In Nigeria, we saw how our investment in staff development, information technologies, and infrastructure helped the University of Ibadan rebuild. It has now been selected as a regional hub for the Pan-African University. Pan-African is a project of the African Union that aims to create a continental network of institutions for graduate studies and research.
Other grantees create new institutions. In North Carolina, I saw the Center for Community Self-Help (Self-Help) and the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) helping low-income people gain access to capital and protecting them from predatory lenders. Self-Help has invested more than $6 billion in financing to more than 75,000 families, individuals, and organizations, more than 80 percent of whom are low-income borrowers. Self-Help created CRL to protect home ownership and wealth by working to eliminate abusive financial practices. CRL also has ambitious plans for a 250,000-member credit union in California that may help change the financial services industry.
The Chicago Public Library is leading the way toward libraries of the future. Hundreds of teenagers come daily to YOUMedia, the library's new 5,000-square-foot facility, which provides a place to hang out, use new media tools, record original compositions, interact with mentors, and make use of traditional print resources.
Across Chicago, MacArthur supports arts and culture organizations—some 200 in all. These groups and institutions create a network that strengthens the social fabric of the city and reinforces the work of schools and community organizations. The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, for example, brings Shakespeare into public school classrooms; the Albany Park Theatre Project helps immigrant youth to tell their stories through drama (which also boosts their academic performance); and the Old Town School of Folk Music has become an economic engine for its Lincoln Square neighborhood as it attracts 7,000 pupils each year.
Focus on Pressing or Neglected Issues
Foundations are able to focus attention on issues that have been overlooked or need a greater degree of attention.
One of these has been the international migration of people—one of the least regulated and understood of our global systems.
MacArthur has been the largest nongovernmental donor to the Global Forum on Migration and Development since its inception four years ago. The forum provides an opportunity for government representatives and civil society to meet and discuss better ways to deal with the movement of people around the world.
I have attended two meetings of the forum, in Athens, Greece, and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Almost 150 governments were represented in Mexico. I learned from our grantees who attended the meeting, such as the Migration Policy Institute and Sin Fronteras, about the difficulties that beset migration between the United States and Mexico. The two nations have profoundly different views on migration, and the violence, crime, and exploitation on the border continue to give grave cause for concern.
Another issue MacArthur has addressed is the fiscal crisis America faces. We established an expert committee in 2009, under the auspices of the National Academy of Public Administration and the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. The committee's report, Choosing the Nation's Fiscal Future, laid out the facts and identified various ways to remedy it. I have been impressed by the contribution the report made to the serious proposals put forward for action, and the ongoing contributions of its co-chairs: John Palmer of Syracuse University and Rudy Penner, former director of the Congressional Budget Office.
When I met with the co-chair of the President's debt-reduction commission, Erskine Bowles, he told me he had given our report to members of the commission and seen copies tagged and dog-eared in the halls of Congress—anecdotal but persuasive evidence of impact.
And, not least, our grantees can inspire. It has been a pleasure to visit our arts and culture grantees in Chicago and see their imaginative productions and exceptionally high standards they foster. I will not easily forget a dance class run by the Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, which was spending a year in a South Side high school. The focus, discipline, and commitment of the teacher electrified the dancers and, I am sure, will raise the students' expectations about what they are able to accomplish.
If a foundation is to be a genuine catalyst for change, it must build relationships of trust and mutual respect with its grantees.
One of the most gratifying parts of my visits has been to see the warm and collegial relationships between our staff and our grantees. Wherever I have traveled we have been warmly welcomed, not only because we come bearing gifts but because our grantees feel that we have their interests at heart and share their vision.
This chemistry is what makes the MacArthur Foundation effective and keeps our grantmaking fresh and relevant, and I hope to foster even more of it in the years ahead.
ROBERT L. GALLUCCI