Irvine Foundation President Encourages Transparency

Canales Tip of the hat to James Irvine President James E. Canales (pictured) for writing in an op-ed a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy that foundations should communicate more openly and engage more people in their work as part of an effort to “end bad habits” that limit their effectiveness. Canales says the current economic slump, and how it's forcing foundations to take a close look about how they operate, also offers unprecedented opportunities to "remind ourselves that how we do our work can be just as important as what we choose to do."

Among the habits that foundations need to break, says Canales, are those that give rise to "insularity, complacency, and arrogance." and which ultimately hamper their ability to work with and engage others outside their walls.

Among the remedies he offers, Canales urges foundations to embrace new communications "innovations that have swept society over the past decade." For example, he says the "emergence of blogs" offers people a "means to engage in thoughtful and spirited public conversations about philanthropic strategies and choices.”

He goes on to say:

Each of us should give thought to how we might harness the power of technology, or other less sophisticated tools, to invite outside views into our decisions, to communicate openly about our work, to clarify what led to our conclusions, and to share what we have learned. In so doing, we will naturally find ways to engage other key players in the process. In the end, not only will we demonstrate our commitment to open and inclusive processes, but it is very likely that we will do a better job of achieving our social missions.

We can only hope his op-ed gets a lot of attention and generates thoughtful discussion among people inside and outside foundations. Not only will this help break bad habits, it could give rise to better, more productive behavior.

Bruce Trachtenberg

Posted at 6:24 AM, Jun 06, 2009 in Philanthropic Strategy | Permalink | Comment

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