MacArthur Foundation president Julia M. Stasch

Uh-oh: the MacArthur Foundation announced Thursday that it’s changing the focus of its philanthropy.

That’ll be good news for some of its beneficiaries, not so good for others.

Julia M. Stasch, president since March (after eight months as interim president), explains in the organization’s annual report that the emphasis going forward will be on a smaller number of bold and even risky “big bets.” These will be results-oriented, defined-time projects, as opposed to the more open-ended organizational support it has provided in the past.  

“We must make hard choices about the ways we allocate our limited resources, how we use our time and talent, and the risk we are willing to take. Change is hard; failing to change is not an option,” Stasch writes.  

MacArthur will now be addressing criminal justice in the United States, global climate change, and the nuclear threat, and they may try more focused efforts to effect positive change in a single country, probably Nigeria.  

They’re also looking for a single great proposal, which they’ll support with a cool $100 million.  

And they’ll be puzzling over some big questions about the future, like what if there aren’t going to be any jobs for millions of us?

But here’s what they’ll be phasing out: funding for programs in juvenile justice, U.S. housing, population and reproductive health, global migration and U.S. immigration, girls’ secondary education in developing countries, international peace and security, and American democracy.

Learning through digital media will be spun off to a new nonprofit the foundation
plans to establish.

Stasch reaffirmed MacArthur’s support for a couple of causes close to the heart for some of us: journalism, and the city of Chicago. Also, the MacArthur fellowships, aka genius grants. 

The complete essay is here.