We’re very proud to present a new monograph from Daniel Kemmis, “Philanthropy and the Renewal of Democracy: Is it Time to Step Up Our Game?” We’ve published this in collaboration with the Kettering Foundation, because we believe that there is an intimate and vital connection between philanthropy’s aspirations to build a better society and the daily practice of democracy and civic engagement. In this new work, Kemmis offers both an appreciative history and some probing questions grounded in current events.
We invited Kemmis to introduce his monograph in his own words, and here’s what he told us:
I’ve spent a good part of my life practicing democracy (in the sense of trying to get better at it), both in elected office and through various forms of civic engagement. And I’ve devoted a roughly equal amount of time to thinking and writing about democracy. More recently, to my good fortune, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know a bit about the field of philanthropy, both as a foundation board member and now as a member of the Philanthropy Northwest board.
An optimist by nature, I’ve always been more inclined to pay attention to the half-full than the half-empty portion of the democracy glass. Lately, though, that has become more of a challenge, as multiple dysfunctions have damaged or disabled so many of our democratic institutions. Convinced that democracy needs and deserves all the help it can get, I began to pay closer attention to philanthropy’s role in nurturing and strengthening democracy. The harder I looked, the more impressed I became with the breadth and depth of philanthropy’s ongoing contribution.
At the same time, it began to seem that there might now be a unique opportunity for a focused and productive philanthropic investment in democratic vitality. At the very least, I am eager to hear what others in the field are thinking about that. This paper is an invitation to that conversation.