Cal Humanities

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

A group of people posing for a photograph in front of a large wall mural, blue with a hummingbird within a circle and girl wearing a headdress with shells covering her eyes.

3 Questions With Rachel Hatch

Above image: Rachel Hatch with California Stewardship Network Exchange attendees in front of a Redding, California mural created by Indigenous artists to honor the Wintu place name of the area, El Pom. Photograph by: Davíd Loeza/CA FWD

This month we speak with California Humanities’ Board Vice Chair Rachel Hatch about life in Redding, how philanthropy is changing, and how the humanities are essential to our future. Rachel is Chief Operating Officer at Institute for the Future, returning to the Palo Alto-based nonprofit, where she was previously a Research Director, after five years at The McConnell Foundation in Redding where she served as Senior Program Officer. 

During your time at The McConnell Foundation, you had an opportunity to learn more about the philanthropic landscape. How can foundations and donors best collaborate with nonprofit organizations delivering humanities programming? 

There are big shifts underway in the philanthropic sector right now. Funders are trying to operationalize what trust-based philanthropy really means. Change agents within institutional philanthropy are figuring out how to move from talking about power-sharing to actually doing it. And individual donors are starting to see that grantmaking to catalyze narrative change needs to accompany traditional grantmaking for direct service provision. Nonprofit organizations delivering humanities programming will be critical partners in each of these shifts. 

Portrait of a woman with short brown hair, necklace with white beads, and sunglasses.
Self-portrait of Rachel Hatch, created with her robot collaborators at

Humanities nonprofits in California have long-standing knowledge about the role of popular culture in shaping narrative ecosystems, the importance of culture-bearers for intergenerational power building, and the way trust serves as a currency in communities across the state. 

I encourage foundations to take inspiration (and a healthy dose of reckoning) from the work of Edgar Villanueva, author of Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance. One of the central concepts is the question: what if we treated money as medicine? As funders endeavor to decolonize our relationship with money, the philanthropic sector can begin to engage in reparative philanthropy. Humanities programming will be critical to this new way of deploying capital. 

With the perspective you have from your time working at Institute for the Future, how do you see the public humanities developing?  How will they need to evolve to meet our needs?  

Institute for the Future’s mission is to help organizations, communities and leaders become future-ready. To better understand the transformations of the next decade, of course it’s important for foresight practitioners to utilize tried-and-true quantitative and qualitative research. But if we stopped there, we would miss out on so much. At Institute for the Future, we believe that artists are futurists. And California is a state of artists, writers, filmmakers and storytellers.  

Looking forward, I’m especially curious about the role that public humanities will play in advancing a Just Transition to a carbon neutral economy within our state. Climate change will shape the next decade, and the humanities will have a critical role to play in contextualizing the “Just” part of the Just Transition that is called for through state programs like the Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF)

Why is this important to our future? Because we are in a moment of “once-in-a-generation” investment in regions of our state–from the federal Inflation Reduction Act to state programs like CERF, K-16 and more. Communities are planning infrastructure projects that will have a 50-year lifespan. California’s regions need to think systematically about the future today in order to ensure we’re making equitable and sustainable investments.  

We’ll never get there unless we engage both head and heart. To me, that is where foresight and the humanities both have critical roles to play in the civic arena. California deserves future-ready regions. And we can stop at nothing less in order to navigate the challenges of the next decade. 

What can you tell us about life in Redding, and what role do the humanities play there? 

Here in the North State region, humanities investments take on even more meaning over time. Take for example, the documentary film by Mark Oliver and co-producer James Langford, From the Quarters to Lincoln Heights. As they put it, the film “tells the story of how this large, established African American population in the small towns of Weed, McCloud, Mt. Shasta and Dunsmuir, California came to root themselves in such an unlikely place.”  

California Humanities supported the film back in 2009-2010, but the important history it documents has taken on new resonance since the Mill Fire destroyed the Lincoln Heights community in the fall of 2022. Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney who represented the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor visited the site last year.  

Here in Redding, two local organizations have hosted film screenings of From the Quarters to Lincoln Heights, United Way of Northern California in December 2022 and First United Methodist Church of Redding in March 2023.  

There are many layers of history–both distant past and also quite recent–to unpack here in the North State. In a region with high wildfire risk, the humanities have such an important role to play in documenting places of importance to diverse communities.  


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