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Irvine’s Creative Connections Fund Supports a Diversity of Arts Projects

BY Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2006 to 2013, last serving
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| Jun 22, 2009
Pasadena Museum of California Art officials were thrilled when two employees who work at NASA's nearby Jet Propulsion Laboratory proposed curating a show featuring artistic representations of scientific data.

But as the cost of the exhibition, Data + Art: Science and Art in the Age of Information, became clear — there would be huge images projected onto walls and a live computerized display of actual national flight traffic, among other things — museum Executive Director Jenkins Shannon worried that she could not afford to do the show justice.

Sonia Marie De Leon de Vega, Executive Director of the Santa Cecilia Orchestra of Los Angeles

Then the museum received a hoped-for $30,000 grant from The James Irvine Foundation's new Creative Connections Fund.

"Without the support, we probably would have had to downsize or postpone the exhibition," Shannon said. Instead, the show turned out to be one of the Pasadena museum's most popular ever, drawing an estimated 6,500 people over an 11-week period.

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Envisioning a Vibrant Democracy: Q&A with Amy Dominguez-Arms

BY Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum was a Communications Officer at The James Irvine Foundation from 200
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| Jun 22, 2009
Five years after creating its California Perspectives program, the James Irvine Foundation recently conducted a systematic re-examination of its grantmaking in this area.

The goal was to understand how we could focus our grantmaking for greater impact, based on what we had learned over the previous five years and considering changes in the political and policy environment. As part of this re-examination, our program staff engaged in a series of discussions with our board, grantees and leaders in communities across the state.

Amy Dominguez-Arms, Director of Irvine's California Democracy program

The result of this process, announced in May, is a modified program design and a new program name — California Democracy. The program’s essential mission has not changed; it is still focused on advancing effective public policy decision making that is reflective of and responsive to all Californians. And the new name is simply a better description of the grantmaking that we had already been doing.

Irvine’s grantmaking under the California Democracy program will focus on two major areas: Governance Reform and Civic Engagement. And within these areas, we’ve targeted our grantmaking in ways that we think take best advantage of our resources and opportunities and will make the greatest difference for the people of California.

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Irvine Announces $21 Million in New Grants

BY Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2006 to 2013, last serving
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| Jun 17, 2009

San Francisco The Board of Directors of The James Irvine Foundation has approved 21 grants totaling more than $21 million in support of the Foundation's mission of expanding opportunity for the people of California to participate in a vibrant, successful and inclusive society. (For a list of approved grants, click here.)

Of the $21 million, $3.3 million will support four California arts organizations that are developing innovative ways to deepen their engagement with audiences. A $750,000 grant through the California Democracy program will fund the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment to promote the systematic inclusion of low-income residents in Tulare, Kern and Kings counties in land-use decision making. Additionally, a grant in the Youth program will provide $11.3 million to implement comprehensive multiple pathways programs at various school districts within California.

Developing New Approaches to Attract Audiences for the Arts

The goal of Irvine’s Arts program is to promote a vibrant and inclusive artistic and cultural environment in California. Grants approved as part of the Arts program include $3.3 million to support four California arts organizations through Irvine’s Arts Innovation Fund (AIF). The American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in San Francisco, the Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) and the Oakland Museum of California will each receive grants to support creative audience-development approaches and/or innovative programming plans. The grants fund new innovations at ACT and MCASD and help the Hammer and Oakland museums to institutionalize and sustain innovative practices that were funded by Irvine in 2006 as part of AIF.

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The 2009 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards Honor Extraordinary Californians for Innovative, Practical Solutions

BY Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum was a Communications Officer at The James Irvine Foundation from 200
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| Jun 09, 2009

SacramentoThe James Irvine Foundation will hold an event today in Sacramento to announce and honor the recipients of the 2009 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards. Now in its fourth year, the awards celebrate extraordinary leaders who are advancing innovative and effective solutions to significant state issues. The awards are intended to publicize proven solutions that can inform policymaking and better the lives of more Californians.

The six recipients – further described below – will each receive $125,000 and additional support from the Foundation. Presenters at the event will include California elected and appointed officials such as Kim Belshé, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services agency; Dale Bonner, Secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency; Controller John Chiang; Treasurer Bill Lockyer. Recipients will also participate in a roundtable discussion about the ways California might adopt the successful models they’ve created in their communities.

