What’s In A Name

Connecting Philanthropy’s Promise to Power Social Change with
Communities’ Exceptional Intelligence

The Genius Group’s name is actually one part acknowledgement and another part social commentary.

Over the years, I have been fascinated by the range of responses summoned at the very hearing of our firm’s name – some reacting with humor and pride, and others with chagrin and upset. In the process, I realized that ‘genius’ or as we like to call it ‘exceptional intelligence’ had become the exclusive domain of ‘learned’ individuals (i.e. academics, scientists, scholars) as opposed to everyday innovators (i.e. community leaders, teachers, parents) working to make a powerful difference.

When I was at Harvard for graduate school, Howard Gardner’s work on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences really helped to loosen the strangle hold that logical-mathematical intelligence had on how being ‘smart’ was conceptualized. Howard’s important work outlining seven additional modalities or dimensions of intelligence (i.e. spatial, linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic) helped us realize people are smart in a multitude of ways.

In addition as graduate students of color, many of us reflected on the many individuals in our respective communities (of both geography and identity) that demonstrated exceptional intelligence in how they strategically negotiated the rigors of race, stigma, poverty, and issues of safety in their neighborhoods to then raise (or assist raising) healthy, whole, aspiring children and forge personal lives of meaning and purpose.

So, the Genius Group name is really about breaking open the possibility that ‘genius’ is the domain of many (‘the group’) and TGG deeply believes that organized philanthropy and individual philanthropists have a unique opportunity to join communities and causes to support the exceptional intelligence and ingenuity already at work.