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Lunch & Learn n°34

Mercredi 5 juin 2019

The power of foundations: How should foundations influence public policies?

As private organizations working for the public good, foundations use reliable sources of income to fund initiatives in various areas of interest for policymakers, such as health, education or culture.
Foundations are described as “independent” because they have no shareholders, no members, and no voters to please. As long as they respect the law and their charter, they enjoy considerable freedom to act in innovate ways. Some of them go beyond changes “on the ground” and have an explicit goal to promote policy reform and thus drive profound change in local, national or international policies. Of course, in countries where foundations are numerous and wealthy, such as the United States or Denmark, they have much greater power to influence policymaking. There are many ways that foundations can do so in democratic societies. They can fund research on specific causes that they wish to promote and address. They can convene a broad range of stakeholders to frame social problems and potential solutions, from marginalized groups to high-profile experts. Foundations can choose to set the agenda themselves and influence policymakers directly, or they can use a collective and deliberative approach, which usually takes more time to achieve the desired change. They can either fund steady, local programs or pilots which could be rolled out at scale by policymakers if successful. Which approaches are more likely to succeed? What should be foundations’ role in policy-making amidst the current wave of populism and distrust towards elites? To what extent are foundations legitimate to influence public policies given their “non-democratic” character?

Avec :
  • Megan Tompkins-Stange, Professeur de politique publique, University of Michigan (USA). Auteur du livre « Policy patrons: Philanthropy, education reform, and the politics of influence » (Harvard Education Press, 2016).
  • Delphine Lalu, Secrétaire générale de la Fondation AG2R La Mondiale, Présidente de la section des affaires économiques du Conseil économique social et environnemental (CESE).


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