October 25, 2012

California Forward—Five Foundations Collaborate to Repair Government

Five foundations—the James Irvine Foundation; The California Endowment; the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation—are collaborating to forge a consensus among a broad, bipartisan coalition of stakeholders about the best way to fix state government.

By: Daniel Stid
What can be done when government dysfunction threatens your philanthropic goals? Proposition 31, on the California ballot this November, is an example of a philanthropic strategy to address precisely this gridlock.

For a group of California-based foundations that are passionate about issues that range from education to climate change to health, partisan politics in California were creating a seemingly insurmountable barrier to making progress on their important philanthropic priorities.

These foundations—the James Irvine Foundation, The California Endowment, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation—realized that they were uniquely positioned to make a difference. Unlike legislators or interest groups, they didn’t have an overt stake in party politics. They, importantly, had the resources to develop and communicate a strong message. And they could take a long-term view that focused on creating the governance conditions that would catalyze better policy for decades to come.

In 2007, led by the James Irvine Foundation, the group bet the first of an eventual $32 million on the risky but potentially game-changing idea of reforming the fundamental rules of state politics through a radically different approach that relied on compromise and bipartisan consensus.

The foundations jointly launched a separate organization, California Forward, to support their aims. They charged California Forward with forging a consensus among a broad, bipartisan coalition of stakeholders about the best way to fix state government.

One current initiative: On November 6th, Californians will vote on a ballot measure to enact a broad package of governance and fiscal reforms originating from that bold idea, including performance-based budgeting and greater legislative transparency. The Government Performance and Accountability Act is supported by a partnership between the California Forward Action Fund and Nicolas Berggruen’s Think Long Committee of California, among others.

Learn more about California Forward’s work. Read more on another philanthropist, Nicolas Berggruen, who is working to reform California government.

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