At the age of 26, Tara Roth overcame a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot that often proves fatal) and left the private business sector to venture down the path of philanthropy. Her intention? To live a life in alignment with her core values and leave a legacy of lasting positive impact. As president of The Goldhirsh Foundation and founding COO of GOOD Magazine, the marketing and business development guru and mother of two has made investing in the future her life’s work, and she is setting down roots in Los Angeles.
“When you think of LA, you think of the creative capital of the world,” Roth says with enthusiasm. “You think of entertainment and Hollywood. But there is this whole vibrant creative economy that exists involving fashion, design, tech, gaming. We are also the manufacturing center of the United States. Quite simply, we make things in LA.” From cardboard arcades assembled from repurposed materials to fruit carts capitalizing on the city’s commuters, Roth is identifying those makers and helping grow their creative, cultural, and philanthropic ventures through her role at The Goldhirsh Foundation.
Stewarding a Legacy of Innovation
Roth gets goose bumps when discussing the Goldhirsh legacy. Spearheaded by the late Bernie Goldhirsh (media innovator and founder of Inc. magazine) and carried on by his son, Ben Goldhirsh and his wife Claire Hoffman, she explains that The Goldhirsh Foundation has done over a decade’s worth of investing and was re-launched in 2012 in LA, its impact epicenter. Since then, the Foundation has done a great deal of its grant making through the “LA2050” Project, a massive initiative that aims to reshape and repurpose a better Los Angeles for future generations.
“Our mission is to spur and support social innovation in this region,” says Roth. “We’re like a venture capital firm for social good. We invest human capital and we get involved firsthand with the groups we support.” This might mean taking an advisory board position, organizing operational plans, making connections to resources and/or making a financial capital commitment by offering a grant or investment. This is accomplished, though, through a great deal of experimentation and risk.
“LA has every problem and every solution exist in the world, so let’s invest in our backyard.”
“There is almost a zaniness in social innovation,” Roth explains. While bringing grand ideas and cultural reforms to life is a noble effort, it is not an easily measurable or guaranteed process. However, the foundation has already been successful in launching local campaigns across global audiences, one of which deeply inspired Roth. “We seeded an organization [The Imagination Foundation] around this boy, Caine, who set up a cardboard arcade in his father’s automotive shop in East LA,” she says. One of their filmmaker friends stumbled upon this display of young entrepreneurship, resourcefulness, and innovation, and the video he made went viral. “It’s had global reach and has flourished with funders ranging from Google to Disney to Time Warner Cable, highlighting kids like Caine who take advantage of the resources they have available to engage and play in imagination.”
Roth carefully outlines the harmony of unique qualities the Foundation sees in the people and/or projects it chooses. “Social innovation was spawned by the social entrepreneur. There is a spark in their eyes, a kind of devastating commitment to their mission. They have a passion and an intensity that drive them to jump out of bed every morning, thinking about the problem and their proposed solution,” she says. “Social innovators are well-researched and possess a deep understanding of why their proposed solution is going to help society and where contextually it is going to fit into the broader ecosystem,” she explains, that same fire lighting up her own gaze.
Investing in the City of Angels
But from where does Roth’s passion for Los Angeles originate? A native of San Francisco, a student of New York, and a grad school alum of Oxford University, she is no stranger to thriving metropolises worldwide. Her experiences overseas in business and education have only furthered her cause for Angelenos. “I believe LA is this incredibly diverse, culturally rich region that embodies America on fast-forward,” she says thoughtfully. “The rest of the world resides in Los Angeles.”
“We’re like a venture capital firm for social good. We invest human capital and we get involved firsthand with the groups we support.”
While she can passionately list off the many artistic, environmental, and economic assets LA has to offer without pausing to catch a breath, she notes how the city’s cosmopolitan relevance is not limited only to its abundance. “We have every kind of egregious modern issue going on here in LA, also – whether that’s environmental degradation or human trafficking or homelessness or children going to bed hungry and undereducated. We must start here,” she says. As a net exporter of philanthropic capital, Los Angeles is competitive on a global philanthropic scale, but does not often invest in itself. Says Roth, “LA has every problem and every solution exist in the world, so let’s invest in our backyard.”
She believes this process can gain great momentum with the simplest first steps on the part of aware individuals and thoughtful companies. “Something like 80 percent of Angelenos want to do something good and get involved in their community, but over 40 percent don’t know how or where to start,” she explains. “I think about all of the unused corporate spaces that charitable entities could use for a positive impact that won’t take any extra cash flow or assets. From contributing marketing skills or helping a nonprofit understand financial statements, everybody has a little something they can offer that they may not even be aware of.”
Finding Purpose in Possibility
While Roth’s energy is electric for the social impact sector, her corporate experience made her highly qualified to take on these new roles with a keen eye toward shared opportunity and responsibility across all markets. “Managing a person is managing a person, whether you are trying to make a volume sale one quarter or trying to modify an attitude or behavior to bring social change,” she points out. “We’re at an interesting nexus,” she says. “Whether it’s government or corporate social responsibility, we are questioning of how to look more holistically and comprehensively at the impact of our work. These values are then being embedded into organizational operations and at a policy level.”
When asked, ultimately, what she hopes to accomplish within this sphere and through The Goldhirsh Foundation, she says, “I want to reach those people who are not being paid to think about their impacts as citizens, neighbors, business owners, or a voting populace. If our work encourages them to think about what they can do differently with slight modifications to their behaviors – the ways they run their businesses or raise their children or show up to vote or utilize and protect their resources – I will consider it all a success.”