Alison Gold, Chief Optimistic Anthropologist

Alison brings her values of joy, curiosity, humanity, and rigor to her work and her life. She aims to learn about culture - by exploring nature, history, politics, community, art, and food -- wherever she goes. Here are some photos of her doing just that Top row, left to right: Naoshima, Japan; Lake Skadar, Montenegro; Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Travnik, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Middle row, left to right: Tokyo, Japan; Copenhagen, Denmark; Faroe Islands; Blagaj, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bottom row, left to right: New York, NY; Naoshima, Japan (top); Žabljak, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Sesriem, Namibia.

Thank you to Alice Chen, Nancy La Lanne, and Luan Torreira for taking many of these photos.

Alison Gold is passionate about sharing her unique combination of skills and experiences as an anthropologist, cross-sector change-maker, culture-builder, emergent learner and strategist, and facilitator with organizations and collaborations seeking to create a more positive and equitable world.  This is why she founded Optimistic Anthropology in 2017.

In addition, Alison is an associate of The Partnering Initiative (TPI), an independent, UK-based non-profit dedicated to unleashing the power of partnership for a prosperous and sustainable future.  TPI was founded with a passionate belief that only through collaboration across business, government, NGOs, and the UN can the greatest global challenges be addressed.

Prior to launching her business, Alison served as the Presidio Institute’s first Manager of Leadership Education.  At this government agency, she worked to create and implement the Institute’s leadership education strategy aimed at building a movement of cross-sector leaders equipped to solve the toughest problems in the world today.  In support of this, Alison developed the Institute’s cross-sector leadership curriculum, directed its national mid-career Fellowship program, recruited and managed its faculty, and designed and facilitated programming including the Institute’s first online course “Introduction to Cross Sector Leadership: Building Teams.”

Before this, Alison worked in philanthropy as the Assistant Director of Knowledge and Impact at Living Cities. During her tenure, she developed the organization’s portfolios on knowledge and cross-sector partnerships, and published What Barriers? Insights from Solving Problems through Cross-Sector Partnerships, associated case studies, and tools to help members of cross-sector partnerships assess if they are set up “right” to achieve their goals.

Previously, Alison was an on-the ground practitioner creating the strategies for and providing staff support to regional cross-sector collaborations. As the Deputy Director for Strategy and Operations at the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, she led efforts to build boundary-crossing, regional leadership through the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange and developed and incubated the World Class Greater Philadelphia initiative, a strategic planning and doing process for that region’s economic future. She also served as the Program Manager for the Greater Washington Board of Trade’s CEO leadership forum, the Potomac Conference. There she directed work on improving quality and controlling cost of health care, and supported efforts around emergency preparedness and response, technology commercialization and regional visioning.

Before launching Optimistic Anthropology, Alison spent six months traveling the world.  She visited four continents, eleven countries, and ten US states with the goal of learning something new every day and exploring how she wanted to have positive impact in the world. During the course of her travels, she created the Have Love, Will Travel Project to learn about and connect with fellow Americans as she roadtripped from Phoenix, AZ to Washington, DC. In cities, suburbs, rural communities, and National Parks, Alison went on outings with local residents and talked to them about what they love about their communities and what worries them.  She continues to share these stories and other tidbits she learned while traveling through writing and photography (including the photos on this web site). In addition to her love of travel, Alison enjoys reading, swimming, hiking and camping, checking out street art, art exhibits and concerts, and cheering for the Chicago White Sox.

Alison has a degree in anthropology from Columbia University and business and nonprofit management certificates from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, where she was a UPS Foundation Fellow.  

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