Reasons for Optimism

October 19, 2009

Imagination is a powerful force. The human capacity to look at a problem, and imagine a way to solve it, lies at the heart of the progress and innovation for which our nation is so justly proud.
At the moment our country, and the Midwest in particular, face a host of challenges, many of which are rooted in the most serious economic downturn since World War II. One might ask, how can we hope to make progress on public policy issues when the financial deck seems stacked against us?
There are good reasons for optimism. For example, Washington has become more open to new ideas and strategies; national leaders are reaching out aggressively to the nation’s sprawling nonprofit sector for policy expertise and proposed solutions. At the state level too, governors and legislatures are turning increasingly to foundation-supported policy research and development groups in their efforts to balance budgets without further burdening those most in need of state services. In short, the idea that failure is not an option is very much alive, and that’s good news.
Today’s economic crisis may be the immediate impetus for change. But the fact that potential solutions are available to address some of the very tough problems, with research to back them up, is due to the insight, energy, and persistence of individuals and groups who saw those problems coming in the first place and responded with imagination and creativity. Foundations like Joyce, and our many good partners in philanthropy, can continue to provide the long-term backing necessary to bring the best of society’s new thinking to bear on the challenges before us.
Now is the time to actively promote implementation of the best ideas, with active attention to evaluating what works and what does not, to help shape the nation’s future well-being.
Tomorrow: Designing Efforts and Charting Courses of Action
 

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Ellen S. Alberding

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Rip Rapson
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