On Coordinating with Government Without Getting Co-opted

From Vartan Gregorian, Carnegie Corporation of New York: “Foundations cherish their independence, but we live in difficult times. When appropriate, foundations must coordinate their actions with each other, as well as with state and federal governments, provided they don’t lose their autonomy and independence in the process.”

  • I work on the government side of the fence. Sometimes a foundation is useful precisely because of its autonomy; it can do things governments cannot do themselves.
  • Not having a seat at the table means running the risk of not having a voice in the decision making — which will happen with or without us.
  • Coordination is potentially higher value than collaboration. Coordinating can mean covering all the bases through various strategies and ideas, while collaborating with government can result in compromise.
  • Not surprisingly, the political world is political. Government makes political decisions that the facts can’t sway. It is a balancing act and requires great relationships to figure out how best to work collaboratively with someone on a project while you’re advocating for them to change policies or practices in another area. Sometimes we have to be willing not to take a public position on something so as not to jeopardize something else that’s more valuable.
  • Partner when possible, vigorously oppose when necessary!

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Working with Government.