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Partner Highlight: David Crandall

Posted by Social Venture Partners Portland
David Crandall

In this continuing series, we are highlighting Partners and the skills they bring to the SVP Portland Partnership.


David Crandall was born and raised in Binghamton, NY when it was known for shoe manufacture, photographic film, and IBM HQ. His mother was a Latin teacher and father an entrepreneur who started his small business in the depression years. Graduation from Union College was immediately followed by marriage to a “love at first sight” young woman. Also following graduation, David was hired in the semiconductor industry. This began a series of positions that became a five-year “field-based MBA” culminating in a move to Massachusetts.

David found success retrieving the New England territory then dominated by such now defunct manufacturers as Wang Electric, Digital Equipment, and Sylvania. His achievements resulted in an opportunity in New York, which he refused on the basis of having spent far too much time there and a desire to do something more socially responsible. Instead, he entered into the world of K-12 education and 501 (c)(3) non-profits.

In the course of his doctoral work at University of Massachusetts Amherst, now 50 years ago, David founded The Network of Innovative Schools. Designed to link the research and researchers of the university with local schools, public, private, and religious, it focused on fostering collaboration that was anchored in the reality of teachers and local educators. The Network became a nationally-recognized organization noted for its innovative HR policies as well as expertise in developing sustainable strategies and structures supporting continuous improvement.

Q: How did you find yourself moving to the West Coast?

A: The siren call of a new grandson from our Portland son became irresistible to my wonderful wife. I was semi-retired when my wife and I moved here in 2010. We were married fifty-two years before cancer claimed her sweet soul in 2016. Two sons and four grandchildren stand as a tribute to her generosity as a mother and grandmother and to all that’s good in the world.

Q: How did you first become involved in the Portland Community?

A: Seeking fellow education activists, I became involved with a range of local advocacy groups, including the Multnomah County Democrat Party’s newly-formed Education Study Group and the Oregon Public Education Network. Involvement in those two groups last year led to meetings with County Commissioner Jessica Vega Peterson and Mark Holloway, where I first learned about the Preschool for All Initiative and something called Social Venture Partners Portland.

Q: What were your initial impressions of SVP Portland?

A: I had never heard of SVP and had never been engaged in any philanthropic work beyond annual alma mater donations. SVP’s focus on early education and a sense that its Partners were smart, socially conscious professionals was a huge attraction. Matt Little’s low-key but persistent recruiting finally convinced me to become a Partner. My initial reluctance came from a concern that I was early in my personal journey reflecting on my own white privilege and I was worried that engaging too early with BIPOC community leaders could lead to me inadvertently jeopardizing an important SVP relationship. At my age I’ve learned to moderate my risk-taking somewhat.

Q: How were you able to overcome your trepidation and find an engagement opportunity?

A: Fortunately, Matt handed me off to the inestimable Rose Rezai who steered me toward the Portfolio Management Team (PMT), led by Bill Porter, who I had met at the last in-person SVP social event. He and Diane McCartney, another veteran SVP Partner, had worked to recruit me to the PMT, so it was a match.

Q: What has your engagement been like so far?

A: Since joining the PMT, we made the decision to invest in a study of the Preschool for All Initiative’s policy-making process and a small team formed. SVP’s initial contribution of $20K has been more than doubled by other funders/supporters, a Request For Proposal was written and responded to, and a contractor has been selected for the study that we hope will be concluded by summer. A team headed by Mark Holloway, myself, Rose, and Partner Leah Fox has been aided by several advisors both local and national. The goal is to mine the documentation and through 1:1 and focus group interviews formulate a solid set of recommendations for other jurisdictions. These recommendations could prove invaluable to others that might aspire to emulate the success we saw in Multnomah County, where the ballot measure enjoyed a 2:1 margin of support among voters this past November.

Q: What is your outlook for 2021?

A: While I’ve been a Partner for less than a year, I’m fortunate to have found connection points that both draw upon my experience and expertise, and challenge me to keep learning. Going forward, I’m certain there will be numerous areas where I can add significant value to both the implementation of P4A as well as nudge SVP forward in its culture of continuous improvement.

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