USC Price School of Public Policy

CPPP Roundtable Discusses Philanthropy-Government Partnerships

Knowledge in Action:

CPPP Roundtable Discusses Philanthropy-Government Partnerships

By Tracy Mendoza

CPPP Roundtable From left, speakers Karen Aldridge-Eason, Robert Collier and Bill Rustem describe lessons learned through their experiences with sustaining an office of philanthropic liaison.
Photo by Vince Gonzales

The USC Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy (CPPP) brought together 30 leaders for a high-level intersectoral conversation about the interplay of foundations and government in solving community problems.

Held in late April, the roundtable included the director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation (SICP); representatives from the U.S. departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services; academic researchers; and individuals working as “philanthropic liaisons” in city and state government.

The roundtable opened with a discussion on ways to leverage philanthropy and government, partnership rules of engagement, and the commonly held misperceptions of government by philanthropy and vice versa.

SICP Director Jonathan Greenblatt stressed that there was no silver bullet in community problem solving. The key, he said, is to take an integrative, interdisciplinary approach that involves nonprofits, government and business working together.

“[The White House Office] now focuses on elevating community solutions, meaning we’re not trying to create complicated strategies across the conference table in every state,” he said. “We’re trying to reach outside of the Beltway and identify what works, and then think about how we modulate our engagement.”

The second day of the meeting focused on how government and philanthropy at the local, state and federal levels can work and learn from one another if they create the infrastructure for cross-sectional relationships.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more challenging time in philanthropy, especially in regard to some of the challenges being faced by our nonprofit partners,” said Fred Ali, president and CEO of the Weingart Foundation and chair of the board of advisers at CPPP. “But, there’s never been a more important time, for close, effective cooperation between government and philanthropy.”

Members from the office of Michigan’s governor shared their experiences in sustaining the Office of the Foundation Liaison. In addition, leaders in local liaison offices in Los Angeles, Denver and Newark, N.J., also shared their strategies in creating lasting partnerships that move forward shared agendas.

A few days later, James Ferris, CPPP director and professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy, moderated a panel at the Council on Foundations (COF) 2012 Annual Meeting. The panel, “Does Working With Government Have a Payoff?” explored the emergence of philanthropic liaisons at the local, state and national levels; what they have achieved in terms of policy outcomes; and how to inform leaders from both sectors about how to work together more productively.

Ferris noted that “this roundtable and the panel at COF are the latest efforts in the center’s ongoing commitment to research on philanthropic strategies for public problem solving, which includes studying ways that philanthropic organizations and individuals can develop more effective strategies for public problem solving, particularly through partnerships with nonprofits, government and business.”

Researchers from CPPP also interviewed the principals in the “philanthropic liaison” offices to better understand how their objectives were developed and to hear about their accomplishments and lessons learned.

The center plans to publish a white paper to share the discussion with the broader philanthropic community and public officials this fall.