An Argument for Foundations to Aspire to Social Change

(5-5-10) In "Philanthropy, Evaluation, Accountability, and Social Change," from the latest issue of The Foundation Review, John Bare, Vice President for the Arthur Blank Family Foundation, argues that many foundations have substituted process accountability for accountability for contributing to social change. Accountability in terms of required reporting is important, but it sets a floor, not an aspirational ceiling. Seeking to extend basic human rights to more individuals around the world, seeking to reduce racism in a given city, or seeking to change public-health norms in small town—all of these aspirations require first a willingness to take on challenges that defy short-term, causal, quantifiable results attributable to a best practice. There are tools—such as risk analysis, systems approaches, and game theory—that can help philanthropy engage in work on complex social problems that cannot be deconstructed into a series of small, linear projects.

The article is available through subscription to The Foundation Review, or can be purchased as an individual publication here.