Rockefeller Brothers Fund Launches National Priorities Initiative at IS Conference

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund has announced the first steps in a new initiative aimed at reuniting Americans around a common purpose.

During the annual Independent Sector conference earlier this week in New York City, RBF president Stephen Heintz and IS president and CEO Diana Aviv unveiled the National Purpose Initiative, a multiyear effort to develop, by 2016, a broadly shared national agenda, a statement of shared principles that informs the nation's politics and economic life, and a vision for the country's future that is "animating, unifying, and empowering." To that end, organizations partnering in the effort will engage the public and leaders from the nonprofit and for-profit sectors in a dialogue about national priorities, the NonProfit Times reports.

In addition to RBF, the initiative is supported by the Open Society Foundations, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Rockefeller, Kellogg, Hewlett, Packard, Mellon, and MacArthur foundations.

"The economic and political problems our nation confronts today are as deep-seated and complex as any we've faced in the last hundred years," Heintz said during the conference's opening plenary session. "Yet, I believe this country has the capacity to revive its dreams and reinvent them for this century. I believe we can renew America's promise — if we can unlock and harness the collective energy, ingenuity, and idealism of our people."

According to Aviv, an intense competition for resources combined with a focus on demonstrating impact has led many charitable organizations to turn inward, "shedding all but a very specific band of activities." As a result, she said, organizations are less likely to work in collaboration with other organizations or the public. "Screening out disagreeable opinions breaks down the connective tissue of a pluralistic society, and democracy falters," said Aviv. "In sum, society is more divided than ever and more isolated."

"Planning for a National Purpose Initiative Is Launched." Rockefeller Brothers Fund Press Release 10/01/2013. Paul Clolery. "Funders Launch National Conversation on a 'Common Purpose'." NonProfit Times 10/01/2013.