chapter  23
Foundation roles and visions in the USA: Comparative note
Pages 16

Since the emergence of the “modern philanthropic foundation” in the wake of the Russell Sage, Carnegie and Rockefeller philanthropies in the early twentieth century, the question of roles and functions (if not necessarily visions) of foundations has always been a firm part of the American foundation debate, as well as of its rhetoric and mythology. Since then, the guiding foundation paradigm in the United States (US) has been that of the well-endowed grant-making foundation acting as social venture capital to foster social change. Early recourse to a role definition (e.g. the innovation or change agent role in particular) was a necessity to establish societal legitimacy for the “new” organizational form. This was perhaps less necessary in Europe, at least in those parts of Europe where the foundation survived the transition from pre-modern times to modernity. In fact, the very emergence of the modern philanthropic foundation was almost immediately contested in the progressive, anti-corporate climate of the early 1900s. Political challenges (albeit on very different grounds) reemerged in the 1950s and 1960s.