History and Vision of the Center
From the time of the development of the Clinton School of Public Service, a focus on “philanthropy” was intended as a unique and specialized aspect of global public service. If, indeed, giving/dedicating one’s career and life energies to serving humankind is the generic goal of public service, the giving to others of one’s time, resources and wealth takes that notion to another level. Given the fact that Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama commonly are listed as the most impoverished states in the nation, yet always are ranked by the Internal Revenue Service at or near the top in per capita charitable giving, it seemed the word ‘philanthropy’ needed a modifying adjective to avoid the common notion that it’s just rich people giving to poor people. Such grassroots or “community philanthropy” (a term used by the Ford Foundation) thus connotes that giving is a common and natural component of communal life and civic engagement, and that it is a vital though poorly understood aspect of public service. It seemed from the outset that the creation of a special Center to carry out research, education and service in community philanthropy should be a Clinton School priority. The creation of the Center on Community Philanthropy is unique – there is not another like it, either in philanthropy or in academia. While more than forty “philanthropy centers” have been created at colleges and universities across the U.S. in the past twenty-five years, what is exists at the Clinton School is far different. There is no other center on philanthropy that is grounded in and committed to building on the strengths, gifts and talents of the American South. More importantly, it is both domestic and international in its targeted constituencies, moving theory into practice from an informed experiential basis where research by students and scholars shape on-the-ground experience. It is at this intersection between issues and ideas where the greatest potential exists for new thinking.