“While tough economic times can exacerbate some of our most pressing problems, they also present an opportunity to adopt new approaches so we are using scarce resources as wisely as possible,” said Jim Canales, President and CEO of the Irvine Foundation.

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Irvine in the News: May 2009

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
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| May 31, 2009

In May 2009, the following published articles mentioned the work of the Foundation or our grantees:

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Irvine in the News: April 2009

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
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| Apr 30, 2009

In April 2009, the following published articles mentioned the work of the Foundation or our grantees:

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Chronicle of Philanthropy: An Unprecedented Challenge Gives Philanthropy a Chance to End Bad Habits

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Apr 23, 2009
The following opinion article by Jim Canales, Irvine’s President and CEO, ran in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on April 23, 2009.

These are unprecedented times in philanthropy. The economic difficulties facing our country are beginning to overwhelm and strain nonprofit organizations in profound ways, at the very time when the endowments of foundations have eroded significantly.

This has, of course, stimulated important discussions about the share of assets foundations should give from their endowments each year, the importance of supporting advocacy, and many other ways that foundations can make a difference during this downturn.

These discussions are important, and each foundation, in the context of its values, legacy, and competencies, should certainly give thought to how it can best support nonprofit organizations in response to this crisis.

At the same time, as foundation officials, we would be well served to return to first principles and to remind ourselves that how we do our work can be just as important as what we choose to do.

Philanthropy is fundamentally a human enterprise, so as we make important strategic choices in response to the economic crisis, we should also embrace this as an opportunity to change behavior that undermines our effectiveness.

The power imbalance inherent in our work as well as the lack of any consistent feedback mechanism can permit the occupational hazards of insularity, complacency, and arrogance to thrive. Those unfortunate traits inhibit the ability of foundations to work as collaboratively with nonprofit groups as they should.

Insularity. Foundations are often accused of believing that the best ideas are those generated within their own walls. This view of foundations as distant ivory towers cannot be readily dismissed, and there are steps we should consider to demonstrate that we are guarding against the groupthink and narrow mind-set that insularity can produce.

The technological innovations that have swept society over the past decade might offer some solutions. The emergence of blogs as a means to engage in thoughtful and spirited public conversations about philanthropic strategies and choices has been a welcome shift.

Whether it's the Tactical Philanthropy blog, written by Sean Stannard-Stockton, or the frequent posts on The Huffington Post by Paul Brest, president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, we have seen many examples that have enriched how foundations think and, more important, done so in a public and accessible way, inviting broader public comment. Similarly, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation's experiment in using a wiki to develop a possible grant-making strategy was commendable and offers yet another model for foundations to consider.

Each of us should give thought to how we might harness the power of technology, or other less sophisticated tools, to invite outside views into our decisions, to communicate openly about our work, to clarify what led to our conclusions, and to share what we have learned. In so doing, we will naturally find ways to engage other key players in the process. In the end, not only will we demonstrate our commitment to open and inclusive processes, but it is very likely that we will do a better job of achieving our social missions.

Complacency. In a field in which a measurable bottom line is elusive (other than the performance of our endowments) and there is no market force that suggests which foundations are succeeding and which are failing, it can be easy to fall into the trap of complacency. Moreover, as foundations are accountable to an amorphous general public, in view of their tax-exempt status, lines of accountability can be unclear.

And yet we are primarily accountable to our boards, and we have an obligation to ensure that we equip them to carry out their oversight and stewardship responsibilities thoughtfully.

A board's ability to exercise wise oversight often rests on the information we choose to give them, on the ways in which we organize our board meetings, and on members' exposure to and experience with the issues the foundation cares about.

As such, it is incumbent upon those of us in staff positions, especially leadership roles, to take all the steps we can to ensure that our boards are setting strategy and offering valuable insights based on their knowledge and expertise from the outside world. In doing so, they will raise important (and often difficult) questions and will help us to step up our efforts. The best foundation board meetings ought not to be those in which we all feel good (or even relieved) at the end; rather, they should be those in which our ways of thinking are challenged, our strategies questioned, and the resulting product improved. In building and fostering boards that engage constructively with staff members in these ways, we make an important statement about the pitfalls of complacency.

Arrogance. The power imbalance inherent to our work, combined with the lack of a formal and consistent feedback mechanism, makes it far too easy to start believing that those of us in foundations are the smartest people in the room.

