PRESIDENT'S ESSAY

"It has been a great privilege for me to lead the MacArthur Foundation over the last five years. The mission of the Foundation around the world, our areas of work, and our dedicated staff have all challenged and inspired me." —ROBERT L. GALLUCCI, PRESIDENT

Philanthropy and the Future

Essay by Robert L. Gallucci, MacArthur Foundation President

Looking Forward

It has been a great privilege for me to lead the MacArthur Foundation over the last five years. The mission of the Foundation around the world, our areas of work, and our dedicated staff have all challenged and inspired me.

My interaction with grantees has been deeply rewarding. The people who serve in civil society organizations are among the most visionary and hardworking I have encountered. I learned a great deal from them, and was encouraged by their commitment and effectiveness.

Living and working in Chicago, I came to have a deep affection for the city, its people, and the organizations that work together in this place. I know that MacArthur’s commitment to Chicago will strengthen and endure.

Since 1978, the MacArthur Foundation has grown, changed, and reinvented itself several times – as healthy organizations must. I will remain keenly interested in the Foundation’s evolution and the fresh challenges it will undertake.

All organizations need to grapple with their roles in the future – as do nations and individuals. Prediction, while inherently risky, is nevertheless indispensable. Recently Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University, asked me to consider what the world would be like in 2040 from the perspective of a foreign affairs veteran. (That essay will be published as part of a collection, tentatively titled The Fabulous Future? America and the World in 2040, that aims to describe the kind of world we will live in 25 years from now.) In what follows, I share the main threads of this thought experiment – continuity, changes, and challenges that America and the world seem likely to face, and the context within which philanthropy must operate.

Future planning must take into account a range of possibilities, rank them in probability, and calculate how best to respond to the possible risks and opportunities. In my analysis, I adopted a simple formula that employs three categories: what is likely to remain the same, where current trends might take us, and what events (though extremely unlikely) are possible game changers – the so-called “Black Swans.”