Ask, Listen, Act

A New Model for Philanthropy

A moving examination of poverty, its root causes, and how to end it through movement-building by a leading philanthropy executive

“When the history of poverty is written, we’ll find that the tipping point came about at the same time as the beginning of the Marguerite Casey Foundation.” —Dr. William Foege, author of House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox

For the past two decades, the Marguerite Casey Foundation has dedicated its resources to building a movement of low-income families advocating on their own behalf. Now, founding president Luz Vega-Marquis offers a history of the foundation, intertwined with her own history as a Nicaraguan immigrant whose family was exiled, plunged into poverty, and forced to start over in the United States. Ask, Listen, Act is riveting in its description of the evolution of an iconoclastic foundation and of Vega-Marquis herself as she rises from a bookkeeper to become the first Latina to lead a major national foundation.

In a powerful counter to the blame-laden narrative we tell ourselves about poverty in this nation, Vega-Marquis explores how the foundation has worked to eliminate poverty through intensive listening, movement building, and the leadership of families who have experienced poverty firsthand. The founder of Hispanics in Philanthropy and a member of numerous philanthropic boards, Vega-Marquis offers a vivid look at the worlds of philanthropy, social change, and, most importantly, the families we are most likely to ignore.

Beautifully written and filled with moving stories, Ask, Listen, Act explores the world of philanthropy from the perspective of someone who is at once an insider and an outsider, offering illuminating insights for all.

Jacques Books is a bespoke imprint of The New Press, dedicated to publishing culturally significant books that might not otherwise garner the attention of a trade publisher.


“Luz Vega-Marquis is a bold leader who joined philanthropy with a vision to reinvent it. Her journey from a Nicaraguan village to becoming the first Latinx leader for a large philanthropy shows why reflective leadership matters. This book is a must-read for anyone who cares about racial and economic equity.”
—Nichole June Maher, president and CEO, Group Health Foundation
“Ever since I met Luz about fifteen years ago I became enthralled by her personal story of womanhood, activism, and leadership. I asked her to talk about herself more often but Luz said no, the attention needed to be on working families. I am thrilled that now Luz has finally shared her story of power-hood with the world. On many occasions I would ask myself ‘what would Luz do?’ This book provides many answers and lessons. Luz taught me, and this book reinforces, the concept of power and humility existing in leadership at the same time.”
—Maria Hinojosa, anchor and executive producer, Latino USA on National Public Radio
“Twenty years ago, Luz blew into my life with her deep compassion, amazing creativity and heart the size of a washtub. She stood philanthropy on its head, asking grantees what they needed rather than telling them what they needed. This book about her incredible life is a must-read.”
—Representative Pat Schroeder, Colorado’s 1st District (1973–1997)
“Luz Vega-Marquis taps into her immigrant background and the struggles of her family, channels her experiences in social justice, and asserts deep and meaningful listening and engaging of community leaders—to lift a new way forward for organized philanthropy. Her message: if philanthropy is to be successful in addressing structural inequality, remember that heart, courage, storytelling, and humility will carry far more impact value than intellectual rigor and clever analysis.”
—Robert K. Ross MD, president and CEO of the California Endowment
Ask, Listen, Act beautifully intertwines personal narrative, social history, and the story of the Marguerite Casey Foundation to explore and celebrate family in all its dimensions. Luz Vega-Marquis asks us to imagine what we could achieve together if we see the health and welfare of children and families as a mirror to the health and welfare of our society. This moving book is a blueprint for how we can bring about a just world through a loving, expansive, and inclusive view of families and their power as vehicles for change.”
—Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and author of The Age of Dignity

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