Update From the Foundation

Living our way to the answers

June 26, 2012

“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a foreign language…the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

–Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903, In Letters to a Young Poet

Rilke’s words resonate for Compton at this moment in our program evolution. We are actively trying to “love the questions” as we review the inquiries (more than 200 so far!) we have received since we posted our new mission and guidelines at the beginning of February. We are “living (our) way into the answers” as we navigate the path from board intentions through staff implementation to grant opportunities and the decisions to fund particular projects and to decline others. It is both thrilling and wrenching to try to figure out how to move from broad ideas into the real world of the work, and while it is a huge gift to have the chance to experiment with our funding priorities, it is also an enormous challenge for a foundation to do so gracefully.

As of this writing, the 24 grants we have made in the first six months of this year are now under the “grant highlights” section of our website. These grants represent the beginning of our “living into the answers” about our emerging program and we hope that they will give you an indication of the ways in which we interpret our guidelines. We have also made a few small adjustments to the language of our guidelines that we hope will clarify our goals. As we get increasingly clear on what we are looking for, we will to continue to update the site. Our intention is to make it easier for those of you who are potential grantees to see if the work you are doing is a fit with Compton’s current directions.

We still have many more questions than answers about how to best “ignite change.” That will probably be clear to you from this post, but we have been heartened to learn over the last few months that we are not alone in exploring approaches to social transformation that involve story and explore the new capacities leaders need to work beyond their organizations—across divisions of experience and expertise—in this moment. We have found others asking what kinds of leadership approaches and networks enable efforts to reach scale or gain power? What is the right balance between long-term infrastructure investment and short-term opportunistic investment? What lessons can we learn from the ways people are using new technological tools to amplify organizing efforts? How can art and culture make the impossible inevitable? As you look at our initial grants you will see some attempts to answer these questions.

In an uncertain moment, where it seems unlikely that the past will be a useful predictor of the way our society is heading, may we all love the questions and live our way into new, or newly meaningful, answers.

Ellen, Jen, and Stephanie.


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