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An Evolving Relationship: Executive Branch Approaches to Civic Engagement and Philanthropy

Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) released its 8-page white paper “An Evolving Relationship: Executive Branch Approaches to Civic Engagement and Philanthropy” in May 2010. This white paper is based on a briefing memo prepared for a White House meeting earlier in 2010 between leaders of the philanthropic community and Executive Branch officials. The meeting focused on the topics of service, civic engagement, social innovation and public participation and where there might be shared interests between the two groups.

“We are at a moment that many in the civic engagement field see as a threshold. Fundamental changes are taking place in the way that citizens interact with institutions, demanding new and more creative approaches to civic engagement,” said PACE executive director Chris Gates. “The new Administration and the field of philanthropy have both made it clear that they want to be a part of the conversation about how our nation can craft a new kind of relationship between citizens, civil society and government.”

An Evolving Relationship was prepared for PACE by Brad Rourke of The Mannakee Circle Group. The paper provides a broad overview of Executive Branch approaches to civic engagement, participation, and service over the past two decades. It also describes how philanthropy has worked with the federal government on these issues over the same time frame.

The paper argues that a number of key trends in White House approaches to civic engagement are now intersecting and suggest a great deal of possibility for moving forward in the near future. Civic engagement is a clear priority for this administration and has becoming increasingly embedded in the policies and practices of a number of Federal agencies. At the same time, key philanthropic institutions are making increasing commitments to the fields of deliberative dialogue, civic engagement and democratic practice.

The paper includes the following questions for funders to consider:

  • How might funders support the structures, the spaces, the conversations needed to support authentic collaborations?
  • How can funders continue to emphasize a robust definition of civic engagement?
  • What implications are there for supporting “bridging” relationships (as opposed to direct programs) given the short time horizons of many funders?
  • How do such relationships fit into the impact metrics many foundations are interested in?
  • How can funders support the embedding of civic engagement into organizational processes – both government and the independent sector?

For more information about PACE or this paper contact:

– Chris Gates, Executive Director of PACE, at cgates@pacefunders.org
-Brad Rourke, Mannakee Circle Group at rourke@mannakeecircle.com

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