A view of Boston's historic Pilot House from the harbor

Matt Conti

An Update On Our Planning Efforts

What to expect in the months ahead at Barr.

In all its splendor, summer has now arrived in Boston, happily relegating to memory our historic winter. And for us at Barr, this represents a time where we are planning for the future as we simultaneously continue working to advance the Foundation’s current priorities.

My post here focuses on our program planning activities and anticipated timeline. In earlier blog posts, I outlined key decisions made by our trustees, which provide the foundation upon which this planning builds. In this context, I have three key messages to share at this time.

Barr is actively pursuing current priorities while we plan

First, and most importantly, even as we are engaged in this planning work across Barr, we are committed to remaining active in support of our current priorities. To that end, last month we announced $10 million in grants approved by our trustees, bringing total approvals for 2015 to $24 million as of mid-year. We firmly believe that planning for the future should not inhibit our capacity to remain an engaged, constructive partner related to our existing priorities and, by year-end, we project approving grants totaling $55 million.

A common set of attributes will guide our planning

Second, while our approach to planning within each of our core programs will be customized, certain attributes will be consistent across the Foundation. We recognize that each program is at a different stage of its evolution. There are also varying levels of research, data, and analysis required across areas as diverse as arts and culture, climate, and education. At the same time, all that we do at Barr is guided by a single mission, a set of core values, and a common approach to philanthropy. Accordingly, we have identified a set of common attributes that are guiding the planning across the Foundation:

  • Focused on impact: Our principal focus is on how Barr can drive positive impact, consistent with our mission, values, and approach.
  • Responsive to environment: We aim to align plans to our best understanding of the current context and opportunities in each of our programs.
  • Taking a long view: We embrace a long-term perspective, considering how Barr can serve as both an effective steward and catalyst for years to come.
  • Sharpened by external perspectives: We are engaging outside perspectives to challenge and deepen our thinking and guard against insularity.
  • Aiming to be bold: We seek to develop bold, aspirational plans that will balance rigor and flexibility.
  • Recognizing the power of communications: Our plans will integrate communications as a key tool to advance our goals.

We share these attributes to provide some insight into how we are approaching this important work and to preview what you might anticipate as outcomes of our planning effort. We also hope you will hold us accountable to these aspirations.

Plans will be rolled out in early 2016

Finally, a word about our timeline. We anticipate sharing Barr’s future plans for our Arts & Culture, Climate, and Education programs during the first quarter of 2016. As I have communicated before, these plans will certainly build upon existing areas of focus. Change at Barr will be evolutionary, not revolutionary. We do not seek radical reinvention for its own sake. Yet, we do aim to bring greater focus, coherence, and consistency to the work across the Foundation, in service to our mission and oriented toward impact. Where shifts in priorities lead us to wind down aspects of Barr’s current work, we commit to open communications and active engagement with our partners to ensure a thoughtful, respectful transition.

No doubt this is a period of change at Barr. As we continue on this path, we remain committed to managing this change with continuing openness and transparency, a deep sense of respect for our many partners, and a dedication to holding ourselves accountable to the highest standards. We look forward to keeping you apprised of our plans, appreciate your interest and engagement, and, as always, welcome your observations and advice at any time.

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