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

Matt Conti

From the President – December 2014

As 2014 draws to a close, three key decisions that will guide Barr into its next era.

It has been just over six months since I joined the Barr Foundation with a mandate to lead us in shaping the next stage of Barr’s philanthropic mission. I have committed these early months to listening and learning, at the same time as I have worked with Barr’s founding trustees to clarify values and set parameters to guide our planning for the future. In this context, and as 2014 draws to a close, I wanted to share three key decisions.

First, we have decided what issue areas Barr will focus on. I am pleased to report that we intend to continue and expand over time Barr’s current domestic program areas in Arts & Culture, Climate, and Education—including through new investments to build these teams. While it is likely that aspects of each program will evolve as a result of our planning in 2015, what will not change is Barr’s commitment to these three core areas. This decision does not foreclose the possibility of new areas for engagement, but it is our starting point.

Second, we have determined where the Foundation will focus. The announcement of my appointment last year described how Barr might grow over time and seek to extend its impact nationally. Through deeper consideration of this question, we have determined that to advance Barr’s core issues, our most effective scale—at least initially—will be a regional one. While our commitment to Boston endures, we intend to take a broader view. We will share more in the year ahead as we give greater definition to this regional focus. Additionally, we will pursue targeted opportunities to engage nationally where there is close alignment with our emerging priorities.

Finally, clarity on these two questions led us to a third, related decision, which is that we will be concluding Barr’s Global grantmaking program by the end of 2015. What made this decision especially difficult is the valuable work that has been carried out by the partners we have been privileged to support since 2010, when Barr launched this pilot program. We take enormous pride in the thoughtful strategies developed by Barr’s team, the quality of execution by our partners in the field, and, most importantly, the positive results to improve quality of life and the natural environment for people in Haiti, India, and East Africa. Because of this good work, Barr went beyond an initial $15-million commitment to this effort, bringing total grant commitments to $35 million to date. We also actively engaged with peers to share what we have been learning—including a December 2013 publication from the global team, entitled From Local to Global. As a stand-alone program, Barr Global has been effective. Yet, with a determination to bring greater focus and coherence to Barr’s priority issues and geography, we reached this conclusion.

As a result of this decision regarding our Global program, I want to share our plans to ensure a responsible and thoughtful conclusion to what will be a five-year commitment to a set of global priorities. Barr staff will work with our global grantees to understand the implications for them and the best next steps. To ensure our global partners are able to effectively complete projects initiated with Barr support, we intend to dedicate additional resources in 2015. Next year was already budgeted to be Barr Global’s biggest payout year to date, with many active projects requiring ongoing engagement to meet intended objectives. As a result, we are unlikely to consider requests from new partners during this transition period. We also plan to identify additional opportunities to share what we have learned during these five years. To carry out all of this work, and to facilitate a smooth transition we are grateful for the ongoing engagement of Barr’s Global team, who will remain with us well into 2016.

We will have more to report in the year ahead as our planning efforts continue, but for now, I wanted to share these important decisions about the broad shape of Barr’s work in the future, and especially the decision about our Global program, our plans for a responsible transition in 2015, and our deep respect for the work of Barr’s Global team and partners.

I remain committed to sharing openly the decisions we are making during our planning period. And, as always, I welcome your questions or suggestions and remain grateful for your interest in the Barr Foundation.

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