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Introducing Cross-Program Initiatives

Jim Canales describes initial priorities for a set of investments intended to complement and reinforce all of Barr’s core program work.

Over the past six weeks, as a result of our planning work, we have shared Barr’s new priorities in our core programs of Arts & Creativity, Climate, and Education. Our announcement of $13.4 million in new grants earlier this month includes support for many of these new directions. It also includes grantmaking in alignment with a new area we are calling Cross-Program Initiatives.

In this post, I outline some of our early thinking and priorities for this new area, which aims to complement and reinforce our core program strategies and to underscore the Foundation’s commitment to the region. With Cross-Program Initiatives, Barr will focus on advancing three broad goals:

  • To invest in leaders
  • To inform sound decision-making
  • To support infrastructure for the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors

To animate one of Barr’s core values, invest in leaders, we intend to continue the Barr Fellowship. As we plan for a new cohort of Barr Fellows in 2017, we will refine the program based on lessons from its first 10 years.

We will also explore ways we might provide more tailored support to leaders and leadership teams of Barr grantees, and we are eager to explore select opportunities for Barr to invest in local and regional programs that build and advance both diverse and new leadership for the public and nonprofit sectors.

To inform sound decision-making, we intend to target investments in organizations that support the provision of credible, objective research and analysis, as well as those that stimulate informed public discourse. Barr already has partnerships with many such organizations through our core programs; however, we have tended to focus on project support for discrete efforts aligned with Barr’s priorities. Through Cross-Program Initiatives, we seek to provide deeper, more flexible resources, recognizing the vital importance of these institutions beyond the specific interests of Barr’s programs.

Finally, as a member of the nonprofit and philanthropic community, we embrace a responsibility to invest in organizations that support the infrastructure of our field. Alongside other funders, we are exploring select opportunities to support efforts that improve the practice of philanthropy, as well as to enhance regional infrastructure organizations.

Cross-Program Initiatives will not be a new and separate program area for Barr; rather, it represents a set of aligned priorities that advances all of our other work. For that reason, this area of work is one I will be personally engaged in and that will be managed out of the President’s Office, staffed principally by Barr’s manager of special projects. We anticipate that Barr’s new vice president will be a key partner in this work and will, over time, take principal responsibility for the portfolio.

This year will be an exploratory one for us as we give greater shape to this emerging area of focus. We will build on early work and learning conducted over the past year, including targeted grantmaking that you can explore in our online grants database. The priorities outlined above are in early stages of formation, and we intend to refine and focus this work over the course of 2016.

For now, we are sharing our early thinking both in the spirit of transparency and to benefit from your input and ideas. We have posted additional details about each of the three areas that will constitute Cross-Program Initiatives, and we invite you to send us your ideas and suggestions as we continue to refine this framework.

We will share further details throughout the year. Compared to the levels of investment in our core program areas, grantmaking for Cross-Program Initiatives will be modest. Yet we are excited to devote targeted resources to organizations and efforts that are so vital for Barr and our partners to fulfill our missions.

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