Last week, this week, and next week are for 2012 renamed collectively Democracy Weeks. I kicked off the theme on Thursday night last week with a guest lecture to a graduate class on the subject of “Democracy and Philanthropy.” In this lecture I challenged students to, first, think about the meaning of “procedural democracy,” “substantive democracy,” and “civically healthy community.” Second, I challenged them to think about the best institution or set of institutions to for enhancing our democracy in all its forms and outcomes. Specifically, what can philanthropy do? What is the role of community foundations? In the lecture PowerPoint (download here), I suggest that Community Foundations can play a pivotal role as honest broker without the baggage of distrust as might exist in other institutions… do you agree?
I call on the example from the San Diego Foundation, which recently received a $5million endowment gift to establish the Malin Burnham Center for Civic Engagement, which might perform such a role. We looked at this example as a positive one but questioned how generalizable it is to smaller community foundations.
Speaking of the Golden State, later this week and into next week, I will be traveling to Southern California to deliver guest lectures at the University of La Verne to masters students, doctoral students, and faculty on the subjects of doing civic engagement, researching civic engagement, and teaching civic engagement. I will share my presentations here when they are finalized.
California is a unique place to discuss civic engagement. Like Florida, it is a state that does not enjoy a high level of civic health, and it maintains a potentially unhealthy level of distrust in government. It seems a perfect time to learn from the San Diego Foundation and the investment in civic health by Malin Burnham.