The Secret to Leading a Non-Profit
Alex Matthiessen is the President of Riverkeeper, a New York State-based clean water advocacy organization widely considered to be among the most successful non-profits of its kind. Prior to his tenure at Riverkeeper, Mr. Matthiessen was a Special Assistant at the U.S. Department of the Interior, where he developed the Green Energy Parks initiative. He has also served as a macroeconomic policy analyst in Indonesia for the Harvard Institute for International Development and worked at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Hudson River Improvement Fund, Catskill Mountainkeeper, and Waterkeeper Alliance.
Question: What are the major challenges of running a nonprofit?
Alex Matthiessen: Well, I think my governing philosophy is as the head of Riverkeeper is very much modeled on John Adams, who founded and ran the Natural Resources Defense Council for many years, and that is the idea that you hire the best possible people you can and then you let them go, you let them kind of do their thing and use their talents to advance your mission, advance your cause. So that’s very much what I’ve tried to do, you know, I inherited an organization that was still very much of a mom-and-pop shop and we’ve really turned it into a professional organization. We’re very efficient, we’re very lean, we have more than doubled our staff, we have quadrupled our budget. So through my leadership I’ve helped to kind of build our capacity and to allow us to confront more polluters in a larger geographic area, cover more of the Hudson to start to get involved in New York City in a way that we hadn’t been before which is, you know, critical, you know, the more places we are, the more we can do our work. I’ve also very much emphasized the importance of getting citizens involved in the work that we do, you know, when we were 10 people, now that we’re 25 people, even if we’re 40 people, 50 people, you know, in terms of the size of our organization, we’re never gonna have the bodies to cover all of the New York City watershed and the Hudson River watershed and to address all the problems that are out. We really need average citizens to be a part of our effort and then it means not just sending us checks but actually attending, you know, public hearings and going to community meetings and writing letters and running for office locally and helping us fight misguided, ill advised development projects in the watershed etc. They’re a critical part of the work that we do.
In terms of challenges, you know, the challenge with a group of our size and especially one that’s been growing as quickly as we have is that you can get very much mired down as the head of the organization in the day to day running of the organization and that can be very distracting, very time consuming, very energy intensive and frankly, not necessarily a good use of the president’s time, you know, the person who’s supposed to have the vision of where you’re going and has the contacts and the ability to kind of sell the organization and to build our capacity and raise our profile and strengthen our stature among elected officials and other decision makers, you know, you’ve gotta be out and about and you’ve gotta be doing that work externally and it’s easy in a small organization to get kind of caught up in the kind of day-to-day decisions that need to take place.
For Alex Matthiessen, resisting the temptation to micromanage keeps his Riverkeeper organization afloat.
Why self-control makes your life better, and how to get more of it.
(Photo by Geem Drake/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
- Research demonstrates that people with higher levels of self-control are happier over both the short and long run.
- Higher levels of self-control are correlated with educational, occupational, and social success.
- It was found that the people with the greatest levels of self-control avoid temptation rather than resist it at every turn.
Ready your Schrödinger's Cat Jokes.
- For a time, quantum computing was more theory than fact.
- That's starting to change.
- New quantum computer designs look like they might be scalable.
Quantum computing has existed in theory since the 1980's. It's slowly making its way into fact, the latest of which can be seen in a paper published in Nature called, "Deterministic teleportation of a quantum gate between two logical qubits."
To ensure that we're all familiar with a few basic terms: in electronics, a 'logic gate' is something that takes in one or more than one binary inputs and produces a single binary output. To put it in reductive terms: if you produce information that goes into a chip in your computer as a '0,' the logic gate is what sends it out the other side as a '1.'
A quantum gate means that the '1' in question here can — roughly speaking — go back through the gate and become a '0' once again. But that's not quite the whole of it.
A qubit is a single unit of quantum information. To continue with our simple analogy: you don't have to think about computers producing a string of information that is either a zero or a one. A quantum computer can do both, simultaneously. But that can only happen if you build a functional quantum gate.
That's why the results of the study from the folks at The Yale Quantum Institute saying that they were able to create a quantum gate with a "process fidelity" of 79% is so striking. It could very well spell the beginning of the pathway towards realistic quantum computing.
The team went about doing this through using a superconducting microwave cavity to create a data qubit — that is, they used a device that operates a bit like a organ pipe or a music box but for microwave frequencies. They paired that data qubit with a transmon — that is, a superconducting qubit that isn't as sensitive to quantum noise as it otherwise could be, which is a good thing, because noise can destroy information stored in a quantum state. The two are then connected through a process called a 'quantum bus.'
That process translates into a quantum property being able to be sent from one location to the other without any interaction between the two through something called a teleported CNOT gate, which is the 'official' name for a quantum gate. Single qubits made the leap from one side of the gate to the other with a high degree of accuracy.
Above: encoded qubits and 'CNOT Truth table,' i.e., the read-out.
The team then entangled these bits of information as a way of further proving that they were literally transporting the qubit from one place to somewhere else. They then analyzed the space between the quantum points to determine that something that doesn't follow the classical definition of physics occurred.
They conclude by noting that "... the teleported gate … uses relatively modest elements, all of which are part of the standard toolbox for quantum computation in general. Therefore ... progress to improve any of the elements will directly increase gate performance."
In other words: they did something simple and did it well. And that the only forward here is up. And down. At the same time.
These modern-day hermits can sometimes spend decades without ever leaving their apartments.
- A hikikomori is a type of person in Japan who locks themselves away in their bedrooms, sometimes for years.
- This is a relatively new phenomenon in Japan, likely due to rigid social customs and high expectations for academic and business success.
- Many believe hikikomori to be a result of how Japan interprets and handles mental health issues.
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