Philanthropy, policy, politics: three p’s in a pod

Alan Broadbent

Philanthropy’s political engagement need not be ‘party political’, but to achieve its ends, it should work with both policy and politics

In 2005, Maytree received the Paul Ylvisaker Award for public policy engagement from the Council on Foundations. Ylvisaker was a noted city planner, government official, foundation executive, and dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His work endorsed both the public obligation of private philanthropy, which he saw as being underpinned by public interest objectives, and the efforts of philanthropy to engage the public policy process.

In receiving the award, we expressed our belief that the best way to overcome the big issues and problems is to change the way society thinks and acts. It is by tapping into the power of our collective will, and attendant large public budgets, that we can take the great strides forward. The greatest advances in people’s wellbeing have always come from public measures: public sanitation systems ended the plagues; public education systems have carried nations into prosperity; vaccination programmes virtually wiped out polio and tuberculosis, and most recently eased the threat of Covid-19; seatbelt laws have reduced road deaths.

So Maytree has focused on public policy because it is our view that without such a lens on our work, we are engaging in pilot projects, which miss the chance to be transformative for more than a relative handful of people.

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