Lauren N. King, Ph.D. is a Program Officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Dr. King joined the Workforce Matters Steering Committee in 2022.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What's your life like outside of work?
Like most women, I wear many hats- wife, mom, bonus mom, and grandmother- to name a few, but I love every minute. My husband and I will be celebrating 21 years of marriage this July and we have enjoyed rearing four wonderful children (Ashley, Danielle, Jacob, and Azemar, Jr.) while watching them navigate their place in the world. I am also a proud grandmother to three amazing little angels – Madison (11), Lilly (6), and Cairo (2) who make my world complete. Needless to say, our home is filled with lots of love and laughter when the family gets together! As a native New Orleanian, I enjoy cooking traditional New Orleans dishes such as gumbo, red beans and rice, and crawfish pie. My husband and I enjoy traveling and participating in adventurous outdoor activities. Recently, we were able to incorporate our love for both travel and the outdoors into one trip when we camped out in the Grand Canyon and went white water rafting.
How have your past experiences informed your approach to workforce development grantmaking?
I have enjoyed a career dedicated to helping individuals and families better themselves by connecting them to education and training opportunities always with a focus on career development and economic mobility. I would describe my career path as circuitous, in that I have worked in public housing, higher education on both the 2year and 4year levels, city government, social services, transit, and now philanthropy. In my varied experience, the common throughline has been workforce development grounded in my passion for helping people.
My experience as a direct training provider informs my approach to grantmaking. I know intimately the work that goes into program implementation and, in my work with grantees, I want to always honor their efforts. Equally as important is being seen by grantees as a thought partner. When the relationship between grantee and funder takes a collaborative approach to problem-solving, it allows for an open and honest exchange of ideas and communication that leads to lasting change in systems that need to be disrupted.
As a relatively new grantmaker, I look for opportunities to support the creation of alternative systems that foster equitable access to careers and training, treat all people with dignity, and are grounded by asset framing versus the deficit narrative that is so pervasive throughout our current systems. In short, I look for innovative solutions to issues that continue to keep individuals and families cycling between the socioeconomic status of poverty and the working poor.
What attracted you to workforce philanthropy?
So, I found myself at this wonderful and pivotal moment in my career where I was considering what my legacy work would be. And although I am very proud of the accomplishments I have achieved and the lives I have impacted throughout my career, I felt compelled to do more. I believe that substantial change happens through systems change and policy work that can be scaled and replicated. Workforce philanthropy provides that opportunity to influence change at various levels and on multiple fronts. With everything that is happening in the world today, this is a moment in time to create a new narrative and a new reality. One that is rooted in job quality, equitable access to good-paying careers, and economic mobility for generations of families who have historically been left behind. I cannot think of a better sector to work within to accomplish these goals than philanthropy.