How We Work

We value adaptation, learning, and innovation.
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We work on a few Big Bets that strive toward transformative change in areas of profound concern, including the existential threats of climate change and nuclear risk, the challenges of criminal justice reform in the U.S. and corruption in Nigeria.

In addition, we maintain Enduring Commitments in our hometown Chicago, where we invest in people, places, and partnerships to build a more inclusive Chicago and in journalism and media, where we invest in more just and inclusive news and narratives.

We also make awards to extraordinarily creative individuals through the MacArthur Fellows program and for solutions to critical problems of our time through 100&Change.

Our work is carried out:

  • With a sense of urgency
  • With adaptive and flexible approaches that enable us to apply what we are learning
  • Through a range of philanthropic approaches (e.g. forming new entities, using different structures, engaging in unexpected partnerships, etc.) where appropriate
  • Using all available tools to achieve the greatest possible impact (e.g. grants, impact investments, contracts, convenings, communications, etc.)

Each of our Big Bets and Enduring Commitments has mechanisms for oversight, governance, management, and measurement of progress and impact; each engages Staff expertise, experience, and relationships across our Chicago-based headquarters and our two country offices.

A core team provides leadership, develops strategy, and ensures effective management, implementation, and evaluation of each Big Bet and Enduring Commitment. These teams also incorporate evaluation, communications, and impact investments Staff members, all of whom are part of the strategy development, grantmaking and investment process from the beginning.

Our institutional goal is to understand the impact in all our work; evaluation is integral to the work across its lifecycle, and we identify milestones to monitor and track progress and impact. We engage a formal learning partner from the beginning of new work. We also use strategic communications as a tool to increase impact and share the work of our grantees.

Beyond the core team is a set of internal advisors, who are MacArthur Staff members with relevant background, expertise, or perspective. The role of internal advisors is to ask tough questions; provide guidance and advice on strategic direction; review and offer input on grants and investments; help consider progress toward stated goals; and ensure collaboration across the Foundation.

A small set of external advisors is also enlisted to provide critical review and extensive field knowledge. They are available for ongoing consultation and meet periodically as a group with Foundation Staff.

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Our Land Acknowledgement

Our Chicago office is situated on the land of the Potawatomi people who were forcibly removed from this land.


Our Approach to Investments

Learn more about our investment and impact investing portfolios and how we are sourcing and diversifying our asset managers.

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