Carina Wong

Executive Leadership Program - Amsterdam Class 17

Carina Wong
Senior Advisor for Innovation
My pronouns are: she/her/hers
My experience and deep interests:
I am based in: Oakland, USA

I am a mother with three children who thrives in the early stages of designing projects and working with organizations in transition. I have worked in education at the intersection of policy, practice and philanthropy for over 30 years. In the past six years, I have focused on the role that narratives, networks and influencers play in creating more relevant solutions and social change through peer communities.

I knew I would never take a traditional career path and become a doctor or a lawyer (sorry mom and dad). I naively just wanted to help people make their lives better and I thought education might be the best vehicle. I realized quickly that I wasn't wired to be a great classroom teacher but I did know how to translate between policy-makers and practitioners. So I've found a way to sit at the intersection of real needs from people on the ground and good intentions of decision-makers. Scale and efficiency can get in the way of equity. Improving the system can be at odds with innovation. I love these tensions and trying to find a path forward to the impact that doesn't crowd out equity or innovation.

As a mother and an educator, I still believe in the importance of good teachers. But learning happens in so many places outside schools and educational systems have not caught on. Three decades into my career I realize that the real impact I am having is not in how much money or how many programs I've invested in or how many systems I've tried to change. The power is in the "how" not the "what"--- in the relationships I've built, the processes I've used to understand real needs and my ability to bring together divergent ideas and diverse teams together with urgency and compassion.

More recently, I have been engaged in projects to deploy user insights, iterative design and intentional intersectionality to create greater impact in philanthropy. When I am not working, I enjoy reading, the arts and making delicious home-cooked meals for my family. I have lived in Argentina, the Czech Republic and South Africa. Currently, I live in the Bay Area but Los Angeles will always be my home.