Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

March 19, 2007

Getting the gears moving

The social and economic problems our communities face are critical, and foundations can and should transform the way they think about and address those problems.

That is a key message contained in an important new report by MDC Inc., a think-tank in Chapel Hill, N.C., that examines the role of philanthropy as society’s “passing gear.”

Speaking recently to a group of foundation and corporate-giving officials, MDC President David Dodson likened the challenge for foundations to the one addressed in the mid-1960s by the North Carolina Fund, a pioneering effort supported by a handful of foundations to address the interconnected problems of race and poverty.

Just as the North Carolina Fund helped fuel social progress in our state, so can a new collaborative push by organized philanthropy throughout the U.S. help take on deep-seated problems facing our schools, our health care, our economy and workforce, and our communities.

We need, in short, a new generation of local, regional and national efforts modeled on the North Carolina Fund, and foundations need to make it happen.

These Next-Generation Funds would focus on engaging our increasingly diverse population and enlisting organizations from the government, business, education, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors in the work of making social progress.

As PJ reported, the MDC report says a healthy economy and society are critical to developing the good jobs and smart workers needed to compete in a marketplace that is global and fiercely competitive.

Creating and sustaining economic and social health requires repairing educational and health-care systems that are badly broken, and eliminating the gap between people who have access to good schools, good jobs and good health care and those who lack that access.

If they can shake themselves out of their comfort zone and see beyond business as usual, foundations can exercise the flexibility and leadership for which government and business lack the will or backbone, and create the partnerships needed to address the root causes of our most urgent social and economic problems.

Who will take the first step to provide that leadership?


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