Just what is the vision of philanthropy? Julia Stasch, the President of the MacArthur Foundation, has said that it is “to make the most effective use of our resources for the public good.”
How do you serve this public good? She has an answer for that too. She says that the responsibility to serve the public good “challenges us to periodically revisit our mission, to consider whether our areas of focus, our objectives, and our approaches are sufficiently bold, flexible, inventive, and effective, and to ensure that we are tackling some of the world’s most profound issues as they rapidly evolve.”
In other words, it’s time for rethinking. As President Stasch explains “the times demand that we question long-standing orthodoxies, established assumptions, comfortable practices, and even goals.”
As I read these words, she reminds me of another President of a foundation, Caroline Avery of the Durfee Foundation.
Caroline once told me this story:
“There was a town by a river. One day, bodies started coming down the river, some of them badly injured, many of them dead. The people in the town were compassionate and began pulling the bodies out of the water, saving those they could. The bodies kept coming. The town responded by building hospitals and other services near the river. One day, as a woman was helping to pull out yet another body, she looked up and said – “we have to get these bodies out of the water, but shouldn’t somebody go upstream.”
It sounds like Julia Stasch might have been that person in the water asking the hard question about going upstream. It takes courage to challenge established assumptions, comfortable practices, and even goals, but it needs to be done.
The question remains how do we fund the trip upstream? Unite offers a new approach. No doubt the most important work is to save those injured in the river. 99% of all foundation giving should continue to focus on these immediate needs, and 1% of funding should be given to Unite to help build a new global social structure based upon fundamental human rights to help stop the bodies from coming doing the river, not just treating them when they arrive.
This is not an epiphany. It’s the fulfillment of Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognized that the Universal Declaration was unenforceable, and that the time would come, which is here now, when a new document would be needed to make rights enforceable. The draft Global Bill of Rights that Unite asks for help with, both with comments as to what the wording should be, and with funding, is that document.
Unite’s logo with the three figures stands for people, businesses and governments, uniting through a Global Bill of Rights.
Philanthropies are businesses, and they too can further their missions by uniting. True, it’s unorthodox to think that all foundations, for-profit businesses, and philanthropic individuals will direct 1% of their giving to a common goal of going upstream – but it would work! It’s a complement, not a replacement, to what we are presently doing.
Philanthropic funding provides the means; people around the world are already ready to go upstream. The situation today is that the people are more willing to live together in peace and prosperity within a global community than their governments. Foundations are the headlights that the taillights will follow.
Let philanthropy be “bold, flexible and inventive” and unite to go upstream through the 1% solution.