Update From the Foundation

The New Year

January 17, 2012

Happy 2012! The new year brims with the potential for change—although whether for better or worse is uncertain. The upcoming presidential election in the US, the continued unfolding of the Arab Spring, the unresolved global economic crisis, and the lack of rain, snow, or anything that looks like winter in most of the western states, remind us that the work to advance a just, sustainable, and peaceful future remains urgent.

At the Compton Foundation, we spent much of last year reflecting on our history and assessing how our decades of grantmaking and learning might inform our future work. We noted many successes and accomplished grant objectives—reports delivered, policy changed, organizations strengthened, relationships deepened, land and water restored, family planning services delivered, civil society institutions rebuilt from the ashes of war. However, while we have seen progress in our traditional areas of focus (peace, environment, and reproductive rights), the fundamental change we want to see on a wider scale, the change that might lead to a radically different world, one filled with compassion and joy, still seems out of reach.

As we head into the new year, we are certain about a few things:

The world is more connected than ever before. The actions in every community, region, and country affect the globe in myriad ways. Our grantmaking must embody this awareness.

Collaboration across traditional sectors and silos, often with folks who analyze, prioritize, and take action in ways that are unfamiliar, possibly on topics that we have generally dismissed as ‘not our issue,’ will be essential for social change to scale and take hold in new ways.

We will need new narratives about our collective future. To quote Grist’s David Roberts, these new stories must ask: “What kind of people are we? What world are we trying to build? What does America mean now?”  He continues convincingly:

“Without any larger shared vision, we just fight the old fights, on the old terms, deploying values, narratives, and policies left over from the past.

What we need now, more than ever, are not critiques of the extant but models of the new — new institutions, new social practices, new identities, new purposes, new ways of measuring and valuing what matters. If we’re ever going to get off the sinking USS Fossil Growth and into lifeboats, we need to know where we’re heading. A new North Star.

We need people who can make a prosperous, enjoyable, sustainable world vivid and real.”

Some of those people will be activists and analysts who have the gift for linking data to lived experience and who can see the often obscure policy changes that can alter the ways we live and the choices we make. Some, by necessity, will be artists—creative minds who can show us the sounds, sights, tastes, and smells of a new world, making what feels impossible simply inevitable.

Please keep watching our website for more information about our evolving new program. By February 1st we will have more detailed guidelines and a very brief expression of intent process for potential grant partners to use to let us know about the work you are doing to transform the world and to ignite change for a more just, sustainable, and peaceful future.

Our very best wishes for the new year,

Rebecca DiDomenico

President, Compton Foundation


Leave a Reply