Program speakers



Laura Callanan

Founding Partner

Laura Callanan is the founding partner of Upstart Co-Lab, disrupting how creativity is funded by connecting impact investing to the creative economy.

Laura was senior deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, leading all grant-making programs, operations, and research before launching Upstart Co-Lab in 2015.

As a consultant with McKinsey & Company’s Social Sector Office, Laura led work on social innovation, sustainable capitalism, and social impact assessment. She previously served as senior adviser at the United Nations Development Programme; executive director of the Prospect Hill Foundation; and associate director at the Rockefeller Foundation where, in addition to her responsibilities managing the endowment, she co-led the Foundation’s first impact investing efforts which included two investments in the creative economy: Smithsonian Folkways Records and netomat.

Laura is a board member and immediate past chair for GlobalGiving Foundation, a member of the British Council Policy and Evidence Centre for the Creative Industries – International Council, and a board member of the public benefit LLC Upriver Studios. She has been a visiting fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, a scholar in residence at UC-Berkeley/Haas School of Business, a visiting scholar to the American Academy in Rome, the recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Fellowship, and an adjunct professor at the New York University’s Stern School of Business. Laura is a past member of the board of Signature Theatre, the Corporation of Yaddo, New York Foundation for the Arts and She was a founding investment committee member and audit committee member for the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a member of the audit committee for the International Women’s Health Coalition. Laura was an advisor to impact fund Shift Capital.

An expert on impact investing, philanthropy and the creative economy, Laura has been published and quoted in The New York Times, Financial Times, Fast Company, Monocle, Forbes, Barron’s, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Harvard Business Review, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Art Newspaper and elsewhere. She is a frequent speaker at social sector conferences including the Global Steering Group for Impact Investing, Skoll World Forum, SoCap, the Smithsonian Institution Power of Giving, Mission Investors Exchange, Independent Sector, Grantmakers in the Arts, Americans in the Arts, AtlanticLive and many others.

After graduating from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs with a Master of Public Administration degree, Laura worked in public finance investment banking serving universities and other large endowed nonprofit organizations on behalf of JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers, and as associate treasurer for the Wallace Foundation. Laura’s undergraduate degree in theater is from Barnard College of Columbia University.

Laura is the literary executrix for the estate of playwright and novelist Romulus Linney.