Julie Murray: Public Innovator Pick

This edition of The Harwood Institute's newsletter features one of Las Vegas’ leading social entrepreneurs, Julie A. Murray, CEO & Principal of Moonridge Group. The firm serves as a catalyst between individuals, foundations and corporation to help achieve their philanthropic goals. A tireless leader and fervent community advocate, Murray has used her training at a Harwood Public Innovators Lab in her dedication to improving public life. Before founding Moonridge Group, Murray served as founding president and CEO of Three Square, Southern Nevada’s only food bank and distribution hub. Murray became involved in the organization after learning about the high rates of hunger and poverty among people in Southern Nevada. During her tenure, Three Square’s budget increased to $55 million annually and became a national model, distributing the equivalent of 25 million meals through its program partners in 2013. Read more about Murray’s leadership at Three Square.

Murray also served as national campaign director for the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation, leading a $36 million capital campaign to build a charter school for students from Las Vegas’ most at-risk neighborhoods. It was then that Murray attended a Harwood Public Innovators Lab to learn more about community building. Click here for information about the Institute’s lab in Las Vegas June 4-6.

Among her myriad undertakings on behalf of the public good, Murray co-founded and co-sponsored Las Vegas’ “I Have a Dream” foundation. She also teaches a graduate-level course at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she earned her B.A. and M.A. in communications. In 2009, UNLV’s Greenspun College of Urban Affairs named Murray Alumna of the Year.

In the following Q&A, Murray talks about how The Harwood Institute’s Public Innovators Lab has helped her in her work.

The Harwood Institute: What were the most important things you learned from participating in the Lab?

Julie A. Murray: I learned about the power of collective impact, and about how much more we can accomplish when we work together with people of diverse thoughts and ideas.

THI: How have you used the techniques you learned at the Lab in your work?

JM: I’ve been a “Community Builder” all of my life. The techniques I learned at the Innovators Lab helped with the project I was working on at that time, and with subsequent projects, including the building of the Three Square Food Bank, and now my philanthropy firm, Moonridge Group.

THI: How has your involvement and training with The Harwood Institute changed the way you approach your work?

JM: In the years following the Innovators Lab, I’ve looked at community building projects through a different ‘lens.’  By that I mean that I continually try to see the topic from the perspective of others including colleagues, friends and community leaders, as well as through the eyes of those who might oppose it. Community Building endeavors receive diverse types of feedback from people who support your project, as well as those who oppose it. My training at The Harwood Institute helped me understand how to interact with the opposition, and genuinely hear their concerns, and work together to solve complex issues.

THI: What initiatives or projects have you undertaken as a result of your training with The Harwood Institute?

JM: I completed my work to help the Agassi Foundation build the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, served as the co-founder and founding CEO of the national model food bank in Las Vegas called Three Square; and in 2011 launched Moonridge Group, which provides guidance to funders and community building projects locally and globally.