Darren Isom is a partner in The Bridgespan Group’s San Francisco office. He first joined the firm as a consultant in 2007, left as a manager in 2014 and returned as a partner in 2019. During his earlier tenure with Bridgespan, Darren was engaged with a diverse array of cases and was consistently lauded for building deep, enduring client relationships, helping clients develop bold yet pragmatic strategies, and his commitment to amplifying community voice and engagement in developing and leading innovative, high-impact youth and community programs, practices, and philanthropy.
Darren also speaks and writes on racial equity in philanthropy. His recent publications include: “Endow Black-Led Nonprofits
” (Stanford Social Innovation Review
, 2021), and “Race and Place-based Philanthropy: Learnings from Funders Focused on Equitable Impact
” (Bridgespan.org, 2021). He is the host of the podcast, “Dreaming in Color” which offers leaders of color space to share how they have leveraged their unique assets and abilities to embrace excellence, drive impact, and more fully define what success looks like.
After leaving Bridgespan in 2014, Darren was the founder and executive director of the Memphis Music Initiative (MMI), an ambitious five-year, $20M grantmaking and community arts development initiative. He led efforts to use targeted investments and programmatic offerings to strengthen youth and community music engagement activities for low-income, Black, and Latino youth and communities. MMI leverages the city’s powerful musical legacy to develop a vibrant music and arts ecosystem for the city’s culturally rich, but historically underserved communities, and grew to impact 4500 youth, 50 schools, 100 musicians and artists, 10 neighborhoods, and 15 community organizations. It has also sponsored research to create a national conversation on the importance of community engagement and inclusion, disruptive philanthropy, and the powerful role of arts investments in driving equitable, high-impact community outcomes. To launch and lead the organization, Darren built strategic relationships with arts organizations, musicians, schools, funders, community, public, and private groups; built the team, including a diverse and inclusive board and 20 staff; and developed a robust infrastructure for delivering results in Memphis and the Mid-South, a particularly racialized region.
Before Bridgespan he worked as the art, design, and public programming director for Times Square Alliance, planning and implementing programming for public art and performance initiatives throughout the Times Square District. Prior to working at Times Square Alliance, Darren served as VP of Programs for Groundwork, a start-up youth services organization in East New York, Brooklyn, helping young people in underserved communities develop their strengths and skills through experiential learning and enrichment programs.
A seventh generation New Orleans native, Darren is a graduate of Howard University, Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris, and Columbia Business School’s Institute for Nonprofit Management. An activist for disconnected youth and LGBT communities of color, he has served as an advisor to the leaders of several Bay Area, Southeast US, and national foundations. He currently serves on the board of Beloved Community of New Orleans, Collage Dance Collective of Memphis, Springboard to Opportunities in Jackson, MS, and the National Guild for Community Arts Education.