So what choices will foundations make at this intersection where the federal government has extended an invitation to partner in new ways?
At today’s opening session, Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement, reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to this powerful equation for change.
Highlighting early initiatives that demonstrate this new direction, Jarrett named efforts such as the Social Innovation Fund, Investing in Innovation, and Promise Neighborhoods that bring federal resources to community tables with multiple stakeholders. She encouraged us to provide venture capital for social change and leverage the investment with government funding. “When our goals are aligned we need to do a better job of pulling together. When we disagree we need to listen to each other more carefully…,” Jarrett said. These are important first steps in a vast landscape of possibilities for public-private partnerships.
The philanthropic field has long understood the untapped potential of a more coordinated and collaborative not-for-profit sector. This dynamic holds even more promise if we are to apply it to those of us who are uniquely positioned to provide resources and facilitative leadership. Funder collaboratives are powerful. Add to this the public sector, and you’ve got a formula that will leverage a kaleidoscope of resources and knowledge that can accelerate the rate of progress. We’ve seen it happen in our community. Creative collaborations, which engage the public and philanthropic sectors, make things happen in new and exciting ways. Yes, it’s easier to go it alone. Bridging the cultural differences between foundations and between the sectors takes staying power and determination. But as Jarrett points out “with great effort comes great accomplishment.” Looks like the White House is open for business.
Are we willing to slog through the challenges of bridging sectoral and organizational cultures? Are we willing to invest the sweat equity to build new relationships necessary to drive innovation and scale? Can we afford not to given the call of our respective missions? No doubt this will change our institutions and most importantly our communities. Denver seems the perfect setting for the topic: where the great plains rise to meet the Rockies—an apt analogy for the private-public partnership. Oh the power of the contrast and yes, the altitude actually changes your physiology.
Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker is the president/CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.