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The National Civic League's 103rd National Conference on Governance provided a rare "safe space" for the more than 250 community, foundation, nonprofit, and public sector leaders to exchange ideas on an important topic: the role of philanthropy in building community It was an illuminating conversation. In the process of convening this conference, we discovered how much we already understood about community building, and how much we still have to learn. Even our ideas about the meaning of the word community are changing, and so are our ideas about what constitutes effective philanthropy.
America's "independent sector" has long been a vital source of civic strength, but as National Civic League Chairman Bill Bradley suggests in his article in this edition of the National Civic Review, the civic sector is often ignored in debates about public policy The quiet work of communities may seem peripheral to the hot-button issues that grab headlines in the news media, but the work is certainly central to the idea of citizen democracy. Much of this quiet but important community work has been accomplished with the support of foundations.
If anything, the role of philanthropy has grown in recent years. It has accompanied the shift away from large, federally funded social programs and renewed interest in civic infrastructure and collaborative problem solving at the local and regional levels. Although the importance of the public and private sectors should never be ignored, a strong and effective independent sector is absolutely critical if America's communities are to address the difficult challenges that lie ahead.
It comes as no surprise, then, that a recurring theme of the conference was the need for greater collaboration among and between philanthropic …