Philanthropy initiative to address state’s critical issues

January 3, 2019

At the Delaware Community Foundation’s inaugural Leadership Lecture in November, Professor Robert D. Putnam spoke about building opportunity in Delaware. Putnam is a world-renowned sociologist and author of “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” and “Bowling Alone.” The lecture was the first in what will be an annual DCF event to spark conversations statewide and bring people together to build solutions to Delaware’s greatest challenges.

Putnam spoke to an audience of 300 people in Wilmington about the growing imbalance of access to healthcare, education, employment and other opportunities necessary to achieve social and economic success in Delaware and throughout the country.

“The very first words we said when we became America were, ‘All men are created equal.’ It’s in our DNA. Our DNA is not that everyone is going to have equal success, but how well you do is going to depend on you. It shouldn’t depend on how well your parents did,” he said. “That is no longer true in America. Every year it’s becoming less true in America, and I fear it’s becoming less true in Delaware.”

Putnam’s presentation was followed by a Take Action Fair, where attendees learned how to get informed, get connected and get in the conversation by talking with representatives from DCF funds and initiatives including the African American Empowerment Fund, Arsht-Cannon Fund, DCF scholarships program, Fund for Women, Next Generation, Rodel Foundation and Youth Philanthropy Board.

DCF President and CEO Stuart Comstock-Gay said, “At the DCF, we believe in the American dream. We believe that this elusive idea is something worthwhile. It’s never been fully available to everybody – for African-Americans, Hispanics, new citizens, women – but it’s always been worth reaching for.”

In its new Building Opportunity in Delaware initiative, the DCF is working to foster discussion and collaboration that will empower the community to reduce the opportunity gap Putnam described. Through a thoughtful and rigorous process, the DCF has identified three focus areas in which it can provide valuable civic leadership: the success of Delaware youth, a thriving Latino population and equitable communities.

For 2019, a restructured grants program will be announced, and a slate of focus conversations about community issues will be scheduled.

"For the DCF, this work is our core: improving the quality of life for Delawareans. And a better quality of life is only possible when all people have the opportunity to succeed," said Comstock-Gay.

For more information, go to