The Crucial Collective Mission of Community Foundations | City of Ideas

Posted 07/29/2016 by Keith A. Mahoney

In recent weeks, we have seen how this growing divide is fueling dissatisfaction in the body politic, on both the left and the right. Across the country, Americans are increasingly segregated by class, and the opportunity gap is growing wider. Boston now ranks as the third most unequal city in the United States, behind Atlanta and San Francisco, and many Bostonians are stuck in inter-generational poverty. Children in wealthier communities and neighborhoods not only have access to enrichment activities that prepare them for academic and professional success, but also the support networks that buffer them from adverse life events.

This is not news to many of us. Indeed, the Boston Indicators Project highlighted the growing inequality of the region in its 2009 report, A Great Reckoning, Healing a Growing Divide, and through the course of The Boston Foundation's centennial year of 2015, we hosted three Understanding Boston forums to explore how we can create greater income equity and upward mobility.

What was encouraging about the meeting in Chicago was the sense of optimism and common purpose that was shared by attendees from Atlanta to Duluth. Community foundations can afford to take the long view, invest in responses that work on the local level and join together to hold a national conversation. We have pledged to work together to create deeper awareness of the opportunity gap and advance a range of solutions. We also seek to create a national hub and voice around which others -- including think tanks, social change institutions, private foundations and government -- might coalesce.

Robert Putnam has called community foundations part of the "civic backbone of America." As such, we have the unique standing and moral responsibility to take up the challenge of increasing economic mobility for all Americans. I am encouraged that community foundations are working to meet that challenge together.


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