President’s Update, Winter 2014

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Lauren B. Dachs writes about the Foundation and its work.

As we move through this decade, we are deepening our engagement with the organizations that are aligned with the Foundation’s strategies. Together with nonprofit leaders and funding partners, we continue to address complex issues facing the state, with a singular focus on advancing a productive, vibrant, and sustainable future for California. We feel privileged to work with such an outstanding group of dedicated California citizens.

Over the past year, Foundation colleagues and I celebrated achievements on many fronts, including an early investment in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics in California, the opening of the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in West Virginia, and the bolstering of a leading research center on water issues at the University of California, Davis. There are links to these stories and several others on the website.

Strategic Goals

Much of 2013 was spent sharpening our grantmaking focus as we prepare to invest all the Foundation’s resources, or spend down, by 2020. Our strategic lines of work are grounded in the mission, goals, and values of the Foundation. Over the next seven years, our team will collaborate with grantees and funding partners to accomplish ambitious goals.

In Education, we:

btn3-in-school Support current teachers in shifting to new academic standards, incorporating inquiry-based learning and character development principles;
Invest in teacher training programs that incorporate content knowledge and emergent practices required by the new standards;
btn3-out-of-schoool Nurture development of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), strong character, and appreciation for the environment for California’s K–8 grade children through experiential learning in out-of-school time.
Foster leadership, good citizenship, and environmental stewardship among California youth in grades 6–12 through mentoring and environmental and community-based service learning opportunities; and
btn3-policy-and-advocacy Support the movement of California’s education policies toward a comprehensive, rational approach for K–12 teaching and learning.

In Environment, we:

btn3-water Ensure water management decisions are grounded in science and best practice;
Promote integrated water management that benefits the state’s communities and environment;
btn3-land Encourage effective stewardship of California’s protected lands to engage local communities over the long term, preserve wildlife habitat, and provide recreational opportunities; and
Advance effective natural resource management on private and unprotected lands to benefit both natural and human communities.

 

Our strategies are shaped by our founder and Board Chair, Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr., and his interests in solving problems in K–8 STEM education, addressing the challenging issues of managing California’s water, and creating a next generation of leaders who understand and practice good citizenship. The strategies seek to fulfill his vision by generating lasting momentum on these Education and Environment issues.

We have developed a strategic framework to guide the Foundation’s work through 2020 and share the knowledge gained with the larger community. We are proposing new initiatives where there is high potential for impact and doubling down on solutions we know are working. We are aware that the Education and Environment fields are constantly shifting. Some shifts we can anticipate; others we cannot. Therefore, we will both adjust our course, as appropriate, and address new opportunities as they emerge, keeping in mind that our last grant will be made in 2020.

The Foundation recognizes the need to have a strong link between policy and practice to achieve impact. To that end we will seed and test models and programs in order to support and scale best practices and inform policy. An example is the California Water Foundation (CWF), which is supported by the Foundation and other funders. CWF advances innovative projects and policies that address water challenges today, while bringing together experts, stakeholders, and the public to achieve long-term, science-based solutions for the future.

At times the Foundation’s grantmaking is inspired by new public policies. For example, the adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics provides the Foundation with an opportunity to help organizations that are preparing California’s young people for the future. Our statewide initiative, Math in Common®, supports a group of school districts to identify, evaluate, and share the most promising teaching practices to help educators shift to the new math standards.

Spending Down

Guided by our Board of Directors, we will spend down the Foundation’s assets by the end of 2020. The Foundation’s work over the next seven years will focus on seeking solutions and supporting capacity building for key strategic grantees, including leadership development, organizational strategy, financial sustainability, board development, and/or communications. In so doing, we hope to leave them better positioned for ongoing impact.

Seven years is a short period of time to create momentum around a big idea or to build organizations or fields. We need to be visionary and inspirational but also realistic and practical about what it will take to get the results we want in this time period. We are willing to take reasonable risks to achieve our ambitious goals. We are committed to leaving behind not only results but also the lessons of our work for others to build on what is achieved by 2020.

We sincerely appreciate your interest in our work.