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It’s the time of year where we look back on the accomplishments and lessons learned throughout the year, and as I reflect on 2011 for the Case Foundation and our partners, one word comes to mind…wow.

Across the nation and around the world, the year has been an astonishing one — marked by economic challenges and political upheaval. But in spite of the difficulties, we’ve also seen that there is an incredible amount of good happening all around us, and it’s been a year that has once again proven how the power of partnerships and engaged citizens — enabled by technology and networking — can change the world.

At the Case Foundation, we hit some exciting milestones and a few key themes resonated throughout:

Entrepreneurs = jobs; Jobs = healthy communities:

The year kicked off in late January with a bang, as we were privileged to partner with the White House and the Kauffman Foundation to launch the Startup America Partnership, which is chaired by the Case Foundation Chairman, Steve Case. Creating the Startup America Partnership not only allowed us to capitalize on our expertise in effective public-private partnerships, but underscored our belief that no amount of philanthropy or government aid can replace the social impact of thriving businesses and Americans at work..

In February, President Obama also appointed Steve to join the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, leading a working group focused on high-growth enterprises. The Foundation team has played a key role in supporting Steve as he traveled the country to listen to and amplify the voice and concerns of entrepreneurs, and as he provided recommendations to the President on administrative, Congressional, and private sector actions that should be taken to support America’s job-creators.

As a result, we’ve seen incredible momentum in efforts to help entrepreneurs in the U.S., such as new SBA funds for young companies, and changes in immigration rules to make sure we attract and retain the world’s best and brightest entrepreneurs. In addition, several major pieces legislation were introduced in the House and Senate that would help make it easier for entrepreneurs to start and scale companies. Not to mention the more than $1.2 billion in resources that companies like American Express, Microsoft, Intuit, Dell, Google, and others have committed to Startup America firms.

The evolution of civic engagement and volunteering — impact, results, national priorities

At the Case Foundation we’ve long believed in the power of active and engaged citizens to transform communities. That’s why since we created the Foundation, our core work has always been about figuring out how to mobilize and connect citizens and institutions and to promote new models and tools that make giving and giving back easier and more effective. However, in the past year we have seen several of our investments in this area evolve significantly in a strategic attempt to ensure that service and engagement is no longer just a nice, feel-good experience, but rather a critical and invaluable approach to address some of our nation’s greatest challenges:

City Year DC is leading the national charge to leverage the talents and near-peer relationships of its corps members to address attendance, behavior, and curriculum in low-performing schools;

Code for America is calling on talented volunteer coders and developers to overhaul municipal technology systems to improve the way they interact with and engage citizens;

Change By Us is providing a mechanism and moment for neighbors to present solutions to local challenges and then take action together;

Network for Good is celebrating 10 years of making online giving easy and for everyone — adding up to more than $500 million in donations to over 60,000 nonprofits; and

One of the most exciting moments for me was working with Senator Mark Warner, Deloitte, Points of Light, and the Corporation for National and Community and Service to re-launch A Billion + Change. Thanks to an increasing number of corporations who recognize the value of developing strategic partnerships with nonprofit organizations rather than simply writing checks, we launched our campaign having already surpassed our original goal of $1 billion in commitments from corporations to provide pro-bono service to nonprofits in need…and in 2012 we march on to reach $2 billion!

Good is all around us, we just have to look for it (& take a photo!)

Last year around this time, the team here at the Case Foundation began talking about how many acts of good go unsung — especially during the holiday season — whether it’s the local coffee shop organizing a coat drive, your neighbor volunteering at a food pantry, or your apartment building collecting donations for the nearby women’s shelter. Thus was born the concept for #Goodspotting. We’ve been absolutely thrilled by the number of people who have shared their photos and stories. And we’ve realized how easy it is to spot good — it really is all around us!

We’re thankful for our supporters and friends on social media, who’ve continually shared with us heartwarming stories during our seasonal campaigns — whether how their mother embodies the spirit of giving back or how they’ll give back when going back to school — that prove giving back is happening all the time in big and small ways that add up to major impact, for one person or a whole community.

2011 has indeed been a “wow” year — a year that proves that networks matter, that smart tools and technology matter, that cross-sector partnerships matter, that giving people fun and meaningful ways to serve matters, and that results-driven, community-minded, innovative partners like all of you matter most of all! As we begin 2012, we’re looking forward to celebrating 15 years of the Case Foundation with a commitment to join with our friends and partners to Be Fearless in all that we do — because the challenges we face as a society will be met by nothing less (stay tuned for more on that in the coming weeks!).

Happy New Year!

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