Since its beginning in 1953, the Bush Foundation has invested in sustaining the vitality of communities across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations that share the same geographic area. Over those nearly six decades we have supported the work of hundreds of organizations and thousands individuals working on a broad array of issues. We are proud of the work of our grantees and fellows. We know that their work has made a difference for their communities.
Today these communities face fundamental changes in their prospects and possibilities. Some places are growing rapidly while others are emptying out. An aging population means growing demands for service, reduced growth in the work force and, as a result, lower prospects for economic growth. Health care cost increases continue putting tremendous pressure on the budgets of every family and organization. The jobs of the future require a level of education beyond what our schools, colleges and universities are producing today. Public institutions and nonprofit organizations face rising demands for service with limited resources to respond. These are not short-term conditions, but rather a new long-term reality that will affect the vitality of communities and the people in them for decades to come. Adapting to this new reality will pose tough problems that are complex, challenge the status quo, will not be solved with business-as-usual approaches, and will require change by whole communities.
The Bush Foundation must also adapt to this new reality where making a difference means solving tough public problems. Our work has taught us that solving problems requires a combination of innovation and courageous leadership that engages whole communities to face the challenges and conflict that are a part of change and discover sustainable solutions. Of course, we do not have the ability or the resources to take on every problem that communities face or to work with every community. That is why we will focus on public institutions and the systems of which they are a part – helping to develop and support courageous leadership both inside and outside to leverage change and find solutions. Thus, the Foundation has ceased making grants across a broad spectrum of issues and organizations and is focusing its attention on finding solutions to specific tough public problems and building the capacity of communities to solve their own problems.
We are partnering with other organizations that share our focus, and working together to get results in two ways. First, we are committing ourselves to finding solutions to specific problems critical to the vitality of communities where we believe we can make a significant contribution. To do so we look at the facts, partner with those willing to exercise courageous leadership, and work together to implement strategies we think are most likely to make a difference. Today, we are involved in two decade-long commitments:
Second, we help communities develop their capacity to solve their own tough public problems. We do this through a combination of leadership development and by providing research, data, tools, and opportunities to connect with others needed for developing innovative and sustainable solutions.
Through this work, the Bush Foundation is a catalyst for the courageous leadership necessary to create sustainable solutions to tough public problems and ensure community vitality.