[Editor’s note: We asked contributors to tell us a question they think philanthropy needs to explore as the Atlanta conference begins. Here’s Bruce’s answer.]
I had a conversation recently with a colleague. As an exercise, we drew up a list of everything that wasn’t going right in the nation—banking system in crisis, auto industry on the verge of collapse, millions of people losing their jobs, etc.
After that, we started another list. It contained examples of what is going right—mainly work that we know of that foundations are supporting to make life more livable for people in communities across the country. In most of these places, the problems being addressed have been around far longer than those the rest of nation has had to grapple with since the start of the economic crisis last year.
As we ticked through our second list—all examples of what happens when the right mix of people, ideas and money are put into play—several questions came to both of us:
Would shining a spotlight now on this work and what it’s achieving help counter the current feelings of uncertainty in the nation about the future and give people a greater sense of hope?
Would there be more interest in hearing about this activity now than in past years?
Would these examples also provide a unique opportunity for people unfamiliar with the work of philanthropy to develop a better appreciation for what it does and can do?
And finally, is this the moment we’ve been waiting for?
Being optimists at heart (or why would be in this business) we nodded our heads approvingly.