OK, gotta confess—this is my first time blogging. Ever. As I shared my angst yesterday with socialtech-savvy Perla Ni, she advised me to just pretend the blog is an e-mail to a friend. So, here we go …
I attended an awesome town hall on public-private partnerships. It had smart and interesting speakers, vibrant audience participation, a dynamite moderator, and it was fast-moving and hard-hitting—really.
The topic of public-private partnerships fascinates me, because I spent the first 15 years of my philanthropic career promoting democracy in the former Soviet Union, where governments are still getting used to not controlling everything.
When it came to philanthropy, simply having a pluralism of funding flowing to address social issues was an important battle. Which brings me back to the public-private partnership session—I want to celebrate that there is a pluralism of ideas, opinions, approaches, and models on the relationship between philanthropic actors and government entities. Kudos to the Council on Foundations for bringing diverse voices and views together in this session and at the annual conference overall.
We struggle for impact, scaling, critical mass, transformations, paradigm shifts (the Social Innovation Fund, which came up many times). It’s all good, as long as the voices of the communities being served are heard. Still, there certainly is and should be room for different people trying out different things in different places on different levels. That is where philanthropy usually does better than government. But if government wants to be in on the cross-pollination of good solutions, why not invite diverse voices and partners? Our democracy in America is still plenty vibrant enough to accommodate a lot of various public-private partnerships without us worrying about Big Brother. If some of these partnerships can make a visible dent in some serious challenges for the common good, well then, let’s go for it. There is room for us all. Kumbaya.
Nick Deychakiwsky is a program officer at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.