Two women hold up protest signs at a rally and smile.

A Time for Aspiration

Amidst turbulent times and daunting challenges, we all must commit to greater ambition, bolder action, and impatience with the status quo.

In this final week of January, hundreds of thousands of our hardworking friends, neighbors, and colleagues can finally count on a Friday paycheck. For more than a month, the government shutdown compromised the lives and livelihoods of our fellow citizens. Born out of antipathy to immigrants and refugees, this unnecessary episode has offered yet another potent reminder of the importance of remaining grounded in the challenging realities that so many people face today.

For us at the Barr Foundation, we have embarked on a new year of grantmaking – informed by reflections on learning and progress to date (as highlighted in our 2018 Year in Review), guided by our long-term goals, and responsive to new opportunities that are emerging to advance ambitious priorities in this new year.

Of course, our work occurs in a larger context with which we all contend: a country riven by political, cultural, and economic divides; a time when the rights of many—hard-earned over generations of struggle and courageous leadership—are being stripped away; and a region facing massive challenges that include crumbling infrastructure, the persistent threat of climate change, and educational systems that leave far too many of our young people behind.

To address these challenges head-on in 2019, one word has come into focus as our guiding principle – aspiration. Indeed, where new hope, energy, and bold leadership are already evident, we see them animated, unified, and inspired by a spirit of aspiration, and by a positive, forward-looking vision. At Barr, we consider it an imperative to embrace and push for aspiration in all that we do - as my colleague, Mary Skelton Roberts, did in her recent blog post, “It's Time to Transform Transportation in Massachusetts.

Originally defined in the 1600s as a “steadfast longing for a higher goal,” aspiration remains a worthy pursuit for philanthropy. We are endowed with significant resources. Free from the constraints of the ballot box or bottom line, we can take a long-term view and embrace risk in ways that many others cannot. Perhaps most significantly, we can access and partner with many of the world’s most talented leaders and effective institutions on the front lines of social change. For all these reasons, philanthropy has both the opportunity and obligation to push for greater ambition and bolder action.

To advance our aspirations this year, the Barr Foundation intends to devote more resources than ever. Our 2019 grantmaking budget will be $90 million, representing the fifth consecutive year of growth in our grants budget and the largest grants allocation in Barr’s history.

To advance our aspirations this year, the Barr Foundation intends to devote more resources than ever with the largest grants allocation in Barr’s history.

We couple this grantmaking growth with expanded staff capacity, as we welcome: Prerna Sekhri as our new manager of program operations; John Dello Russo as program assistant for Sector Effectiveness, and; Maia White as office assistant and receptionist. We have also expanded our grants management team with Maryam Hamedany transitioning to her new role as grants associate. As I write, we are actively engaged in staff searches for two new program officers in Climate and Education. We also plan to launch two additional program-related searches during this first quarter.

As we grow and expand in these ways, we remain focused on Barr’s mission of “investing in potential.” Our fervent belief that all people have potential compels us to reject the status quo and eschew incremental change in favor of pushing all of us to be aspirational.

That’s what we plan to do in the face of this moment, with enormous gratitude for the many partners who we know share such aspiration for our people and our communities.

"Our fervent belief that all people have potential compels us to reject the status quo and eschew incremental change in favor of pushing all of us to be aspirational." Tweet This
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