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The Future of Doing Good - a response

The Future of Doing Good is a provocative and wide-ranging report, describing a social landscape defined by complexity; of approach, of motivation, of ideology.

In response, it seems apt to address the challenge made to funders. What role can meaningfully be played by foundations? 

Here are three thoughts:

By being a source of truly independent support … 

The relentless march of government funding, away from grant and towards contract, means that, for many, the ability to deliver social good now comes with unwanted strings attached.

This leaves foundations, as funders, allies and agents in their own right, as one of the few remaining sources of pure grant.

Foundations’ annual spending-power is dwarfed by government, but they are well positioned to punch above their weight; supporting innovation, taking risks and backing causes that sit outwith the remit of state.

By being able to take the long view … 

As the report rightly points out, foundations can work independently of political time scales, free from short-term market cycles, and counter to received wisdoms. This allows them to respond creatively in preserving social good that is under threat or catalysing it where it is absent.

By bringing pluralism to the table …

There is a sense throughout the report of a narrowing Overton window; a convergence of ideology leading to an ever-smaller number of political paradigms. Collectively foundations have a role to play in supporting diversity within the social economy and decentralising the deployment of attention, assets, expertise and advocacy.  

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