The years of our city’s inferiority complex should be well behind us at this point. The dynamic and ever present advances we as a community are making (from social innovation to the arts and from economic development to education) present a city which has matured and is leading on many fronts. Where once we defaulted to positions of political and economic defeatism, we have now emerged into a “can do culture”; one that claims the future not shies away from it.

With respect to the philanthropy, one genesis point for this “can do culture” dates back just over a hundred years with the advent of the world’s first community foundation (the Cleveland Foundation) created by Frederick Goff. This concept was to designed to pool donations into a coordinated investment and grant making facility dedicated primarily to the social improvement of a given place; a concept which was truly revolutionary at its time. However, today this model is widely employed with over 1,800 community foundations throughout the globe. An innovation begun in Cleveland and impacting the world!

As the Cleveland Foundation notes:

"But the intrinsic value of Goff’s concept goes beyond the amassing and awarding of financial resources. As evidenced by the spread of community philanthropy throughout the world, from Astrakhan, Russia, to Mozambique, to New Zealand, the concept’s universal appeal lies in a community foundation’s ability to bring people together around a common cause. From the asset-rich cities and towns of Germany to rich-in-spirit societies such as the Bedouin tribes of Egypt’s South Sinai and the matriarchal rural villages in the Indian states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, the community foundation concept has been adopted and adapted because it harnesses the power of the charitable impulse found in all cultures: the desire of people to help one another by sharing resources for the common good."

On The Front Lines of Innovation:
The innovations of investment and distribution of philanthropic dollars through a community foundation is but one example of our city's leadership in the social sector. Recognizing, celebrating and learning from the dynamic and truly transformational philanthropic history of our community over the last 100 years will serve us well as we harness our “can do culture” to develop and advance social innovation for the 21st century. So look for additional blogs on how our "can do culture" is on the rise.

For additional reading on our city's philanthropic history, please refer to:

Case Western Reserve and the Western Reserve Historical Society’s Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

Trust for All Time: The Story of The Cleveland Foundation and The Community Trust Movement (Nathaniel r. Howard)

Helping Others, helping Ourselves: Power, Giving, and Community in Cleveland, Ohio 1880-1930 (Laura Tuennerman-Kaplan)

Rebuilding Cleveland: The Cleveland Foundation and Its Evolving Urban Strategy (Diana Tittle)

As always, be focused on knowledge, innovation and impact!

John Patrick Bailey, Ph.D.



About the Author(s)

John Patrick Bailey Volunteer Services Team Leader Hospice of the Western Reserve

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