Bridging the gaps

Charity needs to attack social problems head-on.

By Todd Cohen

[03.11.04] — Change takes leadership, and charities can lead by speaking the truth about what is wrong in America.

Before quitting the presidential primaries, John Edwards of North Carolina showed honest talk about civic change is critical and can be civil.

Charities exist to repair social ills, but will not confront the powers that perpetuate flawed public and philanthropic policies.

To help fix what is broken, charities need to fight, talking bluntly about policies that limit support for urgently needed social services.

Charities also need to change themselves.

Charities can choke on their own smugness, turf and philanthropic correctness.

Before they can change society, charities need to face their internal flaws,  find partners to help retool, write business plans, track their impact, bird-dog mistakes and make adjustments.

As they get their own houses in order, charities need to team up with one another and with government and business to find market-driven ways to address the tangle of social problems tied to one another.

Attacking those problems in a society torn along lines of wealth, race, faith and culture requires working together to close the gaps that divide us.

It is time for charities to speak up and get moving.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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