Over the past 20 years and approximately 500 projects, Redstone Strategy Group has addressed pressing social issues ranging from education and human services to environmental conservation, health, economic equity, and more, focused on our mission to help leading organizations solve the world’s most urgent social problems.

We are honored to work alongside our clients, helping them achieve meaningful social impact. The succinct history below reflects on the major stages of Redstone’s growth as we celebrate our 20-year journey.

Redstone’s founding and early years

In the early 2000s, Larry Linden, founder of the Linden Trust for Conservation, reached out to Ivan Barkhorn to work together on a trust fund to protect the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. Motivated by this experience, Ivan created Redstone in 2003 with a belief that applying business methodologies would bring more rigor to social sector efforts. The experience in the Amazon and similar future efforts led to the development of an approach called Project Finance for Permanence, that was used to establish the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia in 2007, Forever Costa Rica in 2012, sustainably funding Costa Rica’s protected area system, and, in 2014, a fund of over $200 million to conserve areas in the Brazilian Amazon. The World Wildlife Fund and the Nature Conservancy have both embraced this model and continue to use it to pursue a goal of protecting over 120 million acres in 20 PFPs worldwide[1].

This entrée to the social sector kicked off several years of environmental conservation strategy at Redstone, collaborating with large private foundations as well as working directly with impactful NGOs.

Expanding beyond environmental conservation

By 2008, Redstone’s project experience grew to include strengthening K12 education, expanding access to reproductive health and rights, supporting global development, addressing climate change, and a range of new topics. After piloting an Outcome-Focused Grantmaking approach with the Hewlett Foundation, Redstone’s methods of using evidence-based problem solving in our work with the Foundation were shared in President Paul Brest’s book, Money Well Spent, helping shape the field of strategic grantmaking as we know it today.

A key hallmark of Redstone is a focus on finding pragmatic solutions. Redstone founder Ivan Barkhorn recently reflected on this data-driven inductive problem-solving approach, observing, “in the world of social issues, where solutions are pursued over the long term and almost always need adjusting as circumstances change, it is generally better to act sooner and tailor solutions as needed, than to exhaust endless options in search of a solution that may quickly become irrelevant.”

Redstone’s pragmatism is paired with a commitment to collaborative problem-solving. As one example of Redstone’s collaborative approach, we have served as a key strategic partner to help create and guide the Ouagadougou Partnership, a collaboration of nine West African countries with interested donors and NGOs, in reaching their goals for improving family planning and reproductive health. Aligned on a shared vision and practical implementation plans, by 2015 the Partnership exceeded goals set in 2011, with the use of modern contraceptives adopted by over 1.2 million women and girls in western Africa, and is now well on its way to even greater impact.

“Our objective with the Ouagadougou Partnership has been to establish common goals, secure financial and political commitments, and ultimately achieve life-saving results. Thanks to Redstone’s unwavering support, we not only succeeded in our mission, but the partnership we formed has become a global standard for sexual and reproductive health cooperation as well as development assistance in all areas. Without Redstone, this accomplishment would not have been possible.” Fatimata Sy, former Director, Ouagadougou Partnership Coordination Unit

Collective leadership advances Redstone’s impact

Redstone’s continued evolution was defined by our commitment to grow our team of caring and skilled professionals, enabling expanded leadership impact at the firm. Through a collective leadership approach, Redstone continued to support our clients in creating innovative and meaningful social change, expanding our work as we launched funder collaboratives, helped address homelessness and food insecurity, and worked to advance democracy and gender equity.

In one example of embracing technology to help create exponential impact, in 2016 Redstone worked with a client to build a more human-centered charitable food system, leading to the creation of Plentiful, an innovative app that improves food pantry efficiency and user dignity. The app currently serves almost 600 pantries in New York City and today, we are working with a funder to scale Plentiful’s reach and impact across the United States.

As Redstone continued to grow, we launched a comprehensive diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) effort, touching every aspect of Redstone, both internally and how we work with our clients and their projects. In all aspects of our work, we assess implications for racial and economic justice and equity, engaging diverse stakeholders to uncover pragmatic and transformational solutions. We continue to evolve, making Redstone more inclusive and equitable in how we interact with each other and our clients. Some of the most meaningful moments in our work have been when we meet and work with community members in their own contexts to help them accomplish what is important to them.

Looking to the future

In January 2023, Redstone became a division of Arabella Advisors.  The combination of Arabella’s scale and expertise joined with Redstone’s own lessons from 20 years of client service is opening new ways to help our clients achieve greater impact. The demand for thoughtful, high-impact strategy work is significant and growing. We look forward to continuing to help our clients develop new and big ideas for tackling today’s problems.

A group of people in a field in front of mountains

[1] https://enduringearth.org/

    About the Author
  • Lee Green

    Lee is a Director at Redstone and co-leads the firm’s Environment practice.