Jul. 19, 2016 8:44 am

MacArthur is granting to cities such as Philly, and folks in Chicago aren’t happy about it

Should big foundations in big cities stick to fighting local problems or look to solving ones beyond their city limits?

Chicago ain't happy with its hometown foundation.

(Photo by Flickr user Ken Douglas, used under a Creative Commons license)

Big foundations in big cities have a big problem on their hands: Should they be solving local problems by funding local organizations, or should they use their assets to help fight larger-scale problems?

It’s a controversy that’s become a frontline issue for Chicago’s MacArthur Foundation. Earlier this year, the foundation deployed $25 million to lower prison rates in 11 jurisdictions (including $3.5 million to lower Philadelphia‘s prison population by 34 percent).

Last month, MacArthur announced a competition to make a single $100 million grant to one “big idea” looking to solve a big problem.

Here’s the thing: Some folks in MacArthur’s hometown ain’t happy with those grants — especially many in Chicago’s Black community who feel the foundation should be doing more to solve problems a little closer to home.

Philadelphia has had a handful of similar qualms with smaller local funders such as GreenLight Fund, which has brought non-local nonprofits into the city rather than solely scale hometown organizations. But the city has also been lucky enough to have big funders like Pew Charitable Trusts and the Lenfest and William Penn foundations — all of which, for the most part, stick to their respective missions of improving conditions in Philadelphia.

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