Who is Doug Pileri?
Doug: First – and most proudly – I’m the husband of Debby, my smart and supportive wife – and father to Claire, a pediatrician; Kristen, a television animator; and Nicole, a college student. But perhaps more relevant to this new assignment, I’ve been fortunate to have had more than thirty years of leadership positions with Kodak, Thompson, IBM, and Freedom Partners, a trade association based in Washington, D.C. – as well as board experience with non-profits and consulting positions with a number of start-ups.
Through all of that, I’ve tried to apply fresh thinking, help people and teams develop imaginative solutions and create enduring value — and have fun along the way. I’ve found that when I help organizations simplify complexity – and apply the right mix of technology and insights to improve processes and change practices – they quickly learn to separate the important from the urgent and get more fully energized around what needs to be done to make a difference for their future. I like to lead, but I love to inspire.
What attracted you to OrphanWise?
Doug: Whenever I’ve been offered a new assignment, I’ve always looked first at the people I’m going to be working with. In the many years I’ve been doing this, I’ve found that when I work with smart, inspiring, and committed people – and add my talents and experience to theirs – one plus one somehow equals three. We seem to do great work and gain a sense of satisfaction with the results.
In this case, it was the opportunity to work with Katie Rinaudo, Executive Director of OrphanWise that drew me to the role. She’s bright, she’s educated, and she has experience in working with children in difficult situations. But equally important, she has an enduring passion for what she does, an infectious sense of persistence to overcome obstacles, and the pragmatism to apply her experience in ways that are practical and effective for the goals she’s set for her organization to solve. And then, when she introduced me to the others involved – including the new members of her board – I said, “count me in.”
What inspires you about what OrphanWise does?
Doug: Well, first of all, I look at the work OrphanWise does through the eyes of a parent. And although our three girls have turned out to be remarkable and accomplished young women who make my wife and I very proud, I can tell you that being a parent today is difficult under the best of circumstances; it’s even more so for those who are raising foster children or interacting with children at-risk or who’ve experienced trauma.
These parents and caregivers need special support.OrphanWise provides that support, as well as practical tools that can truly make a difference in the lives of at-risk children. When foster parents, judges, health care providers, social workers and others who work with vulnerable children are not equipped with the training nor support they need, OrphanWise steps in to bridge the gap The work we do has a “multiplier” effect; they are “training the trainer,” so to speak.
The return on value for this approach is high. Retention rate for foster parents go up. Judges make better decisions. Kids in difficult situations go to jail less. Kids begin to develop trust in their adult caregivers. For perhaps the first time in their lives, they feel secure enough to have a vision for their future and feel empowered change the trajectory of their lives. So, an investment in those kids is actually an investment in our collective future.
What do you expect to bring to the organization?
Doug: My goal is – at least initially – to be a mix of teacher and student. There is a lot I need to learn about this field of ‘caregiving in at-risk situations” before I can decide how and where to offer my experience for their consideration. And in Katie, I’ll have the very best teacher. At the same time, I’ve found that most organizations – especially those in the start-up phase – wrestle with the same challenges: How to measure achievements – rather than actions? How to define and create enduring value? How to use their brand in ways that are consistent and connective? How to impose internal discipline without impeding creativity? How to use technology effectively? How to establish and implement necessary processes without creating unnecessary work? How to network effectively in ways to benefit everyone involved? How to eliminate waste and use all assets effectively? How to attract and grow people? How to maintain enthusiasm in the midst of all the challenges ahead? And lots of other questions.
Fortunately – or unfortunately – I’ve had to face most of those situations at one time or other in my career. I’m hoping that my experiences may prove helpful – at least as a sounding board – for OrphanWise.
What will it take for OrphanWise to make a difference?
Doug: In some ways, they already are making a difference. Although their staff is small, they are the right people – smart, energetic, persistent and committed to a life of a principled purpose, with a clear definition of the services they provide. If anyone can make an impact here, they can. They’ve been doing this for a year with promising results and high demand for them to do more. Clearly, they are filling a need; they know exactly what needs to be done and where to do it. I asked Katie: “if OrphanWise were ten times its present size, would you know where to go and what to do?” Her response was: “absolutely.”
So the real question is: How can they grow to provide that level of service, how can they become sustainable? That will take people, it will take funding, it will take planning and goal setting and other processes which need to be carefully introduced to make sure they are in support of OrphanWise’s unique capability. Organizations that grow too slowly never reach their potential; organizations that grow too haphazardly come apart at the seams. As a board, our role will be to provide the guidance for their growth. For them to reach the next level, they need to prove their worth on a wider stage and pragmatically, that means they need to be funded and staffed – with the appropriate organizational support in place – for the next three years. But I think that’s highly-doable; they’re ready to do that and I – along with their other board members – am eager to help.