It is unfortunate that honest criticism and direct pushback are rarities when nonprofit groups approach foundations. And that is not because grant seekers are timid; it is the result of behavior that we in philanthropy have unfortunately reinforced. Clearly, we have collectively sent the message that we'd prefer that our suggestions be adopted and that our view carry the day. So what can be done?

The best way to guard against this, of course, is to remain vigilant about how our behavior can be read and might even be misread. One cannot overstate the power of humility in this regard. Jim Collins, in Good to Great, writes of "Level Five" leadership, which represents the pinnacle of effective business leadership based on his rigorous research. Such leadership is characterized by a "paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will." And when applied to philanthropy, humility is even more powerful, probably because we don't see enough of this powerful antidote to arrogance.

Philanthropy must seize this moment of crisis and convert it to a moment of opportunity for social missions that motivate us. We must indeed marshal our best thinking to capitalize on this unprecedented moment, but as we do so, let's also remember that we will be judged not only by what we do in response but also by how we do it. And indeed, if we can look back at this moment as the time when philanthropy collectively and aggressively turned away from the occupational hazards of insularity, complacency, and arrogance, that will be a lasting legacy.

James E. Canales is chief executive of the James Irvine Foundation, in San Francisco.

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From the President: Refining Our Grantmaking Strategies

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Apr 01, 2009
Jim Canales, President & CEO

Dear Friends,

Every March, the Irvine Foundation Board of Directors meets for two days to reflect upon the Foundation’s progress and consider longer-term strategic issues outside of our regular board meeting cycle. This year’s meeting was particularly noteworthy because we comprehensively reviewed all three of Irvine’s core grantmaking programs of Arts, California Perspectives and Youth. We launched these three programs in 2003-04, following a comprehensive planning process, and now with five years of grantmaking behind us, we saw our meeting as an opportunity to discuss what we have learned, what has changed and how we may want to refine the programs. Our annual report later this year will report on some of the specifics for 2008, but I wanted to focus in this letter on some of the broader themes discussed and next steps identified.

Our aspirations in each program area are ambitious and our board reaffirmed its commitment to them over the long term. But we also discussed the value of ongoing refinements in our strategy. We acknowledge that maximizing progress toward our program goals requires that we learn as we go, increase our support for the approaches that work best, and take advantage of opportunities that may arise as we execute our plans.

For example, in the Youth program, we are focusing our grantmaking in a more targeted way on multiple pathways, which we consider a particularly promising approach to high-school reform. You can read more about this refinement in this issue’s Q&A with our Youth Program Director Anne Stanton. Our other two programs — California Perspectives and Arts — are also refining their strategies while staying committed to the goals we set several years ago. We will describe these refinements in upcoming issues of the Irvine Quarterly and through future updates on our Web site.

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Irvine in the News: March 2009

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
User is currently offline
| Mar 31, 2009

In March 2009, the following published articles mentioned the work of the Foundation or our grantees:

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Irvine Program Seeks to Increase Access, Demand for the Arts

BY Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2006 to 2013, last serving
User is currently offline
| Mar 22, 2009
For many arts organizations, cultivating a more diverse audience is a desired but sometimes elusive goal.

Through its focus on cultural participation, the Irvine Foundation’s Arts program seeks to help a range of California arts organizations – from large, mainstream groups to small, community-based organizations – engage more diverse audiences. This includes lower income people, ethnic minorities, youth and others that the arts don’t always reach.

“We look at cultural participation as a way to reach more broadly and more equitably than arts have done historically,” said John McGuirk, Director of Irvine’s Arts program. “We want to make certain that arts are accessible to everyone, not just those most able and motivated to buy a ticket and donate.”

John McGuirk, Director of Irvine’s Arts program

“During this recession, we are focusing less on artistic creation, and more on stimulating demand through cultural participation and engagement.”

- John McGuirk, Director of Irvine’s Arts program

As the recent experience of two Irvine grantees demonstrates, the benefits can go well beyond increasing ticket sales. It can mean discovering a new wellspring of passion about art. It can unleash the creation of new works with greater relevance to underserved populations. And it can strengthen communities by bringing them together.

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Aaron Pick
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"As Senior Program Officer of the Youth program, Aa..."
Alex Barnum
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Amy Dominguez-Arms
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Anne Stanton
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