Q&A with Former Non-Profit Hero Jessica David about Her Latest Project, Coronacast

How this former Rhode Island Foundation VP is providing a quiet space during a noisy time

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In early April, amidst the chaos and chatter of Twitter, a single Tweet resonated with many Rhode Islanders, especially in the philanthropic, nonprofit, and media sectors. After 13 years, Jessica David, then-Executive Vice President of Strategy & Community Investments at the Rhode Island Foundation, announced it was her last day on the job. David made and left her mark working on a host of worthwhile endeavors. We interviewed her just days later and she mentioned wanting to start a podcast; fast forward three months, and she’s over 20 interviews in with her aptly named Coronacast and with a roster of guests that reads like a Rhody Who’s Who.

 

What led you to start a podcast?

Like many people, I found myself abruptly at sea as the quarantine settled in. It was so suddenly surreal. I wanted to connect with people and make sense of the moment. The Coronacast was a way to capture and (begin to) understand what we were experiencing, individually and collectively.

 

What is your favorite part about having a podcast?

Hands down, the absolute best thing about the Coronacast is the people who talk with candor and vulnerability about what they’re seeing and feeling. It’s like my dear friend, the brilliant artist Mary-Kim Arnold, told me in an early conversation: “Hope feels a little complicated.” Everything feels a little complicated, and in truth, everything is a little complicated. So let’s talk about the complicatedness.

I’ve listened to people who are doing really difficult things at an intense pace for a sustained period under uncertain circumstances. And I love how the video aspect allows people to show up. Asher Schofield of Frog & Toad greeted me with his megaphone. Ian Donnis of The Public’s Radio wore his Yard Goats baseball cap. Hope & Main founder Lisa Raiola displayed a can of locally made Revolutionary Roots kombucha. David Dadekian of Eat Drink RI toasted with a “Hi Neighbor.”

 

Have any of your interviews had an impact on your life or how you view things?

Every. Single. One. I’m struck by the urgency that people bring to their life’s work, even as they have had to dramatically shift how they do it.

 

How do you prepare for each interview?

The structure is very simple: I start with “how are you?” and end with “is there anything giving you hope?” and in between, we see where the conversation goes. My job, for those few minutes, is to listen. So I need to be fully present, which means not being distracted by my shaky wireless connection, how my hair looks on screen, the construction noise outside my window, or the latest news alert buzzing my watch.

 

Any “goal” interviews?

I often wonder what Rabbi Leslie Gutterman would say. I’d love to talk with Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, and Dr. Megan Ranney, two compassionate and kickass leaders. Also, Bruce Springsteen.