Meet Diane Knoepke

Diane works with nonprofits to plan, fund and measure their social impact, and she works with companies and foundations to increase their business and organizational impact through social sector investments. As a consultant with The Alford Group, Diane partners with clients to design and implement change through research, analysis, strategy development, and facilitation. She just wrapped up her graduate work in learning and organizational change at Northwestern, where she also did her undergraduate studies. She is a devoted Chicagoan and she lives on the South Side with her husband, Matt, who is an educator and an unmatched companion for all manner of nerdventures.




What do you know for sure?

We humans can work better and smarter to solve the social problems facing our world. We can use our individual and shared resources better. We can collaborate and compete more and better, as each action has the potential to stimulate creativity and expand possibility. We can make it worthwhile for smart people in all sectors to dedicate time, brainpower and other resources to solving social problems. Altruism is great and noble, but we can find new and different firepower when we act in a way that reflects the real value that social impact can create. We do not have to be do-gooders to create social impact. In fact, being truly, purely, humanly self-interested can be a gateway to solutions that benefit others. 

What we have to be is committed difference-makers and impatient change facilitators. As a Gen Xer, I’m impatient to see the Millennial generation come closer to reaching their full potential to drive impact. They are doing a lot already, but I – and more importantly, they – want more. Compromise does not necessarily come naturally to my friends in the Millennial age group, which is terrific news. I believe their insistences will force us to find ways to simultaneously create personal, corporate, social, public, and other types of value in what we do in our lives and work. 

What expression or saying do you love? (or which one do you hate?)

One of my favorite, must-watch TV shows is RuPaul’s Drag Race, and it is chock full of terrific expressions and catchphrases, some wholesomely empowering and others deliciously subversive. 

RuPaul’s closing line, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” is a great reminder that life’s too short to spend not loving ourselves and others.

If you had to change careers what would you want to do?

I would love to be a linguist, ideally in an academic setting where I could study, teach, research, and collaborate with nerdy folks working in other disciplines. I see it as a thrilling mix of language, culture, mathematics, analytics, history and human behavior. I get a buzz from taking a jumble of things, categorizing and making sense of them, and turning them into something useful or at least something novel. I still wonder why I didn’t at least minor in linguistics – I loved the linguistics courses I took in college and think about them often. I still have the books, and I continue to find myself pulling up images of moments from those courses (picture a thought bubble above my head). 

What do you suck at?

I’ve seen a few studies that found that a significant majority of people think they are above-average drivers. I think I am a below-average driver. I avoid driving above 45 miles per hour (which means I have made a lot of long trips up Western Avenue), and I have not parallel-parked in about a decade. In the aughts, I went five or six years without driving. Now I drive around my neighborhood and very little elsewhere. It’s probably for the best.

Favorite quote?

“Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength” (Eric Hoffer). One of my high school English teachers, Ms. Rosemary Polizzotto, had a banner above her chalkboard with this quote on it and I looked at it often. I have thought a lot about it over the years and its meaning has deepened and become both more expansive and more personal with time. I recognize it in others and in myself. When I catch myself being curt or dismissive, which is far more often than I intend, it’s typically in a moment that I’m feeling small or wimpy. When I zoom that out to the world’s temperament, well, I think the quote sums up a number of cultural phenomena we experience each day.


Want more? Connect with Diane on Twitter and LinkedIn

Photo Credit: Jamie Kelter Davis Photography