To local foundation leader Sushma Raman, the power of public policy to influence positive social change is no secret. Nor is the power of a dollar to multiply many times over in benefits to communities when invested in policy advocacy.
While foundations big and small know this well, Raman, a Senior Fellow at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and president of Southern California Grantmakers, writes -- in the Fall 2011 edition of the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) -- that foundations tend to prefer to support direct services and “shy away” from public policy.
Raman, who teaches a Center for Civil Society course on the nonprofit sector, the state, and civil society at the Luskin School, cites the current American economy as a compelling reason to “reassess their attitude toward public policy engagement.”
Raman uses U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass’s former organization, Community Coalition, as one example of a South Los Angeles institution with an emphasis on shaping public policy. Also cited is the Ford Foundation and Open Society Institute-funded organization, International Budget Partnership. The partnership, which supports civil society groups across the globe, believes “timely and meaningful information” provided to the public on government spending of public funds should be a part of policy strategy.
In her article, “Focusing on Advocacy,” Raman writes, “Increased scrutiny of the philanthropic sector and the expectation that foundations can fill the gap created by diminishing public resources have created a need for foundations to step up and participate in the public policy debate in an organized and strategic fashion.”
Read the full article, “Focusing on Advocacy,” (pdf)