Isabelle “Belle” Gerard is a natural-born storyteller with a deep appreciation for research and strategy. She joined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2018 as a communications officer, bringing more than 15 years of experience advocating for culture change and social justice.
Gerard works with the Research-Evaluation-Learning team and its grantees to put research in the hands of people shaping a more equitable culture, society, and communities—from elected officials to Hollywood screenwriters. Her favorite work focuses on shifting narratives—the commonly-held stories and experiences that define the way people understand the world—as a way to drive policy change. She learned the value of this approach from years advocating on Capitol Hill and with state and local governments. She has seen that when people are holding onto old, narrow ways of thinking, narratives often must be shifted in our culture first for equitable public policies to stick. Gerard is especially passionate about the need to make way for more diverse stories and storytellers. Ultimately, she envisions a cultural landscape where dominant narratives are built on accurate portrayals of people and issues rather than oppressive stereotypes or outright invisibility, and where every child grows up feeling represented in the images and stories they see.
With health at the heart of her work, Gerard saw philanthropy as a new opportunity to apply her prior experiences working on campaigns, in the U.S. Senate, with a progressive think tank and a public opinion research firm, and with nonprofit organizations. Most recently, she was the policy and opinion research manager at the American Heart Association working to advance equitable public policy. There she led hundreds of research projects to gauge public support, inform strategy, and craft the strongest messages to shift opinion and advocate for change.
Gerard holds an MPH from the University of California, Los Angeles and a BA from Indiana University, Bloomington. She grew up channeling her creativity and big imagination into writing, and loving film and television. She started volunteering on political campaigns in the sixth grade, and has toured every state capitol building. She has a desire to always be learning and growing, and enjoys helping young people build resiliency and get involved civically.