New foundation CEO to focus on impact

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — When Novartis and Zeneca merged their agribusiness divisions in 2001 to form Syngenta, the new company wanted to find a single vendor to handle employee retirement plans previously split between two vendors.

Overseeing the task was Jan Capps, Greensboro-based vice president for human resources and communications for the newly-created company.

“You have a clear objective,” says Capps, who had been vice president of human resources and corporate affairs for Novartis’ Greensboro-based agricultural division. “You have a request for proposals. People come in and say they can do this. You select someone. You put in performance criteria for the vendor. And you measure.”

That process, she says, reflects the kind of approach she will take when she begins working July 1 as the new president of Moses Cone-Wesley Long Community Health Foundation.

“Most of business is about allocating assets,” says Capps. “It’s about allocating cash to vendors to do certain things, about allocating resources, human and other, to projects to solve a problem.”

At the foundation, that approach will involve sharing information with partners, monitoring their performance and measuring their outcomes, says Capps, who retired two years ago from Syngenta and will succeed Bob Newton on his retirement.

Born in Atlanta and raised in Wilmington, Capps began her corporate career in 1979 as a financial analysis with Ciba-Geigy, which through mergers eventually became Syngenta.

With $127 million in its investment portfolio, the foundation focuses on critical health issues in the region and has awarded over $39 million to 173 agencies since it was formed through the 1997 merger of Moses Cone Health System and Wesley Long Community Hospital.

This year, in addition to providing a smooth executive transition, the foundation’s board set the goals of completing a new “strategic design” and defining the role the foundation should play as an advocate, says Capps, who has served on the board since January and will step down when she starts her new job.

The new strategy calls for the foundation to “sharpen the focus and make sure the resources of the foundation are invested in organizations and programs that measurably improve the health of the community,” Capps says.

The foundation also is developing guidelines so it can continue to operate within IRS rules as it plays a more active role in helping to shape public policy, she says.

“Many of the issues that we’re dealing with are ones that are going to require broad behavioral change,” she says. “And changes in behavior will require more than funding small or even larger programs and organizations. It’s going to require, probably, some public policy change and policy analysis. And it will involve convening and collaborating.”

In her first 90 days on the job, Capps says, she plans to get to know the foundation’s three-person staff, 16-member board and partner agencies, as well as key officials at Moses Cone, and to identify “best practices” in the region and throughout the state and beyond.

And then she wants to set up a system for measuring the impact of the foundation’s investments.

“That is going to be our focus,” she says, “getting the best partnerships and making our area have improved health.”

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