Pilot House from the harbor

Matt Conti

Radio Silence Not Required

At Barr, we don’t think strategic planning requires going quiet until the work is done.

Strategic planning by foundations can often be opaque. That is why, during Barr’s planning efforts, we have strived for open and transparent communications. We want to minimize the mystery and keep our partners connected and apprised of our progress. In my July update, I noted our intention to finalize and share our strategic plans for Barr’s Arts & Culture, Climate, and Education programs during the first quarter of 2016. I also emphasized that we will continue engaging and investing in efforts aligned with Barr’s current priorities, even while we plan for the future. To that end, we announced $6.5 million in new grants earlier today.

As a further expression of Barr’s aspiration to shed light on our planning work, we are initiating a new blog series. Beginning with this post, every few weeks until February 2016, Barr staff members will share important dimensions of our planning—key trends influencing the fields in which we are engaged; our perspectives about the strategic implications of these trends for Barr; and other themes that are emerging as we undertake this work.

Our intention is to share what we are learning, to describe how we are aligning our strategies with ever-shifting environments, and to preview some of the new directions at Barr.

We are, of course, planning a more comprehensive roll out of Barr’s strategies during the first quarter of 2016, but we view this series as an opportunity to bring greater transparency to the outcome of this work.

In my last update, I also described several common attributes guiding our planning. Among them is engaging outside perspectives to sharpen our thinking. For our Climate program, we assembled an advisory group to provide input to our program planning. During our most recent meeting, the group emphasized the importance of Barr being clear about its goals and priorities, but not becoming overly rigid about what we believe the path of change will look like—in other words, that we be firm on the ends, but more flexible as to the means. This is especially true in a field as complex and rapidly-changing as climate change, yet we think the advice will surely hold true across our other programs as well.

A final observation as we launch this series: when we refreshed Barr’s website earlier this year, we introduced a comments section on our blog to encourage visitors to engage and share their thoughts with us. Thus far, the feature has not gained much traction (this appears to be a challenge for many foundations). We hope that this new series will activate greater engagement and permit us to benefit from your ideas, reactions, and reflections. So, please, share your thoughts.

We look forward to doing our part to make the work of philanthropy just a little more open and accessible, and we appreciate your continued interest in the Barr Foundation.

Learn more about Barr's planning work

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Jim Canales

James E. Canales

President & Trustee