Philanthropists as Change Makers

If you attended our annual meeting a few weeks ago, you’ll recall Ralph Smith’s charge for philanthropists to be not only grant makers, but change makers, in the effort to eradicate inter-generational poverty.  Speaking about building common sense consensus for change, he said:

“[P]olitics creates a level of divisiveness that sometimes becomes enduring. Policy, on the other hand, requires a search for common ground. Good policy demands that we figure out where we all agree. It’s hard work, and it is especially hard in today’s partisan atmosphere. But I will insist that this is where philanthropy has a real opportunity and genuine obligation to convene unlikely allies, and build consensus for change across the partisan political, ideological and geographic divides.”
[Full remarks here]

That point is well taken. As nonpartisan change-makers, our community has a great responsibility. It’s our job to gather folks around the table to focus on a simple question: What works and what doesn’t? We can help answer that question because, unlike politicians, we are able to take chances on funding innovation. Our world is the laboratory for social change–and as our grantees work to tackle persistent social problems (like inter-generational poverty), it’s our job to distill their findings and share those lessons with our public sector colleagues.

We are taking 2007 to engage our members, government agencies, and other stakeholders in planning our policy agenda. If you have suggestions for our policy agenda, or thoughts about the role of philanthropy in shaping public policy, please send them to WG’s Director of Public Policy Carolynn Mambu–or leave a comment here.

Best regards,
Tamara Lucas Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers