base, and grateful that Optimistic Anthropology enables her to work from anywhere in the world.

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