Private philanthropy must work at the heart, rather than at the margins, of the complex economic, social, political, and environmental problems plaguing American cities in order to contribute meaningfully to their revitalization and success, Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson said at last week's CEOs for Cities national meeting.
Speaking to an audience of mayors, corporate executives, and other urban leaders, Rapson applauded the work done by philanthropy to help nonprofits improve the daily lives of millions of individuals in communities around the nation, but added that ways must be found to address the underlying problems that perpetuate those needs. Citing success stories in four urban areas, he urged large, privately endowed foundations to behave strategically with respect to cities by helping stakeholders establish a vision for concerted action, working to align civic actors, aggregating risk capital, and connecting low-income people to the mainstream economy.
Rapson emphasized the importance of strengthening cities by identifying bridges between low-income communities and regional economic opportunities and noted the work being carried out in Detroit through the New Economy Initiative, a $100 million fund established by Kresge and nine other national, regional, and local foundations.
"Unless we identify and influence long-term leverage points capable of moving intricately interrelated public, private, and civic systems, we will make no contribution to breaking calcified patterns of disinvestment, inequality, and injustice," Rapson said. "We will not, in a word, make any enduring improvement in our citizens' day-to-day quality of life and their long-term trajectories of opportunity."
For the complete version of Rapson's remarks, visit the Kresge Foundation Web